Peak Blooms — DEVA #3

Peak Blooms — DEVA #3


Wahguyhe Peak (right-most, bald peak) at ~8,200 feet

Fun Fact: oxygen thins the higher in elevation you go! While this is a commonly known phenomenon, I am reminded of it every time I hike somewhere new. For example, my recent scaling of Death Valley’s 9,000+ foot peaks reminded me that I was (unfortunately) born, raised, and conditioned at sea level. I never said no to the challenge, even looking up the steep, arduous, and scree-topped Wahguyhe and Grapevine Peaks.


Pressing plants in the field

I found time (a lot of time, among our numerous breathing breaks) to look at the many flowers that grew along the way up. My supervisor, Carolyn Mills, would not only teach me the names of the endless families, genera, and species, but also recognize which plants were rare to the region. We found many different flowering species, including alien-looking parasitic plants. The more interesting and rare species were recognized and collected by Carolyn to be pressed before their addition to the herbarium at a later time—a skill I hope to learn over the course of summer too.

The fact that so many different angiosperms were still flowering into the hot summer season fascinated me. An array of different colors painted the desert floor—red, gold, purple, blue, and more. These sparse but beautiful mosaics changed the higher we went up as some flowers reached the threshold of their survivability range and whereas others were just beginning to thrive. Finding our elusive, but thankfully healthy limber pines (pinus flexilis) after scaling a direct 2,000 foot incline took the cake. Learning botany in the field really is the best way to study, in my biased opinion.

With that said, however, there was a definite melancholy upon reaching the ridgeline. The view from a higher clearing was spectacular, but it put into perspective just how much tree die-off we are experiencing; each gray spot that I couldn’t count colored the hillsides in a monochrome filter and reminded me why my position was necessary and why I would work even harder.


If you look closely, you can spot grey trees dotting the hillside–these are trees suffering from increased temperatures, less precipitation, and beetle damage.

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