In Bloom: Flowers and drills
If you’ve driven to Moab this spring, you undoubtedly noticed the proliferation of drilling rigs along the Interstate 70 corridor. If the thought “thank goodness not in our backyard” occurred to you, think again.Just southwest of Carbondale in the Thompson Creek area are thousands of acres of land being eyed for drilling – the same land that has, paradoxically, been touted for wilderness protection by citizens groups. A nice hike in the heart of this landscape of unknown fate is the Lake Ridge Lakes Trail. The hike begins at 8,200 feet on the edge of an old cow camp and ascends alternately through aspen groves and sunny scrub oak. Begin looking in the first woods for the demure ballhead waterleaf, Hydrophyllum capitatum. This low-lying beauty, which hides beneath its soft-fingered leaves, gets both its common name, ballhead, and its specific (or species) name, capitatum, from its ball-like head of light-purple flowers. Because its leaves and stems can hold generous reserves of water, it is able to grow vigorously after the first spring rains – hence its generic (or genus) name, “hydro” for “water” and “phylum” for “leaf.” As you emerge from the trees you will get the first of several splendid views of Sopris, Capitol and Snowmass. At just less than a mile, keep an eye out for a sharp right turn in the trail – you’ll know you’ve missed it if the trail morphs into an old mining road. Along the open hillside portions of the hike, look for another distinctive purple beauty, spring larkspur, Delphinium nuttallianum. It is the first of several species of Delphinium you’ll see throughout the summer. No other species, however, produces as many white, or albino, versions of its flowers, the result of absent or defective genes that control the flower’s color. Why the albino version of D. nuttallianum is so abundant, especially since larkspur’s main pollinator, the bee, is attracted primarily to the color purple, I can’t answer.Two miles into the hike you will crest the top of Lake Ridge at 9,500 feet and within minutes the lakes will come into view, appearing like a mirage in their unlikely location along the ridge. Make sure you leave plenty of time to sit and savor the beauty of these unique and lovely lakes – a gas company already holds a lease on the land you’re sitting on. Getting there: From the intersection of Highway 133 and Main Street in Carbondale, drive west 14.8 miles on Road 108 to the (unmarked) dirt road on your left (Road 305), drive almost four miles to a split in the road, stay straight/left and drive another 3.3 miles to the gate and trailhead on your right. Decent clearance is recommended.
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