Thursday, July 22, 2021

The La Plata Mountains! Finally!

Jeff Wagner with the high La Plata mountains behind
 

I have this fellow to thank for FINALLY getting me to one of Colorado's great mountain ranges. Technically a part of the greater San Juan range, the substantial ridge of peaks comprising the La Plata mountains are a few score miles south of the San Juan mountains proper: the first towering peaks north and east of the four corners.


I'm guessing the whole hike was perhaps three miles--the last half mile being relatively steep: but culminating in views like this, well worth the effort!

And there were flowers abounding the whole way: three species of paintbrush for instance. This is C. rhexiifolia: I stupidly never got a picture of C. haydenii, endemic to southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico!

A more orangy phase of the same paintbrush

I was relieved we didn't have to cross that causeway!

A local clover, Trifolium brandegei, is enjoying the view as much as we do.

We walked not to far from the lake on our way up and back...I wondered if there might not be something different growing there...another day perhaps I'll find out!

The meadows were all brimming with flowers: Osha and Helianthella quinquefolia were especially glorious. Here the corn lily is still in bud.

Seas of corn lilies (Veratrum tenuipetalum) in superbloom everywhere in the San Juans!

I was surprised to see Mertensia franciscana in a dryish meadow.

Every mountain range seems to have its own color phase of Penstemon whippleanus: in the San Juans they're a dusky maroon.

I photographed this San Juan endemic on Red Mountain pass over a month ago: it was everywhere on the La Platas--forming seed. Besseya ritteriana is the only yellow Besseya. Closely allied to Synthyris that grow far to the north and west--which are always blue--and Wulfenia from Eurasia, likewise blue. Some ornery botanists have suggesting lumping them all into Veronica--but we'll ignore that!

Near the trailhead on Kennebec pass there is a sign identifying all the lofty peaks in the San Juans looming a couple dozen miles to the north.

I had a little trouble correlating the sign to the shadowy silhouettes in the distance!

Superbloom on the corn lilies for sure! And Super hike for me! Fun to add yet another mountain range to the list of those I've hiked in. Now there are just a couple hundred more in the West to do--and let's not talk about Eurasia, the Andes, New Zealand or Africa!

This is another in my series about the hikes we'll be doing as part of "Edge of the Rockies"--the annual general meeting of the North American Rock Garden Society. 160 rock gardeners from across America have signed up to attend: click here to find out more about it!

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