Change of scene

sunflowers

I have been working hard all week, packing boxes for the local Humane Society thrift shop. My sister suggested weekends were for fun, too, so yesterday I drove north to visit the sunflowers of Northern Arizona.

These sunflowers provide  stability for me. For fifty years, they have always bloomed out on Fort Valley Road north of Flagstaff. Every fall, fields and fields of sunflowers framing the mountains in the distance, under the monsoon clouds.

Perhaps someday these fields will give way to the growth of the town northward, but right now, this instant, as they have for the past half-century, they provide beauty that is without price and at the same time, totally free for the taking.

Gifts abide all around us, if we just look for them.

A walk on the wild side

This past Sunday I took an early morning hike looping around Courthouse Butte.

Courthouse Butte, Sedona, Arizona

Do you know why it is a butte and not a mesa? Because it is taller than it is wide. Here is another, Capitol Butte, shaped roughly like our nation’s capitol:

capitol butte

Here in Sedona, we like to name rocks. This is muffin top:

muffin top

And of course, what else could this be but rabbit ears:

rabbit ears

The wind was blowing, so the birds were keeping low, hidden in the bushes. They don’t like wind, for when everything moves, they can’t see predators. But a Western scrub jay was out. They signal intruders like me with a harsh caw like a crow:

scrub jay

A gray vireo was also out. Their song is a series of chu-weets, lyrical and sweet:

gray vireo

It’s easy to stay on the trail, for the forest service has constructed these ingenious cairns made out of red rock in wire cages. (That’s half of Twin Buttes in the background).

trail cairn

 

The bikers don’t like this trail, though, because the middle of it runs through Wilderness area–makes it nice and secluded for us hikers!bicycle sign

 

The wildflowers are in the middle of their spring bloom. Here is a feathered dahlia. The white-magenta flowers smell like a combination of rose and jasmine and make a lovely tea.feathered dahlia

The strawberry hedgehog has a fruit that according to my plant book taste just like strawberries!

magenta hedgehog

You wouldn’t want to eat the yellow berries of this plant, though. This is the silverleaf nightshade. It is an invasive species, often found where there is overgrazing. You wouldn’t think that would be a problem here, but this area’s original name was Big Park, and there were large herds of cattle grazed here.nightshade flowers

 

Here are the berries. Poisonous, but used by native peoples to tan hides and curdle milk into cheese. All sorts of uses for plants.

nightshade berries

 

This little flower is called the Slender Gaillardia, also called the reddome blanket flower. The Hopis used this as a diuretic:gaillardia

 

We’ve had a very dry year. Some say we are starting a drought cycle. For that reason, water is precious to the wild animals. Even a small bit like this will draw deer for miles:

water hole no 2

 

As I rounded the bend, I caught a glimpse of our most famous rock formation, Cathedral Rock:

cathedral rock

People who say the desert is barren haven’t been to Sedona!