In the Saddle: So little rain, so many wildflowers
We’re zooming north-northwest off the western shoulder of Basalt Mountain on our mountain bikes. We come to a natural rest stop at a meadow where the trail splits after the climb tops out. One branch of the split trail continues toward Toner Reservoir and, eventually, Red Table Mountain. The other branch is the popular 1909 trail that spirals toward Cattle Creek. The meadow provides a great hint at the windflower extravaganza we soon will tap. The vegetation was stunted throughout last summer. The grass didn’t make it to knee high. No flowers blossomed.
It’s a different story this year. The grass looks like it would come to my waist and the meadow is speckled with yellow flowers for as far as I can see.
A few minutes later, we’ve negotiated the five, tight switchbacks and the steep approach to them. Soon after, we bounced over the rock gardens lining the areas before and after a gate through a barbed wire fence. That section of trail 1909 is a trip: The vegetation hangs over the trail and obscures your vision. It hides the jagged basalt rocks that litter the route. Hit one just wrong — say, with your pedal — and it throws you into the brush. Hit one head-on, and it could result in an “endo” over your handlebars.
My riding partner and I finally pop out of the dense aspen-and-fir grove into one of two prominent meadows on the side of the mountain. We marvel at multiple hues of wildflowers on the north-facing slope. We see more varieties than my riding mate can name. There are delicate, pink flowers on the edge of the meadow, tucked into the shade of overhanging trees. On the other extreme are carpets of corn lilies, soaking up the sun and just getting ready to blossom.
We’re on a singletrack trail surrounded by the flowers. They extend hundreds of feet up and down the steep hillside. We marvel that the wildflowers can be this fantastic given that the Roaring Fork Valley has received so little rain since May. Thank goodness for the April and May showers.
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