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Friday, May 21, 2010

Brilliant Desert

We gleefully fled our mountain home to the desert, barely dodging a snowstorm that I'm told dropped almost 18" of heavy wet snow in our forest. We drove west, through wind-driven snow on the Continental Divide, and then descended into the warmth of the Colorado Plateau.

Our first stop was in western Colorado, among the cliffs lining the mighty Colorado River. In places, leashes were essential for preventing any crazy Labs from chasing a lizard off a cliff.
I'm not kidding about the lizards. We saw a huge variety but this Collared Lizard won the prize for most colorful.
Early on our first morning in the desert, we immediately noticed brilliant splashes of color throughout the the landscape. As K and I set out on a bike ride, mounds of crimson caught my eye. Below, K stood next to a half-bloomed colony of Claretcup cactus colony.
Believe me, our dogs know from past experience to give cacti a wide berth! A cactus spine piercing a paw is no fun.

Soon, we found a cactus colony that had blossomed in all its glory.
Each flower was an intricate marvel of nature.
K and I rode on a trail that followed the rim of a cliff, winding among the labyrinth of side canyons eroding pockets into the cliff.
The trail wove among sculpted boulders barely defying gravity to remain perched high on the cliff's edge. Yellow flowering bushes, snakeweed, flourished among the boulders.In the more fertile soil just feet away from the sandstone, intriguing plants, like this milkweed, blossomed.
Familiar plants, like the Sego Lily, completely covered the red-soiled hillsides. I was struck by the similarity between the desert-adapted Sego Lily and the mountain-adapted Mariposa Lily that will blossom in our meadows later this summer.
By the end of our ride, the sky loomed dark, threatening rain. K stood silhouetted against the gray roiling sky, waiting for me at the top of a rise.
The threat of rain seemed harmless compared the depths of snow that we knew were falling at home. That knowledge made our warm desert vacation even sweeter.
And, the feeling of spinning my pedals along sinuous desert paths with K by my side overjoyed me after a winter of uncertainty while my neck healed.


  1. Hi KB,
    I was really looking at your photos, trying to figure out if you were near where I was for part of the trip! I didn't see any of those colorful lizards, though - or any blooming cacti.

  2. Awesome!

    Once again, thanks so much for sharing all of them!

  3. I gasped with each new picture as I scrolled down your post. I always shake my head when I hear that deserts are such forsaken landscapes. So not true!

    Is K more excitable in new places on your rides?

    Love the colors in the last picture...can't wait for more!

  4. WOW

    How beautiful!

    We are soooo happy that you had a great trip. Glad the pups stay far away from those cacti. Sounds painful.

    That lizard looked like fun! Hailey loves to chase stuff like that here.

    Chasing my tale...
    Addie, Lucie and Hailey

  5. I knew the pictures from your trip would be just beautiful! I love that one of K in front of the storm. It looks like something from a scary movie, but I feel really drawn to it! That cactus really drew me in, too. Just amazing pictures!

  6. Wonderful pictures. I don't think I've ever seen a cactus in bloom. How gorgeous! And the milkweed is something new also. How interesting!

    Emma Rose

  7. Yea! Desert! Don't you just love it? We are glad you are having such a great time.
    Vacation= Happiness =)
    Sierra-dog and Dexie

  8. such gorgeous desert views!
    have a great weekend!

  9. Pardon a simple foreigner but do these photos mean that you live near the Grand Canyon ? Or does the Colorado River cut its way through huge swathes of the state producing spectaculat scenery wherever you go? Love the cactii ?

  10. Angus,

    We don't live very near the Grand Canyon but the Colorado River cuts a deep groove into the land for many miles, starting in Colorado and including Utah (also part of our trip). We have amazing canyons and landscapes thanks to the work that it has done over millions of years.

    The Grand Canyon is the deepest and longest of the canyons but there are many other less popular ones between here and there!

    I've read that because people divert so much of its water for their use between here and the Gulf of California that it dwindles to a trickle and doesn't make it to the gulf most years. Looking at the deep roiling torrent of water in Colorado, that's VERY hard to believe.

  11. Wow - what else can one say!!! Beautiful place to see. And those cacti flowers are just so gorgeous and such brilliant color. Thanks for sharing your fun trip.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  12. An amazing area!! The colors in these photos exude the feeling of being there. Especially love the one of K waiting for you :)

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  13. Oooooh! The collared lizard!!! Great shot!

    I knew your photos and write-ups would make me feel as if I went, too, even though I didn't get to. I can feel the desert through your memories!


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