The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

An Explosion of Wildflowers

Published Monday, July 6th, 2015 in Colorado · « · »

The 4th of July weekend caught me by surprise. Where did June go? A whole month—gone in the blink of an eye. And one of my favorite months of the year, no less! This is not excellent. Sometime back in May I must have shifted into high gear and not realized it. I have a vague recollection that it all began as a minor ripple at work—a new project that snowballed into a rat’s nest of new responsibilities and then mutated into a shit-storm of paranoia, blame, and hidden agendas. Consequently, I’ve been in overdrive for weeks and have only now noticed the accelerating rush of this wonderful summer, as the first half of it fades out of sight.

This is no way to spend my days. It’s time to downshift.

It’s also time to get outdoors and smell the wildflowers.

Have you seen Colorado’s wildflowers when they are in full, riotous bloom?

It’s a sight to behold: the stuff of paintings and poems.

I wanted to avoid the crowds in the Estes Park area, so I decided to go instead to Caribou Ranch Open Space, a Boulder County park that lies just a few miles northwest of Nederland along Highway 72. The park is closed each year from April through June, to ensure that migratory birds and calving elk are able to enjoy a bit of quietude during these critical spring months. It re-opens each July 1st.

I was among this year’s first summer visitors and as such I was one of the first to view the explosion of wildflowers throughout the park. This year, the mountain bloom was especially lush thanks to ample early summer rains and frequent bouts of mild-but-not-hot temperatures. It was splendid and my pictures don’t capture its full beauty.

Some of the wildflower species I saw today included:

  • Wild geranium, Geranium caespitosum
  • Yarrow, Achillea lanulosa
  • Mountain harebell, Campanula rotundifolia
  • One-sided penstemon, Penstemon virgatus
  • Scarlet paintbrush, Castilleja miniata
  • Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta
  • Porter’s aster, Aster porteri
  • Gaillardia, Gaillardia aristata

There were many others but I didn’t have my field guide on hand. These were just the ones I remembered well or took pictures of, to identify later. Anyway, after a couple of hours of hiking, I noticed a gathering of gloomy clouds on the horizon. Not long after, the rumble of thunder rolled across the sky. I didn’t mind. I obeyed the signs and turned back towards the trailhead.

Caribou Ranch

A light rain started to fall. So very refreshing. By the time I had made it back to my car, the storm was gaining strength. As I drove down the mountain, the raindrops merged into vast sheets of water. The wildflowers and green meadows of Caribou Ranch will be pleased.

Caribou Ranch
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Assortment

March Bloom
About this time of year, I get antsy for the landscape to come to life. That’s why I try to time things so that I’m in the UK for February and March, because then I get to see the snowdrops and crocuses and primroses open up and my spirit is lifted at the time I need it most.
Acclimation
This caliber of cold takes some getting used to. I thought I would ease myself into it by going for a short ten-minute walk to get acclimated to the arctic air.
Boulder Fall Fest
Today I went to the Boulder Fall Fest, an annual street festival that features a mix of local foods, microbrews, music, and art. The was an assortment of sculptors, jewelry makers, fiber artists, photographers, and painters.