Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Walk Down the Channel

A couple weekends ago I walked down the overflow channel above town. During high water, the biggest creek from the nearby mountain range swells with snow melt, spilling over the diversion ditch. This year we have a high snow pack but due to the cold weather, the snow is slow coming off the mountain, and we're just at median stream flow levels. That means once it warms up, we're in for quite a flood.

Right now the water is still fairly clear, not washing down much dirt. Nevertheless, it's gradually rising, enough to inundate this western wallflower.

The top part of the overflow channel was lined with dense-growing willows, making the banks hard to traverse. My trusty dog Henry decided he'd rather ride back to town then go bush-whacking with me. I hoped there weren't any hungry mountain lions hanging out in the thick brush. I usually depend on Henry scaring them away, so I felt like I was really on an adventure without him.

As I got farther downstream, the water dwindled, sinking into the alluvium. The riparian vegetation changed to sagebrush shrubs gradually, although I still found willow thickets. I stopped looking over my shoulder quite so much as I got to more of the sagebrush!

The looming clouds over the mountains threatened more rain. I really enjoy overcast days like this, since we get so few.


Eventually the water dried up, less than one-third the way down the channel. It takes a lot of water to make it all the way down to town. Nevertheless, in the next couple weeks this dry streambed will transform into a raging river. It's exciting, but also scary, especially when you can hear those boulders rolling along the stream bottom due to the power of the water.

Part of my excuse for walking down the channel was to look for flowers. I found a couple I hadn't previously identified, so that was exciting. I also saw a lot of this rush. I have a hard time getting excited about identifying rushes, sedges, and grasses, but they probably make up over one-third of the vegetative species here.

I'd just say that it was a great day to be outside!

Then it got even better when I stumbled upon this patch of Erigeron, or fleabanes. They really lit up the rocky ground.

I didn't see them anywhere else except that one big patch. I think I like surprises like that. When you have to work a little harder to find nature's beauty, you appreciate it more.

I also saw lots of birds and even managed to capture a decent photo of this black-throated sparrow. I'm already ready for the next exploration trip.
Happy trails...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photos! Thank you for sharing.

The Incredible Woody said...

What a great place to explore!

Survivalsense said...

Great walk! Thanks for taking us along!

Chris said...

Well said: "When you have to work a little harder to find nature's beauty, you appreciate it more." I've tried to explain this when talking about the desolate beauty of Nevada.

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