April 15, 2019
Tonto National Forest, Globe District
This being a spring of unusual wildflower exhibitionism the trip today was extra delightful. Masses of Bluebonnets (Lupinus arizonicus) and pink Rosy Desert-Beardtongue (Penstemon pseudospectabilis) lined the paved highway. They also lined the thirteen miles of one-lane dirt road from the Pinto Valley Mine to the trailhead.
Peek-a-boo sycamore tree beside West Pinto Creek.
Speaking of that road, it was somewhat steep and wasn’t very rocky or eroded but it had one bad feature. Much of the way there was steep a uphill incline on one side of the vehicle and steep downhill on the other side, and no way for two vehicles to pass. Were two vehicles to meet, one would have to back up quite a ways, including backing around corners, to find a spot wide enuf for the vehicles to pass each other. Even then, each driver would have to pull the outside mirrors against the bodies of the vehicles, put the outer wheels as far off the road as possible, and keep fingers crossed during the process of the vehicle on the outer edge slowly crawling past the stationary inner one. If one vehicle were a wide cattle truck….
A creekside scene.
We saw many different flowers alongside the one-lane road. The more unusual ones were white Arizona Mariposa Lilies (Calochortus ambiguas), Wind Flowers (Anemone sp.), large white-flowered evening primroses (Oenothera californica or deltoides), and Mexican Gold Poppies (Eschscholzia californica).
While we were saddling up at the trailhead Jeanie opened a container of home-made chocolate chip cookies and offered us a snack. We each took one cookie and relished the taste.
Bluebonnets and Sore-Eyed Poppies (globemallows).
As we hiked the West Pinto Creek Trail we stopped to look closely at a few of the many types of flowers blooming. One we’d never spotted before was the borage Cola de Mico (monkey’s tail) AKD Quail Plant (Heliotropium curassavicum). One set we saw was growing among the blue-flowered waterleaf plants called Scorpionweed (Phacelia sp.) and looked like white scorpionweeds until we caressed the plants and felt the borage prickly hairs on the stems. Very unusual to us was pink-flowered Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia sp.). We’d all only seen this edible plant with white flowers.
Pink Miner’s Lettuce.
There was a flowering plant that did not seem to fully fit any description in my books. Nature loves to serve us mysteries and challenges.
The most eye-catching were the magenta flowers of a hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus sp.).
Rock balancing demonstration.
If anyone in the group did not know Poison Ivy (Rhus radicans) they did long before the end of today’s hike.
One time when we were walking over the very rocky edge of the stream overflow area we noticed a granite-like rock that was made of very thin layers. It looked like a cross-section of a tree being exhibited to count its growth rings.
Rock with thin, tree-ring-like layers.
We lunched where the Campaign Trail crossed West Pinto Creek, but we didn’t.
On the way back to the vehicles our leader, Gene Adkins, got to the bottom of a short but steep stretch of trail and sat down on a rock, facing us descending hikers. When the woman in front of me approached Gene he told her to go to the left. She moved to her left and edged around him. Gene kept saying, “To the left! To the left!”, and finally pointed to the right. When I came up to him I said, “Which way were you telling her to go?” About that time Gene realized that his left was not our left and we all had a laugh.
But the incident that led me to write this blog was a conversation about dandelions and their close cousins, Silver Puffs or Starpoints (Microseris sp). All we saw today were fresh seed clusters. We were pointing out to the uninitiated that the seeds of Silver Puffs were arranged in five-pointed-stars patterns, the stars then being gathered in a circular cluster, while dandelion seed heads were simply soft, dense circular stands of linear seeds. Val exclaimed that Silver Puff seed puffs were “organized dandelions!”
Starpoint puff. The flowers, grey stalks and leaves are from fleabane plants.
Dandelion puff. None of the tangle of plants belongs to the dandelion.
When we were unsaddling back at the vehicles Jeanie opened a second container of chocolate cookies, added the remaining cookies from the morning’s snack, and passed them around several times. There were enuf cookies for each of us (nine people) to have three or four cookies each.
The walk had been 5 to 6 miles up and downhill, with no hills being very high. The GPS instruments were divided, about half in half, as to the mileage. Each hiker could pick a preferred mileage. Mine was six.