Showing posts with label flowers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flowers. Show all posts

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sometimes, Only a Pretty Girl Will Do

Early summer seems to be the time of year to notice butterflies on my mountain bike rides. So often, they seem to tag along, as if they are requesting membership in our bicycle club. It is physically challenging to focus on them as they flutter along, a step or two from the bike, and at the same speed as the bike. Whenever my eyes manage to freeze them in motion, they seem transformed, somehow.

The other day a large yellow butterfly fluttered in from the side, perpendicular to the direction of the bike and my dog. In fact, the butterfly collided with the head of my dog. But she didn't react snappishly, as she would to a normal insect nuisance, such as a fly or a sweat bee. She playfully -- and yet, gently--pushed the butterfly away from her head, and La Mariposa flew off, uninjured.

What is it with dogs and butterflies?

A strange rapport between dog and butterfly
Seen close up, they seem cartoonish and Disney-like.
We are having great luck in northern New Mexico, right now, finding high, semi-flat land to dispersed-camp on and mountain bike on. The other day I stopped in the middle of a thinned pondersosa forest just to let it soak in: 8000 feet, cool, open enough to see sky and mountains in the background, and smooth and flat enough to enjoy pedalling in a variety of gears. It has taken me so long to liberate myself from the childishness of tourist-thinking, but the rewards are certainly there. 

Yesterday we did a long climb up a forest service road: smooth, relentlessly upward, and without a single motor vehicle on the road. There was a nice view at the turnaround spot. My dog and I needed a cool rest and a drink of water. Perhaps she was feeling appreciative and sentimental about nature. At any rate she surprised me by walking over to some delicious shade and laying down in a bed of wildflowers. Did she make the flowers and shade more beautiful, or did they add to her?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Traveling Again, Observing Again

I'm glad that southwestern Colorado (Cortez, Mancos, Dolores) seems to be coming up in the world as a mountain biking alternative to you-know-where in southeastern Utah. I will never understand what is so great about fighting loose red sandstone. Southwestern Colorado has some good ponderosa forests with smooth packed dirt trails.

The other day we saw a family at the top of the hill on the trail ahead of us. Did the mom ever have her hands full: a child too young to walk, a little boy-savage about 4, and a labrador retriever, together with all the impedimenta that goes along with them. I snapped my dog on the leash so that the mother wouldn't have one more issue to contend with.

Oddly enough, she seemed to be enjoying the moment of chaos. Her lab was friendly so I unsnapped my dog so that they could play together. I got a kick out of the little boy-savage, with his forest-camo, face-paint made of "Teddy Grahams."

All this little boy-savage-of-summer needs in the forest is a club or spear.

I wish I had more pleasant encounters like this with homo sapiens. Normally they are just a nuisance. But it should be an important part of the travel experience. I like the way the mother was content with a boy who acted like a boy and allowed her dog to act like a dog.

I always leave nice families feeling optimistic. Maybe this country isn't as sick and dying as it usually appears, especially with a woman like this willing to pass her genes on. Where did she get her optimism?

The Dolores public library, backing right up to the river, makes for a great place to hang out and suck free wi-fi, while listening to the symphony of piano music from the river. There was a young couple at the other end of the patio with a -- did I get this right? -- a pet Canadian goose. At least it was acting like a pet. My dog wasn't even lunging at the goose, perhaps because it was acting like a pet rather than prey.

Later, when they left, the silly goose followed them like a young duck will follow its mother. Even sillier was the goose's body language: 'what, you're leaving me? But I need you!' The goose kept following them, and the young woman kept turning around to check on it. She giggled in astonishment the whole way.  So that wasn't their pet! 

Apparently it was a denizen of the Dolores River, who had perhaps learned that it could mooch food from people on the library's patio. The goose followed them down the side of the highway for 100 yards, with cars streaming by, a few feet away. It couldn't walk as fast as the people, so occasionally it would spread it massive wings and hop a bit, giving it the appearance of love-sick indignation.

Surely this was a nice moment to get off the mountain bike and take it all in. Although they probably grow in many states, I never seem to run into wild roses except in southern Colorado. Perhaps it is the timing. It is nice having a smaller camera: occasionally even a retro-grouch adapts to the modern age of lithium batteries and more compact cameras.

