I’m sitting at the kitchen table looking out at whirling drifts of snow, an unusual sight here in Cochise County, Arizona. The mountain slopes on the opposite side of the canyon are obscured from view:
An apricot tree next to the front door was in full bloom yesterday, but I imagine that the blossoming will resume in a day or so:
My thoughts wander back to memories of a hike Bev and I took a few days ago. We drove up to the Dragoons again, a range of contorted granite mountains which once served as a stronghold and refuge for the Apache chief Cochise and his tribespeople.
The sky was just perfect that day, with radiating spokes of high cirrus clouds providing a fitting backdrop for the rocky slopes and peaks. A few examples of the twisted shapes granite can assume when given sufficient time and heat:
The path we followed wound its way in. I would like to see one of those famed Southwestern flash floods someday, but from higher ground! The granite supported little vegetation, just the usual alligator junipers, scrub oaks, and piñon pines spaced a comfortable distance apart. Two more views:
The collie Sage led the way as we approached a peculiar pile of rocks. The heap bore an uncanny resemblance to some sort of squat sentient creature, like a species of stony troll. A shiver ran up my spine:
It was quite a remarkable illusion, but obviously just the product of my overactive imagination. I couldn’t help but think, though, of some Apache legends I had read about, dark tales of stony demons lurking in the local canyons. I was distracted from these disturbing thoughts by an encounter with a new flowering plant. What a charming sight! It was a yellow-flowered legume with contrasting reddish buds. The clump was growing amidst yucca and grasses. I liked the way one pair faced the camera while the other seemed transfixed by the sight of something off towards the right, perhaps the dog:
Once I was home again I determined that the plant is a species of Lotus, a close relative of the alien forage legume Lotus corniculatis or Birds-foot Trefoil. I think these Lotus greenei plants are much prettier, although I admit their native status predisposes me towards them.
We came across a boulder-field which required us to squeeze through crevices. Cave-like enclosures between the car-sized rocks probably serve as impromptu shelters for coatimundis and such-like small mammals. Here’s a scene which might appear to be an appalling example of animal abuse, but Bev really wasn’t punching out Sage:
We were walking by yet another tastefully-arranged grouping of boulders when Bev saw a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly nectaring at a clump of white flowers surrounded by the threatening curved leaves of Shindagger plants, a small species of Agave. I endured a few pokes from the Shindaggers in an effort to squat down and take a closer look at the five-petaled white flowers:
Later, after I had failed to identify the plant, Bev was able to make a positive ID. The plant bears an unlikely common name, Bigelow’s Bristlehead, and it’s a member of the Aster or Composite family. The Latin binomial is Carphochaete bigelovii.
I was standing near a large round boulder when I heard a faint rumbling reminiscent of the sound of a mild earthquake. I also could feel the stone pavement I stood upon trembling. Sage whimpered.
Bev said with alarm, “Look at those outcroppings up ahead! They’re moving!”
A thorny ocotillo shoot extended across my path, as if to warn me against proceeding any farther:
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Two of the enormous piles of granite boulders were moving across our path several hundred yards away. We decided to give them a wide berth and took a circuitous route back to the van. It always pays to be prudent when encountering ancient troll-like rock demons!
Larry, who has been known to stretch the truth at times…