Friday, August 4, 2017

Late season flora and fauna, Part I

 I took a new friend on a tour (nature walk) just north of Oakland Camp this morning.  What with the drought returning and the extremely hot week punctuated by the Minerva Fire, I had low expectations when it came to wildflowers and bugs.  To make up for a possible dearth of flora and fauna, I thought I'd take us up to the railroad tunnel a half mile or so west of Gilson Creek.  Just before we got to the tunnel, we spotted a patch of very healthy looking Mullein.  This is close to the tallest one I've seen this year, and my friend put me in the photo for scale.  I'm 5' 6", unless I've shrunk a bit this past week, so that puts the Mullein at around 8 feet.  We then continued on toward the tunnel.  It was very hot.
 We discussed the nature of train approaches from the Quincy direction.  I mentioned that we can hear the "whistle" blow when the train crosses the dirt road by Tollgate Creek.  Then it takes about two minutes for the train to reach the tunnel from there. It takes about a half minute to walk through the tunnel, so, as we chatted away we began to hear the train - but had not heard the whistle.  So, we waited.  Sure enough the train came into view in less than a minute.  I think our chatting covered over the sound of the train whistle, or possibly it did not whistle.  This was an amazing train with a couple of engines in the middle.  I'd estimate it was two miles long.  I explained the purpose of the engines in the middle and how I'd had to do the same thing with my American Flyer model train so the front engine would not pull the cars off the track when rounding tight curves.  A lot of train talk for a wildflower walk, don't you think?  I named the bottom photo "Tunnel Vision" and I think it looks a little better without me in it.
Looking back on a delightful though very hot morning and reviewing my photos, I see that we actually saw quite a few interesting flowers and bugs, and I'll post more of those photos and spin some yarns in a couple of blogs tomorrow.  With a few tips on plant ID from me, my friend managed to identify a shrub I'd been looking at for the past 8 or 9 years and was never able to identify.  She also identified a beautiful flower that stumped me.  It looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite nail it.  From photos we took, she ID'd it.  Then I discovered I had photographed it and put it on this blog on August 13, 2011.  I'll post more photos and tell out stories tomorrow.

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