So I was expecting a good photo of 'many a flower, blushing unseen' as some damn fool poet once said. But they were withering rather than blushing. Here is how I wanted them:

Taken at my favorite flower hangout above South Fork, CO
I wondered what the right attitude should be towards disappointment like this. It seemed like the subject for an entire essay, but right now a mountain bike in the stable is neighing plaintively and pawing anxiously at the ground.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Peek at Picacho

Approaching a small desert peak north of Tucson, I began to understand why it had barely been named -- it's "name" sounds more like a common noun than a proper noun. The atlas had piqued my interest so, just out of curiosity, I came to "Desert Peak."

I was a bit frustrated in wasting the gasoline to get here. It looked as uninteresting as it did on the map. I got parked and we immediately started walking towards this lackluster "peak." It was a shock to see how much the vegetation had changed from the desert floor along the Santa Cruz River, just two hundred feet lower than here. How could plants be so local, so particular about where they grow? We were back in sticker and thorn country, especially the nasty chain cholla.

Many of the place-names out West are rather colorful. Unlike constellations in the sky, mountain peaks sometimes actually look like the animal, saddle, or portions of Mollie's anatomy that they were named for.

Many peaks were named to honor early explorers and settlers. Some peaks even had the dishonor of being named after politicians of the day. Usually they sound more romantic in Spanish, although that can lead to linguistic redundancies, such as the nearby Picacho Peak. In a few minutes the dog and I reached a small saddle for a peek at Picacho:

It is quite amazing how some small peaks can be so recognizable and useful for navigation, or at least orientation. Visiting them year after year, you come upon them as an old friend: Castle Dome near Yuma, Baboquivari southwest of Tucson, Picacho northwest of Tucson, Ute Mountain on the way from Taos NM to southern CO, and of course, Mollie's Nipple near Hurricane UT.

The view from the saddle was nice, but I didn't expect any more visual excitement. There wasn't a single thing about this peak that would tempt the BLM into wasting a brown stake on it. 

I purposely lower my expectations when approaching an area in order to be surprised on the upside.  That is a crucial, but difficult, technique. Sometimes, to make it easier, I go overboard and imagine scenery as a positive evil -- whatever it takes to renounce puffed-up expectations and visual greed. Hence surprise and serendipity get a chance to shine.

With nothing but plainness and mediocrity to think about, all I could do was follow my best instincts by walking up a declivity to a saddle. Small though this peak was, it had a wide variety of what you might wish to see on any mountain, and why shouldn't that be good enough? It had slopes and faces that met fresh mornings, and others that waved farewells at weary afternoons. I doubt that this is on anybody's "Top Ten Desert Wildflower Auto Loops" list, but who knows, you could always find a surprise:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Flowers to a Lovely Girl

On my way to a visit in Ouray CO, I drove through Gunnison. It is nice to see a "cycling chick chic" culture developing there, as it has in Salida, Crested Butte, and a few other towns. There are very few examples when I actually like visiting a city. It's nice to finally have a chance.

Although the word 'charming' is easy to overuse, it does seem to be the right word to explain a middle aged (!) woman in a summery dress, pedaling a funky girlie-style bicycle, while wearing flip-flops. A wicker basket in mounted on the handlebar, and she might have a boule of bread sticking out of the basket. How youthful, unburdened, and unhurried she becomes the minute she jumps on that bike!  

It would be nice to know where else this culture has developed besides a couple towns in Colorado -- and Copenhagen, of course.

I dispersed-camped overnight while visiting Ed and Patches. I think they liked the sagebrush hills and dirt road that we chose for our "Rage in the Sage."  Later that night the sun set in the Elk Wilderness to our west; it colored the virgas over the sagebrush hills.

We just got back from our first hike with fellow bloggers, Mark and Bobbie, and John Q, a refugee from Indiana. Bobbie and John Q picked some alpine wildflowers, and adorned our alpine darlin':

OK Mark, the alpine wildflowers were breathtakingly beautiful -- and no facetiousness is meant. I thought that the frustration over the lack of sunlight was a good thing. It is more exquisite to yearn for some pleasure, and to get tantalizingly close to getting it, than to just wallow in it and lap it up.

