plantjournal

Saturday, November 05, 2005

autumn foliage


The last time I wrote about Rattlesnake Springs and its cottonwoods was months ago in the furnace of mid-summer when cotton was flying. I had stopped there for a rest in their shade after a tour of Slaughter Canyon Cave (Carlsbad Caverns National Park). Today I again stopped at Rattlesnake Springs for a visit with my cottonwoods, and today their leaves were dancing gold bangles in a strong but still warm wind.

For most of the day, I had been hiking the McKittrick Canyon trail with five companions. Long before I moved to Carlsbad, I had heard about the fall colors in McKittrick Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The canyon is extraordinarily scenic all by itself, but it is also home to many bigtooth maples, so bright in the autumn they seem to burn against the cobalt sky in colors ranging from yellow to red to burgundy. They are the stars of the display, but other trees and shrubs wearing fall colors add to the array along the very popular trail.

When my companions and I arrived at the locked gate to the canyon this morning just before opening time of 8:00 am, a line of cars was already waiting. Then the trail was crowded all day with visitors, some local and some who came quite a distance and had planned the trip for a long time, and I heard three languages spoken along the way, so it was a multicultural group. The weather was almost perfect; some would say it was perfect--brilliant and warm--but I would have preferred a proper bit of chill, this being November. Also, the wind was gusty at times. But I was ecstatic at the sight of all the colors along the trail--not only the leaves but also the bright red berries on the madrones and the duller reds of the "berries" on the junipers.