Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wildflowers at Mid Elevation, Walker Lake, Nevada



Part Two,  What's Blooming along the Mining Trail 


After leaving the Slim Pickings mine I was determined to get back on track for any wildflowers that might be blooming in the higher slopes across from Walker Lake.

Driving up a short distance, a shade of blue caught my eye.  An attractive grouping of Blue Phacellia, Phacelia distans was growing off to the side, next to the canyon wall.



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 Blue Phacellia is also known as Scorpionweed due to the arrangement of the flowers, resembling a scorpion's tail. 



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With the severe drought this area has been under for so many years, I was pleased to find a large number of Blackbrush Coleogyne ramosissima in bloom with their yellowish sepals.


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The name Blackbrush comes from the gray branches turning a dark, black color when they are wet in the rain.



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All around, the Spiny Hop Sage Grayia spinosa were just beginning to show a deep pink with their leaf like colorful bracts.  An interesting fact about this shrub is that inconspicuous male and female flowers grow on separate plants that have a short blooming period from May through June.




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Sulfur Buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum polyanthum, was thriving all around at mid elevation. This plant is native to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and attracts birds and butterflies to its flowers.



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Reaching a flat meadow, I noticed a few tiny white blooms on the narrow-leaved Popcorn Flower, Cryptantha angustifolia.  It is so named from the similarity of the flower's cluster to the popcorn snack.



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As I wandered around, I began to notice a rather strange looking green plant that was thriving in many different locations.   Checking with my Desert Wildflower Field Guide, I discovered this to be Leafy Spurge, Euphorbia esula, a perennial native to Europe that is an invasive weed.  To my horror, I read that Leafy Spurge grows rapidly and will displace all other vegetation. Furthermore the milky latex from this plant can cause skin irritation and may even be toxic to humans and animals. 


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This collared lizard, unaware of any warnings regarding the Leafy Spurge was waiting for a late afternoon snack on an insect that might be passing by.


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Continuing further up the trail would eventually take me to the top of the mountain, but that was a long drive and not enough hours of daylight for this trip.


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The afternoon breeze was picking up, requiring a faster shutter speed for a sharp image. It was time to head back down the trail.


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No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


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Monday, June 16, 2014

Wildflower Adventures at Walker Lake, Nevada




 Mining Lore, Saltlovers and Snake Tales




On the quest for wildflowers, I took an old mining trail across from Walker Lake to see what might be blooming in the area.  With the lighting so unpredictable, I decided to leave around noon when the sun should be dropping behind the mountains to the west.



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On the lower elevation of the trail, I noticed the absence of any wildflowers other than an occasional bush that was just starting to bloom.  Many of the bushes or shrubs in the Great Basin Desert have adapted to the lack of moisture by either eliminating leaves and replacing them with thorns or reducing the size to eliminate transpiration (loss of water through evaporation).




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The rocky, dirt trail zigzags through canyons and across slopes. Along the way, the landscape is accented with rabbit bush and sage that are in the first stages of blooming.




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The Halogeton plant or Saltlover is thriving in the saline soil and gives the ground a green appearance.  It is an invasive, noxious weed that is poisonous to livestock, especially sheep and grows well where the soil has been disturbed.  But maybe more on this plant in a separate post.




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Climbing higher on the narrow path, I ascend to 5,404 feet (1,647 m) before reaching the mine that sits precariously in the side of a tall mountain.  The trail is barely wide enough for my CJ-7 Jeep and thank goodness there is a turn-around just past the mine entrance.  The soil appeared to be solid on the outside edge of the trail but there were plenty of large rocks to dodge to keep the tires from slipping.



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A weathered sign that had seen its share of bullets warned of danger from blasting and falling rocks.  Today the greatest danger could be from falling rocks, but more likely bites from rattlesnakes that might be using the deserted mine as their den.




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The mine has 3 entrances and two are still open. The one on the left appears to be filled in.  Rumor has it that the miner, his mule and a fortune in gold were sealed off when some dynamite accidentally discharged inside the mine.  Although this is an intriguing story from what I could find on the Internet, the mine was the Slim Picking Claim that was mining for tungsten.



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Going in for a closer view, wooden beams that reinforced the tunnels are still standing at the entrances.  The larger opening would be easy to walk in but I'm not that curious.  Abandoned mines can be dangerous and this area is prone to earthquakes.



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I decide to leave any mine exploring to my imagination and get back on track with the wildflower venture. For whatever reason, the soil around this mine is just not conducive to flowering plants.



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As I was driving away from the mine's entrance, I noticed a Gopher Snake resting in the shade along the narrow bank of the trail. Fearing that I might frighten it off, I quietly grabbed my camera. However, I didn't have to worry because the snake was stretched out with a big budge in its belly from its last meal.



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Since I have devoted so much space in this post to my time at the mine, I have decided to make this into a two-parter, so please check back and see what interesting plants and wildflowers I did find after leaving the mine.



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With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.






Monday, June 9, 2014

Wildflowers Along Gabbs Valley Range



Part II, What's Blooming on Rabbit Springs Road



Part two on my discoveries of wildflowers along the Gabbs Valley Range takes me back to Rabbit Springs Road from the side trip to Benton Spring.  While driving a short distance, to my disappointment I began to notice that this area appeared very dry.  Most of the moisture from any clouds just happens to become stalled over the Gabbs--Reese River area; however weather patterns in this portion of the Great Basin Desert can be quite unpredictable and also fickle. 



