Desert Color

Wildflowers on Dutchman Trail

Those cliffs above the Dutchman Trail (in red from the push pin “Dutchman Terrapin Trail Junction”) climb 670 feet in 0.2 mile. Fifteen minutes after starting I stopped to photograph a group of wildflowers.

The bright yellow flowers on right are a member of the pea (Fabaceae) family named Wright’s Deervetch (Acmispon wrightii) I am able to pick it out from many similar flowers due to the characteristic narrow leaves with small hairs. These start out yellow, turning to red with age eventually forming brown seed pods. Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) to the right.

The small white flowers are Chickweed (Minuartia macrantha) of the family Carnation (Caryophyllaceae).

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Bluff Spring Mountain Canyon

A Meeting of Expedition Members and Trails

Here is the topographic map with Terrapin Trail (yellow) meeting Dutchman Trail (orange) to the right of Upper Black Top Mesa Pass, bottom center

The beetling cliffs off Bluff Spring Mountain loom over where Terrapin and Dutchman trails meet. Patches of yellow are Mexican Poppies blooming on the talus slope. Terrapin Trail climbs the ridge, to right. Here is where I caught up with mounted expedition members, the spotted rump of an Appaloosa figures prominently next to the signpost.

Terrapin Trail almost immediately starts a climb up to an eponymous pass between Bluff Springs Mountain and Weavers Needle. From here, it is the best way into the mountain. The trail name is a misnomer, as terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) turtle habitat is near the ocean. There is a desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) you might encounter during the rainy season as they are otherwise inactive.

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Al at Terrapin and Dutchman trails. His Appaloosa is enjoying fresh grass.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Zig-Zagging Up The Pass

Climbing out of East Boulder Canyon

Our second day began in East Boulder Canyon, in the following map it is at the foot of the “Z” of the orange line, the Dutchman Trail, lower left center. The shape is the signature of a switchback needed to negotiate a steep slope up to Upper Black Top Mesa pass. This day will see us traverse Dutchman Trail to the intersection with Peter’s Trail (yellow), another steep climb up Peter’s Mesa.

Today’s post features photographs of flourishing Sonoran Desert plants and landscape on the slopes of Black Top Mesa. Dipterostemon capitatus known by the common names blue dicks, purplehead and brodiaea is native to the Western United States (particularly Arizona, California, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico and northwest Mexico.

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Stag Horn Cholla (Opuntia versicolor) or, maybe, Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima) growing along the Upper Black Top Mesa Pass trail. Also, in foreground Blue Disk. In the distance Prickly Pear (Optuna) and, far distance, Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean). Palamino Mountain and the Peralta Trail on left, Black Top Mesa on right. East Boulder Canyon runs between. The other side of distant Yellow Peak was where, July 2010, four foolhardy Utah treasure hunters lost their lives to summer temperatures exceeding 180 F.

Here I used the “zoom” for a better view of distant Yellow Peak. In foreground is Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) and Blue Dick. In the distance Saguaro Cactus. Below the cliff of Black Top Mesa, above East Boulder Canyon, is a patch of yellow, Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica).

Here is camera, set to zoom, is swung toward the mesa cliffs. Prickly Pear and Brittlebush growing along the Upper Black Top Mesa Pass trail. I have not identified the shaggy shrub above the Brittlebush. In the distance Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean) flourishes. Below the cliff are patches of “gold dust”, the Mexican Poppy.

Heading southeast climbing out of East Boulder Canyon with a very young Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean) just off trail on left, a large specimen silhouetted on ridge ahead. Windmill Pink (AKA Common Catchfly) (Silene gallica) foreground, lower left. Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) on both sides.

This post ends as it began, with wildflowers growing next to the trailon a March morning. Blue Dicks (AKA Purplehead) (Dipterostemon capitatus), Tidy Tips (Layia) — daisy like flower, Brittlebush flowers are yellow when not dried. The larger small white flowers are Desert Phlox (Phlox austromontana) — I have not identified the tiny white flowers sprinkled around.

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Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Evening and Morning

Boulder Canyon Camp

Our camp for the first night was East Boulder Canyon, between Black Top Mesa and Palamino mountain. On the topographic map, below. the bright orange line is Dutchman Trail. We are at the lower center, at the foot of the “Z” in trail, a switchback over Black Top Mesa pass we’ll traverse the next day.

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The map locates Yellow Peak, where the four Utah treasure hunters lost their lives Summer 2010, at the upper center next to Black Mesa Trail. The peak is framed by Black Top Mesa and Palamino Mountain in views to the northwest from Boulder Canyon, as you will see in a later posting.

Our evening was a quiet one of camp chores, an enjoyable meal with homemade beef jerky, coffee and plenty of water to rehydrate. The horses chomped on grain from feed bags. They packed in the grain as grazing is not allowed in the wilderness. I gave each a treat of carrot and apple.

I was up well before dawn to capture the morning constellations over Weavers Needle: from the left, I believe I recognize Lyra with Vega accompanied by Epsilon Lyra, next the keystone of Hercules. The brightest object is Venus.

Taking a break from morning water gathering in East Boulder Canyon: saguaro cactuses reflected in a still pool, looking up to the northwest you can just about see the Peralta trail where it crosses a Palamino Mountain ridge. West/Northwest the Peralta trail crosses behind the same ridge.

References:

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Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Gold Dust Found

Desert Riches

A few minutes after photographing the Stressed Mesquite I looked across the creek to the slope of volcanic rock fallen from the cliff of Black Top Mesa where clumps of dark yellow mark clusters of flowering Mexican Poppies.

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Plentiful winter rains trigged a profusion of Mexican Poppies throughout the Superstition Wilderness. Here is a photograph captured after our expedition.

Look carefully for a scattering of color, like gold dust, at the foot of the volcanic cliffs. That is spring blooms of Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica). This gold wonder is plentiful from the month of late February through April, varying with the rains.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Black Top Mesa

Superstition Wilderness

The black basalt of the mesa, for which it is named, is just visible above the lighter colored alternating layers of ash and tuff all remnants of volcanic eruptions 15 to 29 million years ago. We are on the Dutchman trail with the slopes of Palamino Mountain on the right. Ahead, other members of the expedition are just visible.

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In this view the late afternoon shadow of Palamino Mountain reveals the defile to which we are headed. Poles of young Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantean), poke from the black basalt capping Black Top Mesa. Foreground left is Stag Horn Cholla (Cylindropuntia), on the right is Prickly Pear (Optuna).

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Look carefully for a scattering of color, like gold dust, at the foot of the volcanic cliffs. That is spring blooms of Mexican Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica).

References:

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Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved