Sunday, August 7, 2016

LepSoc 2016 - Day 4

Day 4 of my trip involved a breathtaking drive through western Colorado on highways and forest roads, starting with a sunrise drive from Grand Junction to the top of Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat-topped mountain (the top is about 500 square miles)! There were many small lakes and ponds in between the aspen and evergreen trees with numerous wildflowers just beginning to bloom. I stopped at the first lake and watched the sun rise over the trees while listening to all the birds singing, it was lovely, but came to an end about ten minutes later when the mosquitoes found me. The drive across the top was very peaceful, but I was too early in the morning, and it was too cold, to see any butterflies.

After dropping down to Orchard City and over to Paonia, I headed over Kebler Pass to Crested Butte via a well-maintained dirt road, where I quickly discovered that Coloradans love to drive fast on the wrong side of the road around corners (!) and that there are a lot of mountain bikers in Colorado. After creeping through all the tourists in Crested Butte, I took the dead-end road north up to Gothic, home of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. I first learned about this place over a dozen years ago when I was thinking about going to Colorado State University, so I was quite excited to see it. Afterwards I returned to Crested Butte and continued northwest to Salida for the night.

...and another National Forest!
Information sign about the area
Information sign about the area
Looking north, back towards Grand Junction and the Plateau Valley
A small lake I stopped at to watch the sun rise and listen to the songbirds
On top of Grand Mesa, reveling in the wildflowers and peacefulness
Panorama of one my favorite stops while driving across Grand Mesa
Cedaredge overlook - looking south towards Surface Creek Valley and the towns of Cedaredge and Orchard City
Beginning the drive over Kebler Pass to Crested Butte (Gothic is just north of Mt. Crested Butte)

Kebler Pass Road
Oarisma garita Garita Skipperling, 1
Papilio zelicaon Anise Swallowtail, 1 male
Papilio rutulus Western Tiger Swallowtail, 1 male
Papilio multicaudata Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail, 1 male
Papilio eurymedon Pale Tiger Swallowtail, 1
Pieris marginalis Margined White, 1 male
Pontia protodice Checkered White, 2 females
Pontia occidentalis Western White, 1 male
Lycaena helloides Purplish Copper, 2 males
Icaricia saepiolus Greenish Blue, 3 males
Chlosyne nycteis Silvery Checkerspot, 5+
Limenitis weidemeyerii Weidemeyer's Admiral, 1 male, 1 female
Coenonympha tullia Ochre Ringlet, 1

Next up, Kebler Pass and the Gunnison National Forest!
Looking southwest at (I think) East Beckwith (12,432 ft) and West Beckwith (12,185 ft) mountains
and Mt. Gunnison (12,719 ft) in the distance to the right
Looking back to the northeast at what I think is The Raggeds (the striped-looking ridge, 12,641 ft)
and Lightning Ridge (to the right, 9,223 ft)
At Trout Creek, where the Mule's Ears were in full bloom!
View of all the subalpine meadows and aspen between Kebler Pass and Crested Butte

Subalpine meadow north of Gothic
Oarisma garita Garita Skipperling, 3+
Pieris marginalis Margined White, 5+
Colias alexandra Queen Alexandra's Sulphur, 1 female, saw 10+ others
Cupido amyntula Western Tailed Blue, 1
Icaricia saepiolus Greenish Blue, 1 male
Agriades glandon Arctic Blue, 1 male
Chlosyne palla Northern Checkerspot, 2+
Erebia epipsodea Butler's Alpine, 5 males, 2 females, saw many others
Coenonympha tullia Ochre Ringlet, 10+

One of the two entrance signs at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
Part of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory with Gothic Mountain (12,625 ft) towering overhead
Visitor Center and gift shop at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
More of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, looking east at White Rock Mountain (13,539 ft)
North end of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory with the foothills of Avery Peak (12,653 ft) on the right
Huge meadow north of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory at the base of the north end of Gothic Mountain
Wildflowers just starting to bloom, looking north towards Mt. Bellview (12,519 ft)
Colorado Blue Columbine (ranges from blue to white), the flowers are much bigger than
realized! They're 2-3 inches across!
Parking area for various trails north of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, at the base of Gothic Mountain

My last stop after all my day's adventures, was to finally cross the Continental Divide (by car instead of air) at Monarch Pass, before continuing to Salida for the night. I took the tram to the top of the peak, above 12,012 ft elevation!

On top of the Continental Divide!
Tram ride to the top of the mountain
Information about the tram (click to view fullsize)
The tram was celebrating their 50th "birthday", it first started running on June 1st, 1966
The tram terminal on top of the peak
I think this was looking southeast or east
Looking north or northwest
Panorama of the northwest side of the mountain, you can see the highway and a ski area in the distance (click for fullsize)
The only two insects I saw at the top, trying to stay out of the horrendous wind by crawling along the ground!
The south/southwest side of the peak was covered in Alpine Avens (Geum rossii)
I was interested in the soil, it looked more like a desert surface, composed of small rock granules. On the right, a mix of Alpine Avens (Geum rossii) and Alpine Forget-me-not (Eritrichium nanum)
Clockwise from top left: Dwarf Clover (Trifolium nanum)Alpine Sandwort (Minuartia obtusiloba)Moss Campion (Silene acaulis), Alpine Forget-me-not (Eritrichium nanum)
Clockwise from top left: Alpine Goldenweed (Tonestus lyallii), Alpine Bluebells (Mertensia alpina, I think)Lance-leaf Stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum)Featherleaf Fleabane (Erigeron pinnatisectus)

Friday, August 5, 2016

LepSoc 2016 - Day 3

I left Orem before sunrise and drove south to Moab, where I took, quite possibly, the fastest tour through Arches National Park. It was the 4th of July, so even though I arrived early, the traffic was already getting backed up and there was little to no parking at all of the trail heads, and limited parking at most of the viewpoints. Also, I wanted to go butterflying in the La Sal Mountains just south of Moab and there was a threat of thunderstorms later in the day so I was anxious to go there. The La Sal Mountains are visible from much of Arches National Park, and as I watched a tiny puff of white grow larger and larger, my trip through the park went faster and faster! I absolutely loved the area around Moab and inside the park, the rock formations were amazing, although I was a little surprised that I was actually more fascinated by the columns, balanced rocks, and other formations instead of the arches themselves.

Driving through the mountains southeast of Orem, Utah, on the way to Moab
Driving through the mountains southeast of Orem, Utah, on the way to Moab
I was amazed to see such a barren moonscape about an hour north of Moab, it was very sparsely vegetated!
Information about the two large rock formations and surrounding area (following pictures), along the road to Canyonlands National Park (I didn't go all the way there, I turned around at this viewpoint to go to Arches). Click to view full size.
Wind- and sand-swept rock at the viewpoint
Juniper at the viewpoint
Interesting rock next to the viewpoint parking lot
Monitor and Merrimac rocks (see sign above)
Monitor and Merrimac rocks (see sign above)
Entrance to Arches National Park
Sign in front of the visitor center
Massive rocks near the entrance of Arches National Park
View of La Sal Mountains
"The Tower of Babel"
"The Three Gossips" (left) and "Sheep Rock" (right)
"The Three Gossips"
I think this is looking back at "The Three Gossips", or else this is another rock formation I forget the name of.
"The Organ" or "The Pipe Organ", can't remember which, but it was HUGE!
Part of "Garden of Eden"
Part of "Garden of Eden"
Part of "Garden of Eden" (I thought it looked more like a bunch of giant termite mounds :)
I think this was the Turret Arch, or else it was the South Window, all in the same area
North Window Arch
View looking across the park
Other interesting rock formations
Delicate Arch (the most famous one!), it was over a mile hike if you wanted to go to the base of the arch, I didn't have time and the parking lot was crowded, if you look closely you can see a lot of people around the base of the arch.
La Sal Mountains Loop, Moab, UT
Thorybes pylades Northern Cloudywing, 1 male
Erynnis persius Persius Duskywing, 3 males
Pyrgus communis Common Checkered Skipper, 4+
Poanes taxiles Taxiles Skipper, 4+ males, 4+ females
Papilio zelicaon Anise Swallowtail, 2 males
Papilio rutulus Western Tiger Swallowtail, 35+
Papilio multicaudata Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail, 4+ males, 1 female
Pieris marginalis Margined White, 1 male
Pontia protodice Checkered White, 1 female
Colias eurytheme Orange Sulphur, 16+
Colias philodice Clouded Sulphur, 3 males
Lycaena helloides Purplish Copper, 1 male
Callophrys gryneus Juniper Hairstreak, 1
Satyrium behrii Behr's Hairstreak, 1
Satyrium calanus Banded Hairstreak, 1 male, 1 female
Strymon melinus Gray Hairstreak, 1
Plebejus melissa Melissa Blue, 15+
Icaricia icarioides Boisduval's Blue, 1 male
Phyciodes cocyta Northern Crescent, 1 male
Euptoieta claudia Variegated Fritillary, 1
Speyeria cybele Great Spangled Fritillary, 10+ males
Nymphalis antiopa Mourning Cloak, 1
Limenitis weidemeyerii Weidemeyer's Admiral, 1 female
Cercyonis oetus Dark Woodnymph, 2 males

Yet another National Forest to check off my list! Entering the La Sal Mountains south of Moab
There were a gazillion swallowtails everywhere, I don't think I've ever seen so many! I lost count after a couple dozen.
Nervously watching the building clouds, but was happy that they stayed on that side of the mountains and left me with one of the two best butterfly days of my entire trip!
Panorama of Castle Valley from somewhere on the north end of the mountain loop I was driving
I went up a side road towards the end of the day just to do a bit more exploring, and stumbled upon some dinosaur tracks! It wasn't advertised on any maps because they want to keep people from vandalizing them.
View of Bull Canyon and Castle Valley, southeast of Moab
Bull Canyon
Dinosaur tracks! There are at least two in this photo
Dinosaur tracks, you can barely make out 5 or 6 footprints straight towards the bushes
Dinosaur footprint - these were so big that my feet would have fit from the heel to one of the toes with room left over
The beginning of my drive through Castle Valley
Looking back at the La Sal Mountains
Look familiar? That's because Castle Valley has been a filming location for several movies, including at least two John Wayne movies and an episode of MacGyver. I didn't know that until I drove through here and thought it looked familiar and had to look it up. It's a little reminiscent of Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border (where I want to go some day), which is where many other westerns were filmed.
Another part of Castle Valley. There was much more awesomeness as I continued out along the river, but I wasn't able to stop for photos, the road became windy and there weren't any good pullouts.