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I was beginning to fear that the lack of moisture was not going to allow for many wildflowers on this trip. As I was driving higher up and to the north on Rabbit Springs Road, I saw my first indication with a few small white petals of Spreading Phlox.  This plant can grow to become so dense that the tiny flowers completely cover the leaves. Spreading Phlox mounds rarely grow higher than 4 inches above the ground.  Maybe my luck was about to change and I would find more flowers as I drove up higher.





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While walking around the area of the Spreading Phlox, my eyes were drawn to something red against the green needles of a pinyon pine.  A closer look found just the one Desert Paintbrush, but what a striking scene it made with the pine needles.  The Desert or Indian Paintbrush has brilliantly colored, torch-like flower spikes that range from electric pint to scarlet red.  Growing on sagebrush slopes, the Paintbrush adapts by hooking its roots to the roots of a host plant.  




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The Pinyon Pine is a low, bushy evergreen that can reach a height of 15 to 35 feet, (4.6-10.7 m) and has adapted well in the high desert soil.  Producing the edible pine nuts, the seeds are still collected by Native Americans for both cultural and economic purposes. 




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Gaining higher altitude, around 7,000 feet (2133.6 m) were a nice grouping of Silvery Lupines accenting the road-side with their deep blue-violet blooms.  A member of the pea family, Lupines are found in rocky soils at 7,000 to 10,000 feet (2,134--3,048 m) elevation.  A note of caution--the genus Lupins and especially the seeds are toxic to humans and animals if ingested.



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 Mixed in with the Silvery Lupines was an occasional Dwarf Lupine.  




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After reaching the higher altitudes more varieties of wildflowers were coming in view.  The lavender flowers of a Crescent Milk-vetch were just starting to bloom.  Preferring sandy or gravelly soils, this interesting plant is also known as Locoweed and comes with a word of caution as it is toxic to both humans and animals.  When ingested, a disorder known as locoism will result. Locoism occurs chiefly among sheep, horses and cattle and is characterized by weakness, impaired vision, paralysis and irregular behavior.  



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Just as I was driving past, I noticed the tall, deep purple blossoms of a Subalpine Larkspur.  The showy flower grows along shady, subalpine streams and meadow edges so I was curious as to why it was on the bank of this rocky dirt road.  This plant too comes with a warning and contains toxins if eaten which can be fatal to both humans and animals.  



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My drive had now taken me to the mountain pass and it was time to turn around.




 The interesting aspect of outdoor photography along a trail is that everything looks different on the trip back.  The lavender trumpet flowers of Purple Mat were blooming off to the side.  Purple Mat has been known to carpet the desert floor with ample rain.




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A little further on, the white Desert Pincushions were just starting to bloom.   These small multiple flowerheads accent the slopes, hillsides and shrublands in many areas of the Great Basin Desert.







The last group of wildflowers to my delight was a bunch of Spreading Fleabane nestled against rust colored sandstone rocks.  The small daisy-like blossoms are short-lived, so this was a very exciting finale for a day of wildflower photos. 



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No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Monday, June 2, 2014

Wildflowers Along the Gabbs Valley Range


Part I 
Exploring around Benton Spring 


With the desert wildflower season starting to bloom, I took a chance on what I might find in the Gabbs area.  The Gabbs Mountain Range extends 40 miles southeastward from Walker Lake to the Pilot Mountains, at 38.6718674 North and -118.1854009 West. Located in the Great Basin Desert, this area seems to have its own micro-climate when the rain producing clouds stall over its rugged mountain ranges.  


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As I approached the highest point of highway 361with the colorful rock displays, I turned off on to Rabbit Springs Road which wanders through the Gabbs Range.  If I kept driving on the winding dirt road, it would eventually take me back to Walker Lake, however that was not my goal for this flower seeking quest.


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Turning on the first established trail to the east, I was interested to see what might be blooming along the route to Benton Spring. What I didn't anticipate was that this turn would lead me to some interesting discoveries. 

No sooner had I turned when my eye caught the yellow flowers on a prickly pear cactus. 


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Walking to the cactus, I almost stepped on a well camouflaged horned lizard waiting near by to catch any insects that were drawn to the blooms.


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A short distance ahead I noticed a large bush that was full of yellow blooms. 


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Drawing closer, I realized the healthy plant was a Bitterbrush.  Regardless of its name, this plant is a major year around food source for wildlife and livestock, especially in the dead of winter.  



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Walking higher up the trail, a stand of Narrowleaf willows stood out next to the canyon, an indication of the presence of water.  


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As I ascended further up the trail, there was a depressed area in the base of the canyon that looked like it might be a cave. 


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Sure enough as I came closer, I discovered that it was the opening to a rather large cave.  Looking down on the dirt trail, I began to notice animal tracks leading to the cave entrance. Most had been left from cattle; however there was a set that might belong to a cougar.  Not knowing what might be enjoying the coolness of the cave, I held back and began to check for additional prints.  To my surprise and just a short distance from the cave was the partially devoured skeleton of a cow.  Since the weather was so warm, I deducted that this had been a recent kill.  


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Curiosity got the better of me and I quietly approached the cave's entrance.  A shallow pond of water marred with cow prints lay at the opening and I was not that curious to go wading through the dirty water.  Better judgment then took over and I decided to get back with my wildflower photos.  Maybe one day I will do a return visit and be more prepared to go cave exploring!  

Coming down the trail, I stopped for a photo and began to marvel at the landscape with its "Badland" scenery. 


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What a feeling of desolation one gets from being alone in this primitive area.  My imagination could run wild as I gaze over the Pliocene lake deposits against the sandy brown limestone that were left from the Jurassic age. 



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No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.



"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.

 






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