Driving across the vast expanses of America can be very uneventful. In the Midwest and West you can go for miles and get nothing but tumbleweeds and sagebrush. So here are some helpful tips while crossing the vast expanses of land from sea to shining sea.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
One type of cactus you can always count on is the Prickly Pear whether you like them or not. They come in all sizes from the flat pads, spines, small glochids, itchy to downright painful. Prickly pears always are around.
From the Opuntia family these cacti are found in all the major North American deserts. The Great Basin is North America's largest desert. And one of the few species of cacti that live there are the opuntia polycantha.
This lovely cold hardy cacti was one I encountered as a young boy in Sandy, Utah along the mountain foothills. I ran into a giant colony of them and screamed all the way home. Now I raise them, how irony changes a hate to a love.
Lewis and Clark as they came across the continent noted that the prickly pears were everywhere and they had to watch out carefully or they would step in them. The thorns went through their moccasins (OUCH!) and were a constant nuisance.
I am not sure if prickly pear or any other cacti for that matter send out rhizomes, so help me out here in the comments section if you have an idea.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
In southeastern Idaho on the Snake River Plain is a large lava field and old volcanoes, Craters of the Moon National Monument. In the distance is an eroded shield volcano. These volcanoes do not get as high as other volcanoes as the lava is near the surface and it does not have to force its way up the way that larger mountainous volcanoes such as Mount Rainer or Mount Vesuvius. The cones are much shorter and wide and the craters are smaller.
The lava field is truly a unique formation. On the right is a picture of one of many cravasses some of which extend just a few to hundreds of feet deep.
The trees and shrubs find a niche in small openings such as the one featured on the right. Lava rock is highly rich in minerals and in soil form is known for its great crop growing from potatoes to vineyards. Many plants take advantage of these rocks for the same reasons.
To the left is a lava cave that opens at the top and descends downward. As the crust on top of the rock thins over time it eventually caves in on itself. This probably was originally a lava tube or tunnel underneath the rock before becoming this crater seen here.
To the right is a lava bridge. This thin area of pooled lava covers a crack beneath it. Going over this one was a bit tricky as I tested the weight of the rock beneath my feet. On all lava fields testing the crust is important as one can fall in to a hole or crack if they are not careful about moving around on the flow.
Finally you can see the expanse of the lava flow with the mountains in the distant background. The flow once on it seemed to go for miles and miles. The entire Snake River Plane was formed by the very forces that made Craters of the Moon National Monument. It is that other world experience without having to leave earth to see it. And unlike the moon, the lava flow supports and abundance of plant and animal life. On our way out from this trip we encountered a rattle snake. The snake is a great reminder to be careful whenever hiking in the wilderness.
Monday, July 12, 2010
It is July here at the eastern edge of the Great Basin and the foot of the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. Typically at this time of year from late June through August temperatures range in the 90 degree Farenheit range with about one to two weeks in the 100+ degree range possible.
Now sometimes I think of the Great Basin as a very boring type of desert. The standard shrub is the sage brush. And mile after mile of the stuff can be very boring. However there are some very pretty areas of this large basin if you know where to look.
At the northern end of the Great Basin is the Snake River Plain a large volcanic field with fertile soils that streches from Yellowstone National Park on the east to Oregon on the west. The above picture is a sunset near Ontario, Oregon.
While making a brief trip to Wyoming before the Independence Day weekend I took a shot of the new Welcome to Utah sign. Nice to see that the state finally has the idea that the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City are finally done. The old signs depicting the games were up far too long. Looking across through the sign you can see the typical high basin and range topography that the Great Basin is famous for along with the endless sage.
This photo shot near my home is one of those "get that shot" moments. We get thunderstorms that come in the afternoon. This sunset just happened on the tail end of one of them. This is over Lehi, Utah.
I am not quite sure what type of flowers these are but they stand out against the brownish clay ground cover.
