…I was driving up the steep, switch-backed, and rocky road to the level top of Juniper Flats, just outside of Bisbee. As I began to see the characteristic piñon pines, Toumey oaks, Mountain Mahogany trees, and of course Alligator Junipers I thought “Why don’t I come up here more often?” Of course it’s because the road is so rough, with rock outcrops jutting up from the roadbed and some very steep stretches. It’s only two miles from the Divide parking area to the top, but it takes twenty minutes to get up there. You don’t drive up that road, your vehicle clambers up it.
I was determined to go up there because I’d been with a group of fellow plant enthusiasts the day before. Two women told me that there was a species of rare orchid blooming up there — right now! They hadn’t identified the orchid to species yet. Have camera, will travel to where interesting plants are blooming — that’s one of my personal mottoes.
As I wound my way up the sun was just beginning to kiss the granite above me:
Here’s a fairly good stretch of the road, about halfway up. I had to stop to pee! Pardon the lens artifacts; the lens of my camera has a few scratches which sometimes catch the light.
Looking out over the San Pedro Valley glimpses of Sierra Vista can be seen, with the Huachuca Mountains in the background. The shadow of Juniper Flats darkens the foreground dramatically:
I drove to a point between the two highest places on the Flats, which is where the cell phone towers are. A steel gate to some private land stood open, and I descended into the canyon which sometimes, when it rains enough, feeds Bisbee Falls.
I love that canyon. It’s like stepping into a pre-human world. Not many people visit the place, and the last time I was there was two years ago. I prowled slowly among the granite expanses and stream channels. Little grottoes, fairyland scenes, induced a meditative calm; I was simply there, just observing, and time seemed to stretch out, or maybe disappear altogether!
I squatted down to look at a clump of what looked like Dayflowers, Commelinas of a species I saw last week at Turkey Creek in the Chiricuahuas. Two flowers seemed to be engaged in a dialogue, and they ignored my presence:
Then the light dimmed, as if a cloud had passed over the morning sun. The two flowers slowly turned on their stems and faced me.
One of them said in a barely audible high-pitched voice, “What are you doing here, mobile biped? You have interrupted our conversation!”
I was a bit abashed, as I am rarely addressed directly by flowers.
“I’m looking for an orchid which I believe to be blooming somewhere in this canyon!”
The two flowers glanced at each other and giggled.
“You must be one of those botanical humans. Homo sapiens, right?” said the flower on the left.
“Yeah, that’s my species. What species are you two?”
“Botanists call us Commelina dianthifolia, but we call ourselves a name which simply can’t be rendered into your language. Sorry!”
The other Commelina said “Human, you won’t ever see that orchid! They are quite shy, and when they saw you coming they hid in the pine needle duff.”
Oh, well, I tried, and by this point I was so charmed by the ambience of that nameless canyon that I really didn’t care!
I wandered on down the canyon, knowing that I would face an ascent when I returned. It’s the opposite of climbing a mountain, when the hard part is first. Then as I began my return I happened across a happy colony of Agave Parryi, one of the less common Agave species in this area. I love their broad leaves and generally stout appearance. Behind the colony stoic Border Piñon Pines brooded upon the difficulty of forcing roots into the crevices in granite. Several dead manzanitas were in the foreground, evidence of the rigors of a fifteen-year drought.
A native species of Coral Bell, Heuchera sanguinea, growing from a thoroughly be-lichened granite boulder:
As I drove back down the winding road I saw many clumps of a blue-flowering plant, one which I once ID-ed to species but I can’t remember its name now. Masses of tubular blue trumpets:
I really liked the cast off blossoms of this plant strewn randomly in the roadside gravel:
A couple of landscape shots I took on the way down into the Real World. The dramatically-shadowed Mule Mountains are in the foreground; the Sulphur Springs Valley is in the middle distance, and the Swisshelm and Chiricuahua Mountains are swathed in clouds in the distance.
It’s all food for the spirit!