San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Ubiquitous heat-loving, summer flowers in the high desert of the Eastern Sierras, these Prickly Poppies are a close relative of the taller, rangy Matilija Poppies. There's almost no difference between their large, delicate crepe-paper flowers, but Pricklies have spines on their stems, and Matilijas have a heavenly, spicy fragrance.
Pricklies contain alkaloid properties that are poisonous to cattle, but they had many medicinal uses for Mexican and American natives. For example, when smoked, Pricklies produce a euphoric, sedative effect for about thirty minutes and were used as an anesthetic during surgery and to treat inflammation, fevers and warts.

Me? I just love to look at them!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


As some of you know, Mark and Darice Dixons' website is often my go-to reference for the final answer in identifying my own wildflower discoveries. Their research is thorough, the photographs are stunning, the details are fascinating and the comments are lighthearted and entertaining. Theirs is so obviously a labor of love.

The Dixons have been experimenting with some slide show software for their bug photos that is now ready for prime time. Be prepared to be blown away at the beauty, detail and variety of the insect subjects.


The Phylum Arthropoda is the most numerous of all living organisms, containing more insect species than plants and animals combined, and 40% to 50% of those insect species are beetles. Did you know that Arachnid (containing spiders and mites) is not an Order, but is a Class in a Subphylum all its own? Of course you did!! And that Daddy Longlegs belong to the Arachnid Class but are not spiders? Well, now you do!!

And wonder of wonders, did you know that Lobsters and Crabs are insects?! Or that wars have been fought and empires established over the simple Silk Worm? Millipedes are scavengers, and some of them secrete cyanide to protect themselves when threatened. And, you probably already know that when you are bitten by a mosquito, it was a female mosquito that raised that welt.

For a fun excursion into the insect world, this website will introduce you to the varied insect Classes, Orders and Species, their physical make up, how their different body parts function, how they are different and how they are similar to one another.

Have fun exploring, and I hope the next time you see a bug, you will recognize and appreciate it for its beauty and complexity. (Flies and fleas excepted!!!!)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I have tried and tried, without success to identify this sweet butterfly. While it looks very much like the endangered Karner Blue, the habitat is all wrong. These little guys were found flitting through the air in the Eastern Sierras in mid-July at about 7,000' elevation.
They were such fun to watch but difficult to photograph because they were seldom still for more than a millisecond! At rest, they blended in with the earth at my feet. No sooner would I get the camera focused, they would take off again, just a flash of blue fluttering out of range.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I caravanned with my Lazy Daze buddy, Joan, to Devils Postpile National Monument, via a route that took us through Yosemite National Park then up and over Tioga Pass to the "other side." These two parks are nature's masterpieces, and I am eternally grateful that these treasures have been set aside for the world to savor.
These were taken on a hazy day, with a Sierra storm brewing in the East.

Having previously enjoyed Yosemite at least a dozen times in all seasons EXCEPT Summer, visiting in mid-July was a real eye-opener. Although crowded with shoulder-to-shoulder tourists from the world over, I have not yet been inflicted with the cynicism virus! This crown jewel still takes my breath away.
Mountain Pride Penstemon is pollinated by hummingbirds and acted as a pink "fog line" all along the Tioga Pass road.
We reached the East side of Tioga Pass just before sunset. The storm had dumped some hail and slush at the summit, but oh my, it's definitely the clouds that made this sunset a phenomenal sight for weary travelers.
Devils Postpile National Monument has been on my bucket list for many years but prior attempts to explore the area had been met with roads that had not yet been cleared of snow. In July!

Access is by driving down (then up) a steep, winding, single track road with blind curves and only occasional wide spots where a Volkswagen might be comfortable pulling over; this same road is shared with mandatory shuttle buses that depart from Mammoth Ski Area at the top of the mountain. Definitely an "E Ticket" ride in a motorhome! At least it was paved and had been cleared of snow!

And, sometimes forced to stop and pull over to let uphill traffic pass, I could get some shots of the sensational Minarets without driving off the cliff!
Our campsites on the banks of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River yielded lots of photo opps. Fungii...
...Phlox -- could be Prairie Phlox. Although certainly not found on a prairie, this delicate species can also be found at higher elevations (5,000' +)
Not until you look closely at this riverside bush do you notice the tiny reddish-brown flowers. At a distance, you might even think the bush was infested with little, brown insects.
Not so. A closer look revealed tiny twinned flowers, sweet and unusual.
As graceful as they are, yours truly does not usually ooooh and aaaah over these Disneyfied rodents-with-hooves. But, when they are browsing peacefully in a wild habitat such as this, I'll admit they're a pretty sight.
Have you ever seen the San Joaquin River in such elegant surroundings?
Our ranger-led hike eventually led us to this fascinating, geologic formation...
... symmetrical, columnar basalt "postpiles," some reaching over 60 feet high.
They look like vertically-stacked fence posts...a pile of fence posts!
Mostly-hexagonal columns formed as the basalt slowly cooled, but because cooling times did vary, some columns are five-sided, others four-, seven- or three-sided. The joints were formed when the columns contracted during the cooling process.
This unusual formation was almost blasted into oblivion to make way for a hydroelectric project on the San Joaquin River. President William Howard Taft to the rescue! The park was established in 1911.
These cheery Seep-Spring Monkeyflowers can be found in? Yup! You guessed it: seeps, springs and bogs!
Along the trail to the postpiles, we passed this meadow carpeted with Jeffrey (or Alpine) Shooting Stars. Jeffreys have distinctive linear leaves and are found in open damp meadows, whereas Henderson Shooting Stars have rounder leaves and are found in drier habitats at lower elevations.

I love this tree, warts and all!
So placid in the early breezeless morning, this lakelet left me with such a peaceful feeling as we exited this unique monument.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


...for lovers and nature lovers...
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you -- beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.
~~~~~~~~Edward Abbey