This is another typical Great Basin Shot. Across the sage and salt brush you can see green junipers covering the higher foothill. These junipers are the primary conifer over most of the basin and range desert.
A pair of small daisies growing up near a rock covered with lichens.
Opuntia polycantha or the Great Basin Prickly Pear flowering amongst the rocks and sage.
Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge in western Juab County, Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah.
Mountain stream near Sundance, Utah.
Thistles can look pretty with their white flowers. Don't touch and I would not recommend for landscaping.
The Wasatch Range looking east from Eagle Mountain, Utah.
Sclerocactus glaucus in bloom.
Dry Creek in Highland, Utah. Not quite so dry as this is right before rain and high tempratures caused the creek to overflow its banks. Dry Creek orginates in Alpine, Utah in the Wasatch Range and empties into Utah Lake.
This is Utah Lake with the snow capped Wasatch Range in the background. As late as June the mountains are still capped with snow that will run off well into July before the highest peaks at 12,000 feet are completely snow free. Utah Lake is one of three large lakes in Utah left behind by ancient Lake Bonneville 10 to 15 thousand years ago.
The Great Basin for its size has many interesting areas to visit. It has one National Park, Great Basin National Park, extinct volcanic fields scattered across the eastern and central desert, caves, and sand dunes are all found within the Great Basin geographical area. Late spring and early summer the desert comes to life only to become dry and brownish again by August.
Deserts truly are magnificent places. Beauty can be found if only one looks beyond the dryness and heat to see what life makes its home in such a challenging environment.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
One of the things I love about America's deserts is man's ability to build engineering marvels in some of the most inhospitable land that allow for people to live in greater numbers than they otherwise could. To the left is the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge near Page, Arizona.
This bridge made a trip across the gorge a quick jaunt where absent the bridge hundreds of miles would have to traveled to get from one side to another.
Route 66 the fabled transcontinental highway prior to the Interstate system is another great feat. This famous highway stretched from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. It made the road trip famous. Here part of Route 66 is still in use today at Gallup, New Mexico.
Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
Interstate 15 through the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona was one of the most expensive highway projects in U.S. history. Blasted through the winding canyon and crossing the Virgin River several times it is a wonder that this stretch of highway was ever built. Before its completion to get to Las Vegas, Nevada from St. George, Utah required a trip directly west about 10 miles and then on a two lane highway over a mountain pass down to Littlefield, Arizona. The I-15 project took an hour off the drive to Las Vegas to Salt Lake each way.
Duchesne is 10 miles to the east and Heber City is 40 miles northwest.
Modern engineering has made living in a desert, which I do possible in all aspects of life. Sometime appreciating a desert is being thankful for the man made things as well as the beauty of nature.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Of course one of my favorite things to do is to just sit and listen to a waterfall. They are quite relaxing. I suppose they have the same type of attitude at the Healing Garden. I think it is great when a hospital can take care to put out so many beautiful plants and just for a moment give people a chance to take their minds off their health problems, work, or other concerns. Kudos to the gardener and landscaping teams at American Fork Hospital for this summer mini tropical paradise.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Some of these yucca have grown in mounds in the gardener's planting areas. They are common in landscaping here and I assume other areas. They are very cold hardy yucca and tolerate drought conditions as well as wet conditions.
The latter does not mean overwater though.
Cultivation of yucca is rather less complicated than other types of plants. They largley require little maintenance, many are cold hardy, and they have longevity on their sides. A good thing to remember is that all desert or drought tolerant plants need some type of fertilizer and regular watering.
During the high summer I water the yuccas that I have weekly to semi weekly depending on temprature. As always use well drained soils to prevent root rot. If you have clay soils, then a mix of clay, sand, and rock type soils will take care of water retention problems and help prevent root rot.
I am not a plant professional, nor play one on TV. But advice is free and if I can lend some experience in yucca care I am willing to do so for the three people that have visited my site. Have a great Independence Day if you are in America, otherwise enjoy the weekend.