Silly Mountain Sunset

The brittlebush bloom at sunset at Silly Mountain, Arizona last Saturday

As expected, last week’s rain followed by a fairly intense warm-up in Arizona’s low desert has made the wildflower bloom progress nicely. I took a spin around to some of my favorite locations this time of year to scout for our upcoming “Wild for Wildflowers: Sonoran Desert” Arizona Highways Photography Workshop and was not disappointed! Here’s what I saw out there:

Flora-tude

A Mexican gold poppy demonstrating attitude – or “Flora-tude” at Lake Pleasant on Sunday

GO NOW – LOCATIONS AT PEAK:

  • Lake Pleasant: (location #21 in our “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” book) This location is AT PEAK or just slightly beyond when it comes to annuals.  The entire hillside along the south end of the Pipeline Canyon Trail has burst into yellow with Mexican gold poppies and California poppies.  I even saw a handful of albino poppies on the west side of the trail – something I’ve never seen outside of Bartlett Lake!  There is a nice mix of other flowers, including lupine, blue dicks, scorpionweed, and fiddleneck.  A very nice stand of bright orange globemallow begs for some nice photographs just south of the Pipeline Bridge.  Though the poppies will only last another 7-10 days, the perennials like brittlebush are just starting to bud and show, so watch this location for the perennial bloom over the next two weeks.
  • Silly Mountain:  (location#32) The ridiculously silly brittlebush bloom on this hillside along the highway has started almost a week or two early and will peak likely this week.

KEEP AN EYE ON IN NEXT 7-10 DAYS:

Albino Mexican Gold Poppy

Albino Mexican Gold Poppy at Bartlett Lake on Sunday

  • Bartlett Lake:  (location #26)  The hillsides around the saddle area are looking spectacular right now – poppies, lupine, chuparosa, fiddleneck, cream cups, and chia.  Though the areas north of the saddle along Service Road 459 are definitely showing a solid wildflower bloom – including the white albino and pink poppies! – a stroll through the desert revealed many, many buds still waiting to bloom.  The shooting is great here right now, but I think this area will likely see peak in the next 7-10 days.  Lots of potential still!
  • Silver King Mine Road: (location #38):  Patches of poppies are evident along the east-facing mountain sides as you drive this recently graded dirt road.  A short hike up the hillside will get you to a relatively young patch of poppies.  A scattering of London rocket, fiddleneck, and lupine are also filling in.  The verdict is still out as to whether we’ll see a spectacular bloom here, but there’s enough going on to warrant putting it on the watch list.
  • Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park: (location #37)  Though not prolific yet, thus far, the Arboretum is showing perhaps the most diverse mix of desert blooms – poppies, globemallow, blue dicks, desert marigold, desert filaree, penstemon, popcorn flower, wild cucumber, and Mormon tea – along the Main Trail.  Though good for ample photographic opportunities now, I think this spot will continue to get even better in the weeks ahead.

FORGET IT – SAVE YOUR GAS & TIME:

  • Saddle Mountain:  (location #20)  Unless you’d like to see what the desert looks like in spring when it doesn’t get enough rain, skip this location this year.  There are a few scattered, tiny poppies, some scorpionweed and fiddlneck, three bladderpod mustard blooms, and a ton of small popcorn flower, which my husband suggested looked more like the bottom of the popcorn bag.  Better luck next year…

Have you been out photographing the wildflowers in Arizona?  Tell us what you’ve seen in your outings!  We’d love to hear from you!

~Colleen

Lupine and cream cups at Bartlett Lake

Lupine and cream cups at Bartlett Lake on Sunday

Autumn on the Rim

View of the Grand Canyon near the Ken Patrick Trail, North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Wow, what a difference a year makes! Some of you might recall last year’s report from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon:  patchy and late. (See original blog post:  wildinarizona.com/wordpress/?p=110.)

Not this year!

With the perfect mix of rain, sun, and cooler temperatures, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and surrounding Kaibab Plateau trees are showing off a brilliant palette of color and right on time.   Get your cameras out for a spectacular mix of yellow, orange, and red aspen, rusty Gambel oak, red maples, yellow New Mexican locust, red holly, and red wild geranium all peaking together!

But things are moving fast.  Like “limey-green-leaves-on-Monday-turn-a-rich-golden-yellow-by-Wednesday” and “Rich-golden-leaves-on-Monday-fall-to-the-ground-by-Wednesday” fast, thanks to below-freezing overnight temperatures in the meadows and valleys.  The show should last another week, but probably not much longer, especially if the high country sees any high winds in the days to come. (Continues below photo.)

Spotlight on aspen tree in South Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

Spotlight on aspen tree in South Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

You’ll start to see color as you drive along Highway 67 from Jacobs Lake to the park entrance.  A spin down any dirt road on the Kaibab Plateau will reveal seemingly endless photographic opportunities.  Early this week, we specifically explored FR610 to Saddle Mountain, which showed crazy good color along the road, particularly as we drove closer to the trail head.

Colorful leaves of autumn

Colorful leaves of autumn on FR610 on the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

Inside the park, many of the previously burned areas have smaller aspens growing in between burned snags.  The hardest part is finding a safe pull-out (look for paved or previously used gravel spots and walk).  The “Y” turnoff for Point Imperial and Cape Royal along the North Rim Scenic Drive and numerous trails, including the Trancept, the Widforss, and Ken Patrick (towards Point Imperial), offer the best color right now.

Flagstaff – which I drove past en route to the Canyon – appears to be peaking at the higher elevations on the San Francisco Peaks.  The lower elevations were about 50% green on Monday, but made much progress before I drove through again on Wednesday (estimate ~10-20% green) so places like Lockett Meadow and the Bearjaw Trail are likely starting to peak right now.

The Verde Valley area is still green as expected for this time of year, but start looking for color around Montezuma’s Well, Beaver Creek, and even Sedona in the next two weeks or so.

Happy shooting!
~Colleen

Orange-tipped aspen in South Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

Orange-tipped aspen in South Canyon, Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

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