My sore ankle won’t yet handle the several miles of round-trip over Goshawk Ridge, through some of the most beautiful wildflower display you will see anywhere in Boulder County, but this week I got as close as I could by way of the Fowler Trail. (From 93 south, turn right at the light toward Eldorado Springs. Just past the parking lot for Doudy Draw is a sign on the left for an ashram. Turn left on the dirt road, go to the end, and park. You’re at the trailhead.) A field of heart-leaved arnica greeted me a short ways in:
Insects were busy everywhere, buzzing, flying, sipping, mating. A big black bug zoomed down the center of the trail and contacted my shirt, where it clung as if astounded. I’d never seen this beautiful blue exoskeleton with black dots. Turns out, I believe, to be a pleasing fungus beetle, which explains why it was none too pleased when I encouraged it onto some grass stems. It was looking for mushrooms instead. (Thank goodness for autofocus cameras. Point toward self and shoot. Not perfectly sharp, but not bad.)
Farther in, a small patch of penstemon and Indian paintbrush beside the trail quietly astounded in shades of deep orange and blue. You’ll never find paintbrush alone because it is a partial parasite, sending fingers into the root systems of others to get food. It completes the cycle of reciprocity by giving away its nectar to hummingbirds:
On the Fowler Trail, if you choose the right fork twice, after about a mile you’ll find yourself heading down, down toward a creekbed. (At the second fork, if you had taken a left, you would be on the Goshawk Ridge Trail. Go. I beg you. The flowers in June are astounding.) On the way down, a small stream cuts across the trail. This was my turnaround point; the ankle had begun to throb. I sat on a shady flat rock, shed my sock and shoe, and dunked the ankle in cool, squishy mud. Ahhhh! A little blue butterfly puddled in the sun next to me—and this photo is really out of focus so I’ll keep it tiny. I love watching these small butterflies—blue coppers?—and have been known to lose an hour reveling in their lilac-tinged iridescence. On a lucky day you can find groups of them puddling together.
After some minutes, two feuding songbirds squawked into view. I grabbed my binoculars—yes! The electric blue heads of lazuli buntings, my first of the season. Gorgeous! They soon took their dispute elsewhere, and I focused on the roots of a bank-hugging tree slithering around rocks with the grace of a great, ancient lizard:
All too soon it was time to pull my foot out of the soothing mud and head back to the car. Along the way I spotted the first stonecrop of the season. For good reason it’s called stonecrop, usually jutting straight out as if from rock:
The final highlight of the hike was this butterfly probing delicately into dried-up dog poo. It is a western white Weidemeyer’s admiral, which likes to hang out on gravel and is often found on animal droppings. Apparently these butterflies need salts, minerals, and proteins that can’t be found in nectar, so they choose what to me is an unsavory menu—a great reminder of the cycle of life, where one person’s waste is another one’s lunch.
This one walked gently upon its feast, occasionally opening and closing its wings. I had to anticipate the rhythm to get a shot of wings open:
I left it perched at lunch, wings closed, a shard of the finest stained glass wedged in offal.
Safely back at the car, I realized the ankle had managed two whole miles. Yippee! No more being sidelined when spring is in bloom.