I was pleased how one photograph turned out. Yes, pretty flowers are fun to look at. But it is more intriguing to imagine what the world looks from their point of view, and from the viewpoint of the ground, rather than the human spectator.

A lone columbine amongst its neighbors.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How I Remember this Devastated Land

It is always fun to visit a dispersed camping area that you haven't seen in quite a few years. I went back to the higher country, just uphill of where I've been camping the last few days, because the fire has become less dramatic. In fact, I now see it as a make-work project for government-sector employees and crony-capitalists.

Well, that's how the upper Rio Grande valley still looks at the ingress of the San Juan mountains in southwestern Colorado.

And forest fire or not, there are still many wild roses in bloom. I need a break from the smell of smoke, haze, and destruction.

So life goes on.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Part 2: Truly Appreciating Wildflowers

In fact I laughed when she rolled into camp. All that "mighty" thinking and worrying, and yet I had overlooked the obvious. One way or another a woman should help to intensify the experience of the best wildflower season in years. And that was the mission.

At first 'woman and flower' sounds like an old-fashioned cliche for poets and songwriters. And it is, but only for society in general. It's a good guess that men, who retired early and became full-time travelers, did so because they walked away from women relatively early in life. Therefore for us, the 'woman and flower' connection is not a cliche, but in fact, is radical and naughty. 

The diabolical scheme was simple enough: I would take her along on the walk into the Florida mountains to enjoy the best wildflower season in years, and somehow something might happen to take things way beyond the tourist level. 

It's one thing to say that you really want something to succeed. It's quite another thing to actually give up something to make it work. Praising lifestyle experiments is easy enough, but what if it fails? What if it causes embarrassment?

We weren't that suitable for each other, but there were a couple things in common, so it was at least conceivable. 
Spring wildflowers on an anonymous desert peak in Arizona.

The next day we took our walk into the mountains. We expected a spectacular show of flowers, of course. But we didn't expect to see a large herd of ibex.

We were near the top of the trail when I sat down on a boulder, while she continued to circle around the boulder. And then came the real surprise. She came over and sat down on the boulder next to me. Rather close. This was no longer a cute little experiment that I was toying with. The experiment itself had taken control.

We sat there for a minute while I tried to gather my wits. I had thought I was too old to feel static electrical discharges between my arm and a nearby woman's arm. Although the flowers at that location were beyond the superlatives of the tourism industry, it wasn't their beauty that impressed me; it was the impetuousness of life that did, and its unpredictability.

Then another surprise. Despite its subtlety, only a loutish adolescent would not have picked up the signal to "come no closer." The bubble burst.

But we still sat there looking west towards a late afternoon sun. The sky was as blue and dry as possible, but it was the calmness that was easiest to appreciate. There was the most perfect contrast between cool air and warm sun.  The sun could still warm the face. The boulder warmed the backside. But the rest of the body could detect an incipient bite from the evening chill. It was late afternoon and the sun wouldn't be able to hold off the chill for much longer. The downward slope faced the glowing but cooling West. 

My life was at the same o'clock as the day. Maybe the "near miss" I had just had was my "last chance." And from here on, I could only look downward into the declivity of old age and loneliness.

Later we walked back down the mountain. What if she had been playing the same game as I was? Perhaps she had told herself, "This particular fellow might be a sorry specimen, but at least he is a concrete representation of a general Idea that interests me at the moment, with all the desert flowers, Spring, and all that crap."

She had a long air flight ahead of her. I took her to dinner as her farewell present. We had a nice talk at dinner.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Turning Desert Wildflower Ennui to Advantage

For many people in many places, Spring means rain and flowers. But in the American Southwest a wet winter -- normally the secondary rainy season -- produces wildflowers only at the lower altitudes, that is, the desert floor. Really great shows don't occur every year. Fortunately there was enough rain this winter to produce a good show. 

If you are seeing the wildflower display for the first time, you have no choice but to be wowed. I agree with all the ecstatic praise about spring wildflowers in the desert. But please remember that this blog targets experienced travelers, a group that the tourism industry (and virtually all RV blogs) could not care less about.

It is natural for the magic to wear off once you've seen a couple good springs. Then what? Do you resign yourself to a lukewarm experience? Some people would prefer to deny that this happens, offer you a pep talk full of half-truths, and then attribute their attitude to "positive thinking." But it is more challenging and thought-provoking to face up to the truth and then think of a way around it.

A full time RVer must have the guts to stare into the abyss, sometimes.

Thus I found myself a few years ago, looking forward to the best show in years, but fearful that the magic had worn off. And I didn't have the foggiest idea of what to do about it. The local tourist rag in Deming NM was rhapsodizing about the show in the nearby -- and aptly named -- Florida mountains. (That's flor-EEE-duh.) The stereotypical tourist prose made me sick: you know, 'a dense carpet of...', 'profuse display of...', 'breathtakingly beautiful...', and the rest. Groan!

After all, when a fellow retires early and becomes a full time RVer, he gives up a lot. He has a lower "standard of living" to look forward to, at least if he measures it in the usual way. There will be less financial security, too. What does he get in return? A lot, potentially. But I wasn't living up to that potential by looking at the spring wildflower season like some common tourist. What a failure!

It might seem foolish to some people, who don't take early retirement seriously, to get worked up about this. But so I did, for three days. My goodness, did I ever get frustrated trying to come up with a good idea for experiencing that year's colors in a way that was more significant than the tourist's. But it was all for naught.

Then one day I looked out the RV's window and saw her rig pull into camp...

On a windy day in New Mexico, a yucca flower falls off and is impaled by the yucca stalk.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Arguing My Case on Courthouse Mountain

I hate to admit it but it would be nice to carry a smartphone with a flower, tree, or bird "app" when hiking in the mountains. As an alternative, hike with Bobbie. (Besides, she doesn't require batteries. She is a battery on the trail.) Seriously I'd rather just ask somebody a question than play with some distracting gadget. For instance, the shape of this flower was reminiscent of Indian paintbrush, but the color was wrong. She explained that Indian paintbrush does come in more than one color.

Mark and Bobbie complained about my wisecracks (on my blog) against eye candy, postcards, pretty-poo scenery worship, etc. It surprised me that I'd given offense. Perhaps they underestimate the difference between a part-time RVer (in vacation/tourist mode) and a full-time RVer who must expand his interests in other directions.

At any rate I was making a certain amount of progress mending my fences on the way up Courthouse Mountain, just past Chimney Rock where they shot the climactic scene in John Wayne's "True Grit", when there was a surprise and a setback:

Gus, a friendly Australian shepherd, was resting at the top with his owners. Immediately I felt huge pangs of guilt that I hadn't brought my kelpie, Coffee Girl. While I circled around Gus and his doting owner and photographed them from every possible angle, while ignoring the world class scenery around us 360 degrees, Mark, Bobbie, and John Q could only roll their eyes at my foolishness.
But Gus wasn't the only animal star on top of Courthouse Mountain. There was an enterprising chipmunk, obviously an experienced shakedown artist. How he could make a living off of a couple hikers per day is beyond me:

When I spot something that inspires me with its beauty, Mark and Bobbie seldom give me credit (sniffle). They would have you believe that the ultimate Ouray experience comes from driving far enough and hiking long enough to some special place whose beauty measures 8.1 on some sort of postcard-Richter scale. If you end up with a mere 7.9, you have missed your chance.

Folks, I'm here to tell ya it ain't so. For an RVer the ultimate aesthetic experience comes from going to the one and only laundromat in town; it's a real dive, despite Ouray being a rather upscale place. As an aesthetic exercise, give in to the scumminess of the place: dilapidated machines that rip you off, no phone number for a refund, dirty floors, and touristy-ripoff prices. And it's hot in there too! Outside, my dogs were possibly getting hot in the van -- Ouray can get a little toasty in early afternoon.

When you step out of that filthy laundromat you see monsoonal clouds pinching off the canyon. The clouds are scrubbing the canyon walls. Ahhh, the first cool afternoon shade hits Ouray. It's my favorite time of year and my favorite moment in Ouray. I suppose contrast is what we need to look for.

It doesn't cost a dime to contrast a beautiful thing -- not necessarily visual -- with a mood based on some prior experience of ugliness. And it can be done anywhere.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Premature Mother's Day Oration

Maurice Chevalier was right, in Gigi: Thank heavens for little girls. 

There is a barrier protecting my boondocking site in a national forest near City of Rocks State Park (Silver City, NM): an inconvenient location and 7 miles of a narrow gravel road. Thus I have seen absolutely nobody out here.

Yesterday I was surprised to encounter a small SUV, carrying Dad and a little darlin', maybe 4 years old. They were looking for wild turkeys. We talked about the road and mining shacks for a couple minutes. The cutie pie said she liked my dog, Coffee Girl.

Perhaps Dad is imprinting a love of the outdoors on this little girl. Twenty years from now she might turn out to be a "camping mom", a horsewoman, or maybe even a mountain biker!  Her husband will be fortunate in this regard, at least.

I have no way of knowing whether they found their wild turkeys, but Coffee Girl and I did, the next day. Those things are huge! It was down in a slightly-wet creek right alongside the dirt road. We got within 20 feet of it. It scrambled off, climbing up a steep hillside.

If this blog still has any flowerologists in the readership, help me with this one:

Monday, February 13, 2012

The True Colors of a Flower

Small flowers are popping up everywhere right now in the Sonoran Desert, courtesy of the rain last November and December, presumably. Nothing seemed extreme when I took this photograph, but now I have to wonder whether the camera was malfunctioning, perhaps because I was aiming too close to the sun. No, the camera seems OK. The backlighting is bringing out the yellow in the desert flower that ordinarily is not noticeable.

It's strange that our notion about "color" in nature is usually aimed at reflective colors rather than transmitted colors. We hardly ever think about it. This suggests some idea of wider applicability. But what is it?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Happy With So Little

It's too early in the monsoon season in the Southwest to see flowers. Most of them are cautious and wait until September. These two were a real surprise. Keep in mind that there was a severe drought for nine months prior to this.

It's not good enough to just be pretty when you're in the flower biz. Something more dramatic and interesting is needed. First we must push away the Trivial and the Prittee-Poo, and dwell on the horribleness of the drought. We must be willing to stare into the Abyss. Some people won't do that because that would be "negative thinking." Too bad, because the real beauty isn't in the "positive", banal, and insipid color of flowers; it's in the violent contrast between Suffering and Rain.

It reminded me of RVing in Mexico. Sometimes I would sit out in the plaza and admire the pretty senoritas; schoolgirls actually. It surprised me that they were so attractive. But why? Must a country have material affluence to have pretty young women?

Carry that thought to extreme: imagine you are in a war zone, with destruction, cruelty, and suffering everywhere. Even there, girls turn into young women. And seeing them must make people think there really is a future.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Spikes and Flowers

We don't get many cholla or cactus flowers in the spring, here in the Little Pueblo, so I do appreciate them. But it was the needles that grabbed me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flower and Petroglyph?

Is that a petroglyph of a bicycle in the upper left corner? I love close-up photography. There are interesting details that you wouldn't take the time to notice otherwise. Seeing those serrations on the ends of the flower petals surprised me more than driving up the standard scenic viewpoint of the Grand Canyon.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Only a Dry Beauty

My visitor and I wandered over to the old fort to check things out.

It was so tinder-dry around that area, and that made for unpleasant walking through dry brush. We avoided most of it since my companion lacked the sort of clothing that would have been natural in that area. (He wears shorts in the Southwest! grin)

It's probably a common thing to go somewhere to see something, and then finding the mind drift off to something quite different.

I wondered how I got sucked into appreciating the beauty of dry texture. Do you select a retirement area because you carry a latent image in your head, and then the land develops the image? 'Beauty' is different than mere prettiness of course. Did other people who live in this area get sucked into the same thing?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May Flowers

Why don't I know the name of these white flowers that show up in May every year? This is the first one for this year. They are probably no big deal to a generic viewer; you have to live somewhere to appreciate certain things; they can't be appreciated just as eye candy.

I don't know why, but I like shadows of stamen and photographing flowers from the backside.