Thursday, August 4, 2016

once again, wildflowers

Sunday was the final day of the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation's 2016 Wasatch Wildflower Festival.  Friday had been guided walks at Brighton (morning) and Solitude (afternoon), Saturday was at Alta, and then finishing things off at Snowbird.  The CCF's goal with the wildflower festival is not to get more people from greater Salt Lake to come up into the canyons for the flowers but rather to educate those people who already do spend time in the canyons.


As we had last done in 2012, we drove up to the 'Bird early enough to sign up for one of the advanced hikes ($5 per person donation to CCF nabbed us tram tickets to the top of Hidden Peak, and then a guided walk down) and then have breakfast (huevos rancheros and granola with fruit and yogurt) at the Forklift.  The first round of hikes started at 9:30 a.m. and we found ourselves in a group of 14, including our guide Eric and his two sons, Miles and Ian.

Perry's primrose

We were not the youngest people in our group but we were also not the oldest, and we soon figured out that we had spent more time up in the Wasatch mountains than anyone else in the group, including our guides.  In fact, Eric had never walked down from the top of Snowbird before, so while I scouted out a way to the access road, H answered people's questions about the surrounding peaks.

Tolmey's owlclover

Our route down was via the access road and the Peruvian gulch hiking trail.  The road and trail are quite steep in sections and the road tends towards loose gravel, which was slippery in spots.  The land surrounding the road is pretty dry, so it was nice to get off onto the smaller trail for sections since that afforded us access to a wider variety of flowers.  We saw a pika up near the summit, a couple of grouse midway down and potguts throughout the walk.

Elephant's head

The whole point was the wildflowers, however, and Snowbird did not disappoint:  we identified over forty different flowers (just a drop in the bucket, when there are technically 200+ varieties of penstemon alone).  Our guides were quite knowledgeable and if none of the three of them knew the flower offhand, they had brought multiple books for reference.  We only ended up with one flower that we couldn't name:


The pace was expectedly slow and as we neared the bottom, H and I, plus young Ian and another hiker, couldn't take it any longer, cruising back to the Snowbird deck without waiting for the rest of the group.  (Still, we made it down in about an hour's less time than the first time we did the festival, so I guess that's something.)  H and I found an unoccupied table with an umbrella and camped out there, waiting for Eric to come through so we could thank him for the informative walk.

Coyote mint

Since we had that shaded table, it seemed a shame to give it up.  H fetched us beers from the Birdfeeder (deckside grill) and I went down to General Gritt's for a couple of fabulous Regulator Johnson sandwiches.  Ghostowne, a country/rock band, was playing on the deck, and they were fun, with original songs titled "Doublewide," "I Only Smoke When I Drink and "Cigarettes and Black Coffee," with lines like "I'm a menace to sobriety."

Showy goldeneye

We felt no need to leave any time soon, listening to their whole set, enjoying the music, the cooler temperatures and just generally being pleased about things.  Clearly, the Wildflower Festival is an outstanding way to get out and enjoy the canyons.

Lewis's monkeyflower

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