Spotted! Wildflowers

Summer has finally arrived in the Wet Mountain Valley. We've left the cool, wet, cloudy spring behind for long days full of warm sunshine and cool nights full of starry skies. An occasional thunderstorm rumbles through on its way east, dropping more precious moisture and putting on a light show. The clean, bright smell of fresh grass and sunshine mixes with the heady vanilla scent of sun-warmed ponderosa pines. Summer is a season of plenty, and where we live, beauty is no exception. We've “spotted” so much recently; it's hard to pick just one thing to talk about.


Babies are everywhere. A small herd of pronghorn does have given birth to tiny dirt-colored fawns in our lower pasture, including a set of wobbly-legged twins. Bluebird babies recently fledged from their nest outside our window and are learning the finer points of flying and hunting for their food. The elk nursery down the road (we humans would call it a hay field) has been full of elk cows guarding calves well-hidden in thick willow stands, and geese glide through ponds with curving lines of goslings following as if on a string, doing their best to keep up with their stately parents.

The plentiful rains of spring mean the valley is particularly verdant. The valley floor and surrounding foothills show off every shade of green known to nature, from lime and sage to moss and olive, and the rapidly retreating snowpack has left the alpine tundra a deep emerald all the way to the tops of the peaks. With a good pair of binoculars you can see bull elk eating their fill above treeline. Every creek is running fast and high, deep blue ribbons winding through willow thickets and hay pastures. Bright yellow clouds of pine pollen rise with the lightest puff of a breeze and coat everything in a fine golden powder.

 Pen reduced

But some of the most beautiful sights this past month have been the flamboyant blocks of color produced by acres of wildflowers. For whatever reason, certain locations here host flowers in such thick abundance that their vibrancy is easily seen from miles away. Early in June, vast swaths of golden yellow appeared in several areas as wallflowers took over acres of pasture land. Later in the month, we drove through sweeping meadows off of CR 172 so full of deep blueish-purple penstemon that the color could easily be seen from town. The wet ground of hay fields that played host to blue flag iris a few weeks ago now show off beautiful white flowers - a striking contrast with the deep green of the grasses.

In our own high mountain meadow on the flanks of the Sangre de Cristos, hundreds of small white flowers with needle-like leaves release an intoxicating, sweet scent every evening at sunset, luring us outside where we breathe it in and watch distant lightening flash against a darkening sky. Blanket flower, indian paintbrush, arnica, and yucca are all in full bloom, the deep orange of the indian paintbrush a particularly striking contrast to the silvery blue-green sage. The horses spend their days content, flanks shiny and noses buried in lush grass, sometimes sharing space with a mule deer doe and fawn.

It's an embarrassment of riches – our reward after an austere winter and a gloomy spring. Every direction is another breathtaking sight - it's hard to know where to feast your eyes. We're so very lucky in this place that we call home to have so much open space to host the flora and fauna that help make it so special here. Without those open spaces, the abundance of beauty would be muted. Quieter. I, for one, am thankful that it's loud.


About the author: Patty Reagin is a freelance writer and volunteer for San Isabel Land Protection Trust. Her monthly blog for San Isabel titled "Spotted" features the beauty of the flora and fauna in our region. When Patty's not behind a computer working she can be found outside, taking in the beauty of the Wet Mountain Valley with her dogs and horses.


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