A cloudy-day hike at Chautauqua

Deepening gray in the west promised more rain, but for now the sky overhead had lightened, and, armed with leash in my right hand, camera strap over my left, and binoculars around my neck, I headed out with Bodhi straight up the middle of the meadow at Chautauqua. Beds of heart-leaved arnica (Arnica cordifolia) popped from the green:

Chautauqua meadowThis is not wilderness land a three-hour drive outside of town; this is town, or at least the western edge of it, a little over a mile as the crow flies from downtown Boulder. In fact, turning around, I could see the town just on the other side of the hill we were climbing:

Wildflowers over town

We hung a left at the first opportunity and kept climbing. One-sided penstemon (Penstemon secundiflorus) had just started blooming earlier in the week:

One-sided penstemon

As had larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum) and field mouse chickweed (Cerastium arvense):

Larkspur & chickweed

Thank goodness for all the rain we’ve had in May!

Wildflowers on hill

This spur of trail passes among Ponderosa pines, which I can never resist smelling. The orange parts of the bark give off the aroma of butterscotch—or, depending on the tree, hints of vanilla or tobacco. Think rich, deep, and sweet:

Ponderosa pine bark

Turning left on the Mesa Trail to head back down to the ranger cottage, I saw more penstemon, and this time the camera captured the delicate shade of lavender that the penstemon often wears:

More penstemon

I heard a male broad-tailed hummingbird, his wings chirring furiously. But instead of moving horizontally, this time the sound was rising and dropping. Turning, I watched a male perform his diva-impressing dive. He climbed vertically about 20 feet into the air then dropped suddenly in a huge J-dive. No doubt his potential girlfriend was scoring it from the nearby tree: 9.0?

The clouds were gathering as we approached the ranger cottage by the parking lot, but I had time to stop by the native plant garden where I have been volunteering on Tuesday mornings. For the past six weeks Dave Sutherland, naturalist extraordinaire, has led about half a dozen of us in weeding, seeding, and setting plant signs. When we started in mid-April, this patch was nothing but a collection of brown sticks left over from last year and dormant plants waiting for that special combination of rain, warmth, and light that tells them to rise again from the earth:

Native plant garden

The rain cut loose just as Bodhi and I climbed into our car. Back at home after the shower, I couldn’t resist snapping my favorite Colorado spring beauty, the harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) in a planter on my patio. The patio is warmer than the ground, so these are beating the hillside show by a couple of weeks.



4 Responses to A cloudy-day hike at Chautauqua

  1. Lara Robinson says:June 1, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    I’m so glad you posted these gorgeous pictures. I’ve hike and run these same trails in the past few weeks and bemoaned my lack of knowledge about what flowers I’m seeing. Thank you for labeling them and sharing your knowledge!

  2. Priscilla Stuckey, PhD says:June 3, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    You’re welcome, Lara. Thanks for stopping by. What a great place to run regularly! Enjoy the show.

  3. Mandy says:June 4, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    I was just commenting to a friend how green all the hillsides around Boulder were looking! Now you’ve got me thinking of hiking this weekend or maybe Friday afternoon … now there’s a thought 🙂

  4. Gail Storey says:June 8, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I hike the trails around Boulder several days a week, so appreciate your sharing the names of the flowers. There’s an amazing field of huge orange-red poppies at the very bottom of the McClintock Trail (to the left of the bottom of the Enchanted Mesa). Did we die and go to the Deva Realm, or what??
    I’d love to see you post a blog with photos of Bodhi–