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Sunday, March 31, 2019

All For One and One For All

Just getting started west of Tortugas Mountain
The strong winds we've been having the past few days did not abate overnight, so Dr. K, Becca and I decided to head over to the Sunset side of Tortugas Mountain for our morning hike.  As soon as we spotted our first Claret Cup cactus in bloom I suggested we bushwhack across desert hills and dales to check up on the huge Claret Cup Hedgehog I've been monitoring for years.  It's in fine form, set to have a record number of flowers if the buds survive consumption by rodents.  After I took many photos we all got back on the single-track headed east up the mountain, took a left at the new trail, and then followed the narrow path across the flank before detouring up to the road, where I photographed a stand of blossoming yuccas.  After a brief stop we followed the road down to the intersection with the trail that leads back to the Sunset Area.  The nice thing about our morning trek was we were able to avoid the worst of the wind.
A trail up the mountain

Torrey Yucca in flower

Leading the way

Going to be spectacular

Becca the bushwhacker

Brief, sandy respite

Backlit Ladderback

Same woodpecker

We came especially to see this

This and the next 5:  flowers from the above Claret Cup Cactus

Popweed and Prickly Pear

Black-throated Sparrow in song

Incredible number of yuccas in bloom all over the desert

Backlit yucca

Three flower stalks

Headed back past this beauty

Bifurcated Torrey Yucca

Crowns with flowers

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Yuccas in Bloom

Weather at start
Becca and I got an early start out of the Monte Vista area of the Tortugas Mountain Trails east side unit this morning, and there was only one truck in the parking lot when we got there.  We saw the owner riding his mountain bike toward us when I was getting Becca out of Whitey the CR-V.  He had on shorts and a lightweight shirt, and he greeted us with a 'good morning' as he passed, adding, "It's a lot cooler than I thought it'd be."  He was right, and, boy, was I glad I had dressed appropriately:  long trousers and a jacket over a light vest.  Becca, of course, is always prepared for the elements.

There was no sun to speak of, just a bright, milky apparition showing through the cloud cover.  Even though it was already 49F a steady wind made it feel colder.  We did a normal hike on the far side of the mountain, but because I kept stopping to photograph Torrey Yuccas it took longer than usual.

There were far more yuccas in bloom on this side of the mountain than I've ever seen before, and the same holds true for the west side of Tortugas.  I recall we had a decent amount of precipitation during the summer and winter months, but desert plants just seemed eager to spring into action as soon as the weather warmed up sufficiently.  No problem with that; just more floral eye candy to appreciate.
Heading around the bend

Rock Wren

Becca leading the way

This and the next 11:  Torrey Yuccas blooming

At first I thought this Cactus Wren had caught a butterfly

I think it's insulation for the nest

Redheads and flowers

Becca east of Tortugas Mountain

It won't be long now

More flowering yuccas

Heading down into a swale

Organ Mountains

Still like this to the east

Road to the mountain

Lyreleaf Jewelflowers
Loggerhead Shrike on a yucca

One last look at north side yuccas

A Nice Bushwhack

Mourning Dove on nest in our backyard We didn't plan on it when we set off on our hike this morning, but we did a fairly long bushwhack ...