Thursday, February 18, 2010

Contrasts and Details

The weather in Metz this week is rainy with highs in the low 40s. In El Paso, we have highs in upper 60s and lots of sun. So before we get on the plane on Saturday we're using some of our free time to soak up as much of the sunshine as we can. Yesterday I walked for about 90 minutes back toward the Thunderbird formation to explore possible trails.

I was able to confirm that a trail heading southeast of the upper water tower is the best path into the Thunderbird; I'd followed this trail out the other day. But it still disappears into the erosion of the wash, leaving a good part of the way for clambering up jumbled rocks and stones. I had spotted somthing of a trail heading up the north side of the main canyon, and I thought it might be a different route in. As it turns out, after climbing quite a ways, the trail turned into a deer path, and then the deer path turned into nothing. It was one of those falsely encouraging looks-like-a-trail that many people had apparently tried. I knew, though, that there was a trail running down the ridge to the water tower. So I followed what natural terraces I could find, clambered over a small rock ridge, crossed a couple of ravines, and made it to the ridge trail.

On this walk, I took pictures of some of the desert's details. Here's a bright yellow butterfly, prominent amid the winter landscape.

The rocks below the Thunderbird formation have lots of fossils. Here's an example that had washed down the mountain along the trail.

After the agave lechugilla blooms with its spectacular stalk, the plant dies. The dried stalks fall, kind of like really big pick-up sticks. The root end of the plant, after the stalk falls and plant dries, can look like a kind of dead terror-fish.

Finally, here's a view from near the top of the hike as I was close to reaching the ridge trail. You can see that it's not exactly a walk in the park.

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