Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Belly flowers

In the desert, there are a number of flowers thatI and a few of my colleagues at the BLM refer to as belly flowers, because they're so tiny you practically need to get onto your belly to see them. Often, these tiny flowers are among the prettiest of the flowers you can see out in the desert, but require some special attention to find them. Also, most of them are quite common, but because many hikers are not looking close enough at the ground, they miss them.

Belly flowers are a perfect example of "stop and take time to smell the
roses." When you're out in the desert, stop, and take a moment to really look at what's around you. Don't be rushed. Because you very well might find a little gem in the cracks between a rock or two. All to often, we're so hurried with what we're doing that we don't take the time we need to really appreciate where we are, and what's around us. And that's a real shame, because there's so much to see, even right next to your boots.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


When I show people pictures of many of the canyons out in the Mojave, they're often surprised at how lush and verdant they are. They lay in stark contrast to the normal image of stark desolation that is the common perception of the desert. Yet, when one looks at the nature of these canyons, their vibrance is not all that surprising.

Fundamentally, a canyon is usually water carved, meaning that their is often a source somewhere in it. This is the foundation for most of its life, because, unlike most of the desert, there's a readily available source of moisture. Much like an oasis, this gives rise to ample vegetation, which in turn gives rise to animal life.

Canyons vary greatly in appearance and vegetation, since they're derived from differing bedrocks, ecologies and orientations. It is entirely possible that plants found in one canyon are not found in any other, or are only found in a small number of them. Ultimately, this diversity is one of the reasons that canyons are so precious.

There are, however, some significant threats to canyons in the desert, most of which are derived from a human source. One is the use of canyons for recreation. Normally, this is not an issue, but there are members of the public that do not treat the land with the respect that it deserves. Some use the canyons as a garbage dump, leaving their waste behind instead of taking it to a proper disposal site. More sinister is the presence of off
highway vehicle riders. While many of these riders are not actively malicious, there is a significant number that are of the mindset that they can willfully ignore the designated ares where they can ride, and bushwhack through any part of the desert, including the canyons, that they want. The amount of damage that they can inflict with this activity is significant, and each time, it compounds the problem, as new routes are formed, which encourages new riders to take the illegal passage.

The other threat is not to the vegetation directly, but to the source of their life: water. As human growth continues unchecked, we must find new sources of water. And in finding those water sources, we often steamroll natural areas in the process. If the water supply in a canyon is lost, or even reduced, it can have a dramatic effect on the ecology. Fortunately, most of the canyons are not being actively tapped, or are only used for small wells. However, if a larger municipality began to use the water, then it could seriously effect the canyons' health.