Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bruneau Sand Dune Hiking Trail

The Bruneau Dunes Trail is a five-mile-loop trail in Bruneau Dunes State Park, located in the Snake River Valley in Southern Idaho. The hike includes steep sand dune climbing. The dune began forming about 12,000 years ago, accumulating to a height of nearly 500 feet. It is now the highest sand dune in North America. From its crest you will have a peek into the 300-feet-bowl of the “Vortex Crater” as well as views of small surrounding lakes, rolling hills and patches of Russian Olive trees.
The trail starts at the visitor center and is indicated by white marker posts (numbered from 1 to 15). If not already in the dune area, you are able to see the dunes from almost everywhere on the trail. The visitor center can be seen from the dunes crest. Orientational guidance by view is excellent. However, sand hiking and climbing requires some more effort than walking other trails and many sections of the trail don't offer any shade. Expect intense sunshine and blowing sand. There are shortcuts to a park road, lake beaches, and rest areas. You may want to “design” your one loop or just hang out and watch other people struggling updune.

Locomotives at the Boise Depot in Idaho

You may not see it the first time while you are walking around Boise's Depot and the adjacent Platt Gardens, but watching your steps and looking at the pavement in front of the old Union Pacific Depot, you will discover a mosaic of name tiles and locomotive tiles. A real locomotive, Big Mike—a Mikado-type steam locomotive built in 1920—stands not far away. An information board shows and explains other types of locomotives, the earliest from 1860. It is interesting to notice the gap between 1950's Portland Rose and the What's Ahead labeled future train. The last Amtrak passenger train rolled out of Boise on May 10, 1997. Now, the Boise Depot is a museum and background for weddings and receptions. When will it be that we can get around and away by train again? Until then, we hike and bike!

Wilcox's Penstemon

Wilcox's Penstemon (Penstemon wilcoxii) of the Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae) is a plant of the American Northwest, found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The Lewis & Clark expedition collected Wilcox's Penstemon on May 20, 1806, near Camp Chopunnish, Idaho. The photography shows flowers from plants in the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden in Boise, Idaho.

More on Wilcox's Penstemon
USDA plant profile: Penstemon wilcoxii Rydb. (Symbol: PEWI)
Canadian Rockies/Penstemon wilcoxii

Friday, May 29, 2009

Long-tailed Ginger leaves

Long-tailed ginger (Asarum caudatum) of the Birthwort Family (Aristolochiaceae) has been planted in the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden of Boise's Idaho Botanical Garden, displaying plants described or collected by the Lewis & Clark expedition. Long-tailed ginger was described by Lewis on June 16, 1806, near Hungery Creek in present-day Idaho:

"Pott's legg which has been much swolen and inflamed for several days is much better this evening and gives him but little pain. We applied the pounded roots and leaves of the wild ginger, from which we found great relief."
Tea made from the roots was sipped for stomach pains by some Native Americans.

Long-tailed Ginger in Detail
Asarum caudatum: distribution, occurrence, fire ecology and more
USDA plant profile: Asarum caudatum Lindl.

Cascara Buckthorn leaves

The Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden of the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise features a collection of Cascara buckthorn (Rhamnus purshiana) plants of the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). A specimen was collected by the Lewis & Clark expedition on May 29, 1806, near Camp Chopunnish along the Clearwater River in Idaho. An information board gives the fiollowing details:
Lewis noted: "A shrub apparently a species of Rhamnnus. About 12 feet high in clumps; fruit a 5-valved purple berry, which the natives eat and esteem highly..."
The bark was boiled and the tea (or syrup) was used by Native Americans tribes as a strong laxative. The bark was harvested in the fall. It was allowed to age before use because the fresh bark was considered to be nauseating.

More on Cascara Buckthorn

Habitat, range, description, usage of Rhamnus purshiana DC.
USDA Plants Profile, Frangula purshiana (DC.) Cooper (Cascara buckthorn)
VirginiaTech on Cascara buckthorn (symbol: FRPU7): Leaf, flower, fruit, twig, bark, form

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Munro's Globemallow

Munro's globemallow (Sphaeralcea munroano, Malvaceae) is a plant of the desert plains and the lower mountain areas of western North America (British Columbia to California). The Idaho Botanical Garden, where this picture was taken, has a nice display of globemallows within the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden.

More about globemallows
USDA Plant's Profile/Munro's globemallow
Munro's (Orange) Globemallow at Moses Coulee
Plant Pollination Strategies: Globe mallow bee foraging for pollen on Munro's globemallow

Trails around and above the Old Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho

The picture shows the Old Penitentiary in Boise, seen from the botanical garden trail in the Lewis & Clark Nature Plant Garden. The construction of the prison began in 1870, seven years after Idaho became a new Territory of the United States. The first prisoners “helped” to construct some of the Penitentiary buildings. These and the enclosure walls were built from sandstone. You can walk through the quarries, where the sandstone was excavated. You'll find a network of trails, including the Old Stone Quarry Trail and Table Rock Trail, in the hills to the north and east of the Old Penitentiary and the Idaho Botanical Garden.

Pamphlet 3-2005, entitled Table Rock Trails. This and other pamphlets informing about Idaho's dinosaurs, trilobites, and shale deposits are available at the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology, 2455 Old Penitentiary Road, located at the right side of the Penitentiary in the picture (also see: .

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On the SculptureTrail: Sacajawea

A short uphill walk in the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden