Friday, July 11, 2014
Aspen Series, No. 3.
Dappled sunlight filtering through the aspen leaves creates perfect conditions for hairy bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens) in the understory. I will definitely be returning to this trail in the fall, when the dying fern smells like hay. 

Aspen Series, No. 3.

Dappled sunlight filtering through the aspen leaves creates perfect conditions for hairy bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens) in the understory. I will definitely be returning to this trail in the fall, when the dying fern smells like hay. 

Aspen Series, No. 1.
All photos in this series feature quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) seen along Veit Spring Trail, on Agassiz Peak near Flagstaff, Arizona. 

Aspen Series, No. 1.

All photos in this series feature quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) seen along Veit Spring Trail, on Agassiz Peak near Flagstaff, Arizona. 

Gray hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) on scarlet bugler penstemon (Penstemon barbatus). On Agassiz Peak, near Flagstaff, Arizona. 
Please click photo for full view.

Gray hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) on scarlet bugler penstemon (Penstemon barbatus). On Agassiz Peak, near Flagstaff, Arizona. 

Please click photo for full view.

Two-tailed swallowtail butterfly (Papilio multicaudata) on many-flowered stoneseed (Lithospermum multiflorum). At Agassiz Peak, near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Two-tailed swallowtail butterfly (Papilio multicaudata) on many-flowered stoneseed (Lithospermum multiflorum). At Agassiz Peak, near Flagstaff, Arizona.

I went hiking today on Agassiz Peak outside Flagstaff, at an altitude where the ponderosa forest gives way to aspen and Douglas-fir and western white pine. Shown above is a dragon-tongued cone from a Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca). Topping off at 12,400 feet (3,800 m), Agassiz is a sky island, hosting plant communities that have more in common with ecosystems far to north than with rest of the Colorado Plateau region. On my hike I kept to sub-sub-alpine elevations, well below the tree line. 
Tomorrow: aspens, penstemons, lupines, insects!

I went hiking today on Agassiz Peak outside Flagstaff, at an altitude where the ponderosa forest gives way to aspen and Douglas-fir and western white pine. Shown above is a dragon-tongued cone from a Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca). Topping off at 12,400 feet (3,800 m), Agassiz is a sky island, hosting plant communities that have more in common with ecosystems far to north than with rest of the Colorado Plateau region. On my hike I kept to sub-sub-alpine elevations, well below the tree line. 

Tomorrow: aspens, penstemons, lupines, insects!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Backyard Wildflowers: Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Now that the sunflowers are blooming we also have goldfinches. I saw my first lesser goldfinch this morning - a new addition to my life list. 

Backyard Wildflowers: Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Now that the sunflowers are blooming we also have goldfinches. I saw my first lesser goldfinch this morning - a new addition to my life list. 

Backyard Wildflowers: Mexican hat or prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Most of the flowers growing locally are the more common yellow morph. This red morph is much more showy. 

Backyard Wildflowers: Mexican hat or prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Most of the flowers growing locally are the more common yellow morph. This red morph is much more showy. 

Backyard Wildflowers: Pineywoods geranium (Geranium casepitosum). In Flagstaff, Arizona.
Click here for a post discussing this plant’s species name.

Backyard Wildflowers: Pineywoods geranium (Geranium casepitosum). In Flagstaff, Arizona.

Click here for a post discussing this plant’s species name.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
The monsoon rains have arrived in northern Arizona. After months of relentlessly clear blue skies, masses of clouds heavy with rain pile up every day, bringing welcome moisture - and a touch of drama. Sunset colors finally have a surface to reflect against, at least when the clouds aren’t saturated and black with rain. 
As inlandwest attests, people here behave differently once the rains arrive. The rains unleash a giddiness, a kind of mild delirium in pent-up moisture-deprived Arizonans. They get a bit frisky. Yesterday I watched a transit driver leave his bus to stand with his arms and face turned up toward the rain of a quick downpour. I’m only surprised the passengers didn’t join him and dance and splash in the puddles. 
And today, a fine hot day in July, the afternoon precipitation fell as snow and ice on Mount Elden, our 9,000 foot/2,800 meter extinct volcano in the back yard. The sudden whiteness in the middle of summer lasted just long enough to astonish and amaze, and then it was gone. 

The monsoon rains have arrived in northern Arizona. After months of relentlessly clear blue skies, masses of clouds heavy with rain pile up every day, bringing welcome moisture - and a touch of drama. Sunset colors finally have a surface to reflect against, at least when the clouds aren’t saturated and black with rain. 

As inlandwest attests, people here behave differently once the rains arrive. The rains unleash a giddiness, a kind of mild delirium in pent-up moisture-deprived Arizonans. They get a bit frisky. Yesterday I watched a transit driver leave his bus to stand with his arms and face turned up toward the rain of a quick downpour. I’m only surprised the passengers didn’t join him and dance and splash in the puddles. 

And today, a fine hot day in July, the afternoon precipitation fell as snow and ice on Mount Elden, our 9,000 foot/2,800 meter extinct volcano in the back yard. The sudden whiteness in the middle of summer lasted just long enough to astonish and amaze, and then it was gone. 

Homolovi.

The Homolovi Pueblo Group comprises ruins of four related villages located within the boundary of Homolovi State Park, near Winslow, Arizona

The mounds of rock in the top photo are from the largest of the pueblos here. Except for a few reconstructed rooms and a large reconstructed kiva, most of the pueblo ruins look like this. The site was dug up by artifact hunters and plundered of unknown and undocumented treasures. In the process an invaluable archaeological record was indiscriminately destroyed. The piles of rubble are what remain. 

Aside from the scientific losses, the exploitation of the site represents a cultural and spiritual loss to contemporary Hopi Indians. Around 1250 AD people migrated here from the Hopi mesas to the north. Of the four pueblos they built at Homolovi the largest and most elaborate was organized around three plazas, with up to 800 rooms and 40 kivas, providing housing for about 1,000 people. As many as 1,700 people lived in the larger community. They abandoned the pueblos around 1500 AD, probably returning to their ancestral villages. Modern day Hopi still visit Homolovi for sacred ceremonies. 

Wherever one walks at the site there are thousands of potsherds and knapped flints scattered on the ground. Rather than crush them underfoot most visitors set them aside along the paths. I found the shard in the bottom photo at my toes. You can still see the shapes of the clay coils that were firmly pinched together to form a pot, unglazed and decorated only with the textured patterns of its making.