Thursday, August 2, 2012

wildflower festival

The Cottonwood Canyons Foundation puts on the Wildflower Festival every year about this time, giving tours of the spectacular blossoms in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.  This year they did guided hikes in Brighton last Thursday, at Solitude last Friday, at Alta last Saturday and at Snowbird on Sunday.  That's why we went MTBing on Saturday: we wanted to do the Snowbird flower hike because for a $5 donation (all proceeds going straight to the CCF) we got to ride to the top of the mountain in the tram and then walk down.

Butterfly on a western coneflower

We got up there a little early, signed up for the hike we wanted (and were slightly offended when the girl asked us if we really wanted to do the advanced hike - like we can't walk down Snowbird (in all fairness, I think she was asking everybody)) and had breakfast at the Forklift (Denver omelet for H and fruit, granola and yogurt for me) while waiting for our 9:30 a.m. tram.  We ended up with about fourteen people in our group - only one really annoying woman, but DANG she was annoying - and two volunteer guides, there to offer up all their knowledge about the wildflowers and geology of the area.

Ski trail bursting with lupine
and Wyoming paintbrush

The descent, mostly on the access roads but a little on hiking trails, was 3,000 feet and took a long time since we were walking as a group and stopping a lot to look at the flora.  My word, though, these wildflowers are just incredible.  The blossoms were all a little smaller or shorter than usual due to the low rainfall, but the variety and colors were glorious.  We bought a CCF Wildflower Guide book after the hike and I think we saw 90% of the flowers in the book: Wasatch penstemon, fireweed, death camas, bluebells, lupine, dock, gentian, Lewis's monkeyflower, yellow monkeyflower, coyote mint, elephant head, Whipple's penstemon,showy daisy, paintbrushes, columbine, Richardson's geranium, cinquefoil, yarrow, thimbleberry, sulfur buckwheat, asters, buttercups, ivesia, western coneflower ... If you're ever in SLC towards the end of July, you really should venture up the canyons and look at the flowers.  Ferdinand would have been in heaven.

Gentian blossom

It was nearly 2 p.m. by the time we got down the mountain and we were hot and hungry.  We nabbed an umbrella-ed table on the Snowbird deck; H fetched the beer from the car and I bought us a Regulator Johnson sandwich from the General Gritts deli to share: turkey breast, spinach, cheese and carmelized onions - delicious.  We noshed and people-watched, and looked at our new wildflower book, and once again enjoyed a great day up on the Wasatch Front.

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