May 29, 2016

ARIZONA : Saguaro National Park - Sonoran Desert


Twilight in saguaro cacti, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona


Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is located in southern Arizona on the outskirts of Tucson and is a part of the United States National Park System. The park preserves the desert landscape, fauna and flora contained within two park sections, one east and the other west of Tucson. The park was established to protect its namesake—the giant saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea). Saguaro in this park are near the northernmost limit of their natural survival zone within the Sonoran Desert.

Overview
The park is divided into two sections, called districts, lying approximately 20 miles (32 km) east and 15 miles (24 km) west of the center of the city of Tucson, Arizona. The total area in 2011 was 91,442 acres (37,005 ha) of which 70,905 acres (28,694 ha) is designated wilderness. There is a visitor center in each of the two districts. Both are easily reached by car from Tucson, but there is no public transport into the park. Both districts conserve fine tracts of the Sonoran Desert, including ranges of significant hills, the Tucson Mountains in the west and the Rincon Mountains in the east. The park gets its name from the saguaro, a large cactus which is native to the region. Many other kinds of cactus, including barrel, cholla, and prickly pear, are abundant in the park. One endangered animal, the lesser long-nosed bat, lives in the park part of the year during its migration, together with one threatened species, the Mexican spotted owl.

Saguaro National Monument was created on March 1, 1933 by President Herbert Hoover. On October 14, 1994, Congress elevated Saguaro to National Park status.

Facilities in the park include 150 miles (240 km) of well marked and maintained hiking trails, and shorter walking trails with interpretative information available. Backcountry hiking is not advisable during the hot summer months.

Rincon Mountain District (Saguaro Park East)
The Rincon Mountain District is located at the eastern edge of Tucson, and includes the land protected in the original National Monument. Plant communities at the lower elevations in the park are typical of the Sonoran Desert, while the Rincon Mountains support a temperate coniferous forest. The highest peak in this range is Mica Mountain, at an elevation of 8,664 feet (2,641 m). This side of the park has fewer saguaro than its western counterpart, but they are larger in size due to higher amounts of rainfall and runoff from the Rincon Mountains.

The key feature of this district is its 8.3-mile (13.4 km) Cactus Forest Loop Drive, which provides access to the two picnic areas and the central trails. Hiking on this side of the park is readily accessible to visitors. There are trailheads present at the east end of Speedway and Broadway and these are popular with equestrians, especially on weekends. Off the park's loop road there are several additional trailheads. Each Visitor Center can supply a map of hiking trails in the park.

At the southern boundary of the park is the Hope Camp Trails, which are also popular with equestrians. Access to the Hope Camp Trails is found at the end of Camino Loma Alta. This road is paved, except for the last 200 yards or so. This section of the park was added in 1991 when the United States Congress authorized the purchase of an additional 4,011 acres (1,623 ha).

There are no campgrounds accessible by road in the park but the Rincon Mountain District is open to backcountry camping at designated sites. The site closest to a road is the Douglas Spring Campground, which requires a 5.9-mile (9.5 km) hike. A wilderness permit is required for all overnight stays. The fee for this permit is $6.00 per campsite, per night. There are no overnight accommodations for recreational vehicles in the park, but facilities are available at Colossal Cave Mountain Park which is ten miles (16 km) south of the Rincon District Visitor Center on Old Spanish Trail.

Tucson Mountain District (Saguaro Park West)
Kinney Road and Picture Rocks Road intersect in Saguaro National Park West. The Tucson Mountains are one of the four mountain ranges that surround Tucson. The Saguaro cactus is native to the area and can be found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. Saguaros grow at an exceptionally slow rate. The first arm of a saguaro typically starts growing sometime between 50 and 70 years of age though it may be closer to 100 years in locations where precipitation is very low. The Hohokam Petroglyphs that are etched into large stones reside in Saguaro Park West.

Aside from the historical petroglyphs and imposing Saguaro cacti, desert wildlife is abundant. Coyotes, roadrunner, jack rabbits and quail are just a few of the animals that call this park home.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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May 22, 2016

ARIZONA : Saguaro Cactus Spines - Saguaro National Park


Welcome to Saguaro National Park


Saguaro Cactus closeup of spines in sunset, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park

National Park Service

Tucson, Arizona is home to the nation's largest cacti. The giant saguaro is the universal symbol of the American west. These majestic plants, found only in a small portion of the United States, are protected by Saguaro National Park, to the east and west of the modern city of Tucson. Here you have a chance to see these enormous cacti, silhouetted by the beauty of a magnificent desert sunset.


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May 19, 2016

MONTANA : Glacier Wildflowers - Sedum lanceolatum


Spearleaf stonecrop


Lanceleaf Stonecrop, Spearleaf Stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum), Glacier National Park, Montana

Sedum lanceolatum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sedum lanceolatum is a species of flowering plant in the stonecrop family known by the common names spearleaf stonecrop and lanceleaf stonecrop.

It is native to western North America and occurs in western Canada and the United States. It is distributed from Alaska to Arizona and New Mexico and as far east as South Dakota and Nebraska. It grows in exposed, rocky mountainous habitat at moderate and high elevations, up to 4048 meters in the Rocky Mountains. The plant persisted and evolved on sky islands and nunataks in these ranges during glaciation events during the Pleistocene epoch.

This is a succulent plant forming basal rosettes of knobby or pointed leaves up to 3 centimeters long. Smaller leaves occur farther up the stem and often fall away by the time the plant blooms. The inflorescence is made up of one or more erect arrays of several flowers. The flowers have yellow petals sometimes tinged with red, each lance-shaped petal just under a centimeter long. The stamens are tipped with yellow anthers. The plant reproduces sexually by its tiny, lightweight seeds, or vegetatively when sections of its stem break off and root.


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May 12, 2016

NAVAJO NATION : Eagle Mesa - Oljato-Monument Valley


Eagle Mesa



Eagle Mesa, Oljato-Monument Valley, Navajo Nation : Utah/Arizona


Monument Valley

Monument Valley (Navajo: Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks) is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona–Utah border (around 36°59′N 110°6′WCoordinates: 36°59′N 110°6′W), near the Four Corners area. The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation and is accessible from U.S. Highway 163.

Monument Valley has been featured in many forms of media since the 1930s. Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, "its five square miles [13 square kilometers] have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.

Geography and geology
The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The elevation of the valley floor ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,500 to 1,800 m) above sea level. The floor is largely siltstone of the Cutler Group, or sand derived from it, deposited by the meandering rivers that carved the valley. The valley's vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, blue-gray rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide.

The buttes are clearly stratified, with three principal layers. The lowest layer is the Organ Rock Shale, the middle is de Chelly Sandstone, and the top layer is the Moenkopi Formation capped by Shinarump Conglomerate. The valley includes large stone structures including the famed "Eye of the Sun".

Between 1945 and 1967, the southern extent of the Monument Upwarp was mined for uranium, which occurs in scattered areas of the Shinarump Conglomerate; vanadium and copper are associated with uranium in some deposits.


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May 5, 2016

MONTANA : Glacier Wildflowers - Cirsium horridulum


Cirsium horridulum (Yellow thistle)


Cirsium horridulum, Glacier National Park, Montana


Cirsium horridulum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cirsium horridulum, called bristly thistle, horrid thistle, yellow thistle or bull thistle, is a North American species of plants in the thistle tribe within the sunflower family. The species is native to the eastern and southern United States from New England to Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma as well as to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Bahamas.

Cirsium horridulum is a biennial or perennial herb up to 250 cm (100 inches) tall, with a large taproot and fleshy side roots that sometimes sprout new shoots. Leaves are up to 40 cm (16 inches) long with thick, sharp spines along the edges. There are usually several flower heads, also with sharp spines, each head with disc florets but no ray florets. Flower color varies from one plant to the next: white, yellow, pink, red or purple.

Wildflowers

National Park Service

There are few sights more beautiful than an avalanche slope or an alpine meadow aglow with the color of wildflowers amidst the backdrop of Glacier Park's towering peaks. Beargrass and fields of glacier lilies carpet the subalpine landscape. Ironically beargrass is not a grass and bears don't particularly like it. For the wildflower aficionado, the park offers nearly a thousand species. Subtle flowers like clematis or the chlorophyll-free pinesaps and Indian pipes are common in the lowlands. In late summer, purple asters paint the meadows between aspen groves on the east side. 

There is never a shortage of color during the brief growing season and nowhere is the season shorter than in the alpine zone. Here, wildflowers must reproduce under the most severe conditions. Extreme winds, cold nights, occasional snow squalls and intense ultraviolet light make the life of an alpine wildflower adventurous. But they cope well enough to light up the tundra every year through a variety of strategies. They are very small to counter the effects of desiccating winds. The diminutive size of these flowers is due to the plant's disproportionate investment in reproductive parts. To conserve moisture many are coated with waxy cuticle layers. Some have a ground-hugging basal rosette shape to absorb the radiant heat of the earth. Many have fine hairs to trap heat and diffuse the extreme ultraviolet light found at high elevations. Some grow in cushions, conserving moisture and warmth, forming a streamlined shape to counteract the wind. The flowers of these plants often are shaped like a parabola to concentrate the sun's warmth on their reproductive parts, or like a drooping bell to capture heat radiating from the earth. Some, like the butterwort, gather nutrients by consuming insects; bugs stick to their gummy leaves and are digested. Almost all alpine plants are perennials -- there simply isn't enough time or warmth for annuals to go through their entire life cycle.

Despite all these strategies to encourage flowering and seeding, it takes an exceptional year for seeds to mature and be spread to other areas. The back-up strategy for alpine flowers is vegetative reproduction. Genetically identical new plants sprout from the roots. 

As might be expected, the alpine zone harbors some Arctic relics left over from the ice ages. The harsh conditions of the alpine zone are similar to those on the edge of a receding glacier. Northern eyebright, three-flowered rush and false alphodel are examples of plants usually found in places like Greenland. Other plant species are adapted to the opposite conditions. Bicknell's geranium and rock harlequin remain as seeds for decades waiting for a fire to prepare the soil. After the burn they flower profusely for one or two growing seasons and then disappear until the next fire.


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