If my mountain-bike rides in the midvalley over the past couple of weeks are any indication, it’s going to be a blockbuster summer for wildflowers.
I rode up on the Crown from Prince Creek Road on May 18 with a friend from Aspen who had never ventured back there before. We found a few early-blooming flowers on the sun-drenched slopes but nothing magnificent. How things changed in a week, thanks to drizzle on May 19 and a downpour on May 20.
I retraced my tire prints on the Crown with an identical ride Saturday and discovered the wildflowers had gone nuts. The reds of Indian paintbrush dotted the hillsides like spot fires. The delicate pink phlox proliferated in patches. (Sorry, that’s as far as my knowledge of names goes.) There were dainty, purple flowers on short towers of stems. Shin-high yellow flowers that looked like a cross between sunflowers and daisy punctuated certain stretches. There were numerous outbreaks of what I consider a flower that looks like an upscale cousin of the standard suburban dandelion.
At times the colors were fused together like a patchwork quilt. Other times it was just an isolated flower or two. The most brilliant stretch was on our downhill descent to the Rio Grande Trail. The combination of a north-facing slope and moist soil let Mother Nature put on a show.
My favorite stomping grounds for walking my dog also have been a delight. A relatively obscure midvalley trail winds through sagebrush and prickly pear cactus above the Roaring Fork River riparian bottom. The ground surrounding the trail gets just enough sun to coax out purple, pink and yellow flowers. The hearty, dry-weather vegetation provided great contrast to the short-lived wildflowers.
The April snow and ongoing showers bode well for wildflowers on high mountain hikes come late June and July.