Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mom, meet Kiavah

Saturday April 27th 2013, my mom, Erma Gardner, joined me in the field. For the past couple of weeks I have been showing my mom pictures of the Kiavah Wilderness and my collections.  Last week she mentioned that she was interested in going to the field with me. I took her up on her offer and we headed out to the Wilderness.
It was a nice drive up the 395. We listened to talk radio, stopped at Stater Brothers in Adelanto and chatted most of the way.
For this trip I wanted to venture into Cow Haven Canyon to collect species I haven't documented yet. The road into Cow Haven Canyon was surprisingly smooth. Smoother than Sage Canyon and Horse Canyon.
As we drove into the canyon and reached the Wilderness boundary I was mentioning to my mom that all of the Joshua trees were blooming this year. When we got to the Joshua trees they were all fruiting. Even though she did not get to see the epic bloom, she did admire the gigantic fruit pods.
Driving into the canyon a little farther, my mom said "Oh! There's a cactus blooming!" We stopped the truck, geared up, put sunblock on and headed over to the many blooming beaver tail cacti (Opuntia basilaris). I'm so glad we got to see the cacti blooming! It must be the first days of the bloom. Each Opuntia had one flower each, with many more to follow.

Beaver tail in action
My mom is a great mom and field assistant. She kept reminding me to take pictures of everything and to wear leather gloves when collecting cacti pads. If she wasn't there I would probably have glochids galore in my hands. Thanks for the advice! She even found tiny plants that I walked right over. After we collected the beaver tail cactus she was adamant to get the beetles off. She smacked the paper bag around, telling the beetles to get out.

Beetle shaking
There were lots of lizards out, which made me a little nervous. I was pretty sure that we would run into rattlesnakes. Fortunately we didn't see a single one. We did see a beautiful leopard lizard. It scurried out from under a shrub and posed for pictures.

Leopard lizard!
We decided we had spent enough time at our first stop and drove up the canyon some more. I spotted tons of Nama demissum and decided it was a good spot to park the truck. There was not a lot going on at this stop but we scoured a wash and came upon a nice population of Peirson's lessingia (Lessingia lemmonii var. personii).

Peirson's lessingia
Mom botanizing the desert floor
It was a beautiful day, a little on the warmer side with nice breezes in-between. My mom kept admiring how clear the clean the air was and the blue skies. She said that she was having difficulty breathing such clean air, we're not used that kind of freshness in the Inland Empire. I think she really admired the clarity and fresh air. We got back in the truck and drove to the end of the road in Cow Haven Canyon. We parked the truck and followed a trail up the canyon. Again not too many plants were flowering. We made some collections and the trail seemed to have vanished. We went down a sandy steep slope into a wash. I'm proud to say my mom did a fantastic job navigating the steep terrain. She seemed a little hesitant at first but I said, "if cows can do it, so can we." Her quick witted reply was, "they have four legs!" Nonetheless we successfully made it down without anyone taking a tumble. We ventured up the wash a little ways, but we encountered biting flies. That was our sign to turn back.

At the end of the canyon
Down in the wash
As we drove back down the canyon, there was a patch of burned Joshua trees that I wanted to get a good look at. We stopped at a primitive campsite and I got out to poke around. A lot of Phacelia sp. were growing at this location.

Death of a Joshua tree
Leaving Cow Haven Canyon we had time to go over to Sage Canyon. I really wanted to show her Sage Canyon because it is my favorite canyon so far. I made a collection of Savia dorrii and drove to the end of the canyon to take a look at the Dudleya sp. to see if it was flowering. My mom is seriously a trooper. We hiked up a steep hillside to get to the rock outcrop. She sat and waited at the top while I went down the other side of the hill to check-in on the Dudleya. I found the Dudleya but they were still not blooming! I snagged a little piece of the clump, hoping that the flowers will open up if I let the plant sit on my porch.

Dudleya still not flowering
Heading back to the truck
We hiked down the hill and decided it was time to head back home. However, we could not pass through Inyokern without stopping at Bernardino's restaurant. It was a perfect way to end our adventure before driving back down the 395.

Mmmm mmmm :)

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