Colorado Wildflowers

One of the fringe benefits of spending some time in Boulder is how close the Rocky Mountains are. Of course I wish I'd read Saxon Holt's post on photographing meadows full of wild flowers before I went. But I actually took so many photos that a few came out all right. Above, a picture of a Colorado version of Castilleja, which I so enjoyed in Yosemite last year, and yellow lupine.

The photos in this post, including the bellflowers above, were taken three weeks ago in the Indian Peaks wilderness near the Fourth of July trailhead. I got up at 6, drove up to the end of the paved road, but chickened out and parked halfway to the trailhead because I got tire pressure warning lights when I drove over the rocks on the dirt road. But walking on the dirt road, right next to a swift-moving creek, was quite delightful.

Above a pretty little blooming shrub, with the creek in the background.

And here the view I had when I didn't look over to the side to discover another wilflower, or butterfly, or bird, or pica. This area is free of snow for only a few months, and the abundance of wildflowers is astonishing.

Many flowers are quite different from what I've seen in California. Other flowers are larger versions of what I'd seen in Yosemite at a similar altitude. Extra summer water can make a big difference, and in these mountains, you can almost count on a daily thunderstorm with some rain in the summer. Here a wild rose, at least twice as big as the California wild roses.

The larkspur was about the same size, but the abundance of flowers with the lush green grass made a beautiful painting in green and blue.

I just love the deep color. I'd never seen larkspur in the wild when I lived in Europe, and remember my delight when I first saw the California larkspur at Edgewood Preserve.

Sunflowers I'd only seen in gardens before, and here they lined the road, growing almost like a weed even at lower elevations. I did wonder how my own sunflowers had fared, and do feel inspired to plant more among my fruit trees next year.

But possibly my biggest surprise during this hike was the Colorado columbine. I'm used to the dainty little Western Columbine, small orange and yellow flowers in the forests nearby. The Colorado columbine, in contrast, has flowers that are easily as big as the columbines I've seen in the garden center. Fairly abundant in the meadows at the higher elevations, they simply took my breath away.

Sadly, it wasn't just the columbine that took my breath away... The higher I climbed, the more I found myself huffing and puffing, getting a little dizzy -- Even a rather fit mouse will be affected when coming from pretty much sea level up to the high mountains, and get a little altitude sickness. So I looked around a bit more, enjoyed the views of the waterfall, and then turned around, promising myself another hike a few weekends later. I felt better right away as I lost altitude, and was very happy about the wonderful walk and the photos I can now share with you all.


Too bad you couldn't go higher; the real show begins with the alpines.
VP said…
One of my favourite memories from 2 holidays - sorry vacations ;) - to Colorado were the mountain meadows full of wild flowers :)

Thanks for your visit over at mine. I just wanted to tell you there's plenty of time to grab your camera and join in with OOTS if you'd like to. It's open for the whole of August and I like to see late entries too as I believe this is such an important topic!
wiseacre said…
So you got fairly high and started seeing things? Glad you took photos of your trip and had a good time.
What a gorgeous display of wildflowers, especially so late in the season. There seems to be an absolute paucity of anything blooming here at the moment, and it's almost depressing. That columbine is fabulous, I love the blue color!
I love Colorado (especially the wildflowers) where my niece lives, but dagnabbit, it's one of the few climates in the US with a shorter growing season than Michigan!!
Stunning hike, stunning scenery. I can see why the columbine ends up being the state flower there. You've done well with your plant IDs. I always feel so inadequate when I travel outside of my little coastal-to-foothill belt of land...all the botanical equivalents of "little gray birds"...
Christine said…
The stunning display makes me wonder if the Coloradoans are as passionate about their natives as we are about ours. So glad to see what's on the other side of the hill!