Green Thumb and Keyhole Arch

The morning of New Year’s Eve 2018 awoke cold yet sunny and above freezing, but not by much.  Almost at the last minute Gene Adkins had announced he was taking, leading, a hike this morning.  His email read, “Monday, I will be going on a hike to the Keyhole Arch and Green Thumb.  This is in the Goldfields [area] and will not be a long hike or a strenuous one as I know we all want to save our energy to be able to ring in the New Year.”  We met Adkins at the Superstition Mountain Museum parking lot, backtracked a short ways down highway 188, turned west on Hackamore Road, and rode the deeply eroded dirt road to a parking area at the entrance to Bulldog Canyon Off-Highway Area.

goldfields area aa, bulldog canyon sign, 31dec2018

Note the lovely brittle bush flowers at the base of the sign.

Thus, on December 31st twelve people began walking behind Gene on an off-road-vehicle dirt road, under partially sunny skies, at 8:50 AM.  The road led us uphill to a spot where we had a good view of what Adkins called a Green Thumb.  The lichen covering the large boulder looked yellow to me.

goldfields area ab, the green thumb, 31dec2018

Adkins commented that in the four years since he was last here off-road vehicles had changed the configuration of roads.  He led us on a short cross-country jaunt up to another dirt road.  We went uphill a ways with the road, going past the base of the “Green Thumb,” then Adkins led us a few yards downhill to a foot trail.

goldfields area ah, view from keyhole arch, 31dec2018

Along the way Adkins stopped several times and talked about the flowering plants we found.  He mentioned that the hairs on the hairy leaves of brittle bushes protected the leaves from the intense sunlight.  By that time there wasn’t much sun; clouds were covering the sky.

We found plants blooming out of season.  Flat-top AKA California buckwheat plants, Eriogonum fasciculatum, were at their prettiest.  We were accustomed to seeing them bloom in the summer and maybe fall, but the books say that their normal blooming time in the Sonoran Desert is April thru December, so they weren’t much out of season.

goldfields area aj, flat-top buckwheat, 31dec2018

Another plant that had not gone to rest yet this winter was Parish Viguiera AKA Golden Eye, Viguiera deltoidea, whose blooming season is usually February thru June.

goldfields area ad, viguiera and brittlebush, 31dec2018

Viguiera is the blooming plant in the center of the foto.  At the right side of the foto are silvery-gray leaves of a brittlebush.

We were now on the trail Adkins had been looking for.  We walked along the footpath until we reached the point where it was closest to the Keyhole Arch.

goldfields area ai, green thumb and keyhole arch, 31dec2018

See the keyhole arch?  The “Green Thumb” is at the left.

All but two of us followed Adkins up the steep hill to the arch.  We spent a while taking pictures and enjoying the view thru the arch.

goldfields area ag, keyhole arch c, 31dec2018

goldfields area af2, keyhole arch b, 31dec2018

The obscene tip of the “Green Thump” exposed itself thru the keyhole arch.

We rejoined the footpath and followed it for a short ways.  Too short.  Walking on the well-pounded path had been heaven after working to balance on loose stones and gravel-like pebbles.  When we reached a dry wash Adkins led us downhill thru the sand and rocks of the ravine.  He expounded upon more plants, giving us time to relax and renew our balance.  All the plants looked green and happy from the good rains we’d had a couple months ago.  Some chain cholla cacti had grown large colonies of chains of fruit hanging off their branches.

goldfields area ak, chain cholla, 31dec2018

We ate some fat, slightly sweet, wolfberry berries as we strolled along.

goldfields area ae, wolfberry berries and chuparosa, 31dec2018

Wolfberry shrub interlaced with red flowering limbs of chuparosa.  Actually, the limbs are grey.  Note the very small orange-red Wolf berries.

In a short while Adkins turned us uphill onto a partially pounded trail under creation.  Walking was minimally better than in the wash.  Walking got worse when we left this incipient trail and headed cross-country.  Someone watching us might have thought some of us were drunk.  We met the beginning road a few yards from the parking area.  There we paused for some reason and, in studying the storm clouds that were now thick overhead, we noticed a light veil of snow falling on the tops of the Four Peaks.

We were back at the vehicles at 11:45.  In three hours we had walked about 21/3 miles.  My legs and nose were tired from rocks and cold breeze.




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