In a previous blog where I extolled the nature of the desert, it reminded me to look at things more closely. We left Fortuna and headed up to the Black Hills Rock-Hounding Area. We’ve camped here many times before and I’ve always enjoyed it. But this time I decided to explore why I like this area.
Again we are in the high desert, at 4700 ft. It’s chilly and windy up here but the sun beams through and lights up the landscape.
This is an almost aerial view of the area. There is a road that takes you up another thousand feet or more that has a 360 degree view. But down where we are camped the landscape separates into rolling hills and washes towered over by a craggy butte.
When you approach, the landscape almost looks like it was systematically planted with 5 ft round bushes. The ground between the plants has very little growth.
These creosote bushes are the most prolific and fascinating shrubs on the North American deserts. It appears that this plant emerged about 1 million years ago and has adapted to the desert better than almost any other plant. Generally it is evergreen when it gets sufficient moisture. But when it is in a drought it compensates by dropping all its leaves and if necessary even its branches. To all who view it, it appears dead. But these plants live up to 200 years so they know their stuff. When provided with rain they re -grow at an amazing rate. The theories about their strange systematic spacing are twofold; that the ground can only support so many plants in the area and Creosote emits a chemical that acts as a herbicide to any other large plants that try to take root. Either way it dominates most deserts. Blooming small yellow flowers it provides shade for other small desert flowers and often rattlesnakes – though I have never run across one.
Although it is only February, there are already wildflowers here. A small ground plant with dandelion like leaves blooms with a bright yellow cup that opens in the morning and closes in the afternoon sun. It is called Tansy-leaved Evening Primrose.
In case you forget you are on a desert these flowers are guarded by Silver Cholla (the prickliest of all the cacti) and both Beaver Tail – no prickles and the Prickly Pear.
If you watch the ground you will find small Hedgehog cacti often hiding by a big rock or under a Juniper bush. But sometimes the low growing Cholla will bunch together like a very prickly rug. Barrel cactus is rare but fairly large and has fish hook prickles. It is too early for the cactus to bloom but I will include a few pictures from last year.
There are enough flowers for me to pick a bouquet for the trailer. There are all manner of grasses and small shrubs and as you climb the mountain the growth changes and I see wildflowers that I can’t identify as well as the first trees.
So we are now off to another part of Arizona, the Chiricahua Mountains where there is many other eco-systems
See ya soon