Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Mexico Travel Log - Day 2

I began the second day of my trip by photographing sunflowers in the early morning light. We had spent the night with our friend B.K. in the Comanche National Grassland. The morning light was beautiful and I was able to get some nice photos. Since I worked on sunflowers for my Ph.D. dissertation, I am always interesting in taking pictures of them.

Our goal for the second day was to head up to Rourke Ranch, on the Comanche Grasslands to help B.K. collect plants. The Ranch was located near the Purgatoire River within a nice canyon. Driving out there was really interesting. For most of the way you are driving through shortgrass prairie and rangeland. And it is fairly flat (though not completely). You see lots of grasses, several hundred cows, and some cholla cactus. But then the landscape starts to change. It becomes hilly and the hills are dotted with juniper trees. Getting down to the ranch there were some pretty rough roads. But it was totally worth it.

Of course there were some stumbling blocks along the way out there.

We had a full size spare, and Q had changed the tires on this vehicle before, so it was not that big of a deal. Though I did learn that the spare is not in the back of the truck, but rather underneath it. I had no idea. One good thing about the flat, was that we got to see this guy up close. This lubber grasshopper was about 4 inches long.

Here is the view from the ranch. It is pretty amazing to think that this hilly and woody area exists in the middle of the shortgrass prairie.

We stayed the night in a research building on the property. I really loved the posts carrying in the electrical wires to the house.

Once we got settled in, we went for a hike and plant collecting trip. There were a lot of interesting plants. Close to the river, in the flatter areas, there was mostly brome grass and other weedy plants. In the picture below the tan is all brome grass mixed with some weeds. Not much fun to walk through.

But we soon climbed up one of the slopes and found all sorts of wonderful plants.

My favorite was Dalea aurea, the golden prairie clover.

We also waded through the river, but I seem to have deleted all of the pictures that I have of that part of the trip. Which is too bad, as I had some really cool pictures of a milkweed just completely covered with yellow aphids. Wading through the river was fabulous. I really like getting in the water and the mud.

We ended the day hanging out and eating frozen pizza, chips and salsa, and the best Rainer Cherries I have ever eaten.

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