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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Adventures Close to Home: The Short Loop

The pack sets out!
For a couple of different reasons, we hadn't planned an arduous or excitingly difficult hike for Saturday morning, just an easy saunter by way of what Therese calls "the short loop," following a cow path overland to a wash, turning from one wash to another (back where we encountered the cows another day), and back across open range to the dirt road. Our dogs don't care where we go or how exciting the expedition is from the human point of view: they are just happy to be out with us, running free, leading happy dog lives.

And actually, there is never an unexciting walk in my Dos Cabezas surroundings. Being out in the open air is exciting all by itself. Looking around at the high desert scene. Walking! Scrambling through the sandy, rocky washes and stopping to inspect the flowers at our feet, tracks in the sand, nests in trees, or simply to appreciate an old twisted tree silhouetted against the clear, cloudless sky. It feels good to be outdoors, far from anxious shoppers wearing masks in town or even yet another mess on my kitchen counter from the latest bread experiment.

Above is one of my favorite southern Arizona flowers, the little ground-hugging bajada lupine. Bajada is the feminine past participle of the Spanish verb bajar, to descend, and a bajada is an alluvial slope, or a series of alluvial fans, formed by debris brought down from higher elevations and deposited on flat land at the foot of a mountain. Please excuse the quality of today's images. Once again, I gave myself a camera vacation and then resorted to using my phone's camera when we came upon the day's floral jewels. Below is another view of the lupine, closer up but still hardly doing it justice. You really have to see it "in person" to fall under its spell.

Another plant flowering in close vicinity to the lupines in and along the wash was this little mystery:

I had to photograph the mystery flower so I could look it up in my books when I got home, and what I found was a delightful surprise. Wild heliotrope, Phacelia distans, is related to (same genus as) Phacelia arizonica, the much more modest and easily overlooked phacelia that challenged my botanizing last year. (See the latter in this post.) But wild heliotrope! What a wonderful name! Audubon does caution us, however, as to that common name: "Although called 'Heliotrope,' this species is not related to those Heliotropes in the garden." 

But the morning prize for "Most Beautiful would have to go to the penstemon. Penstemon is its genus name, a member of the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae), but I'll have to investigate further to determine the species of this lovely wildflower, and that's okay. It is always good to have a quest, a pique to one's curiosity, something more to learn about our beautiful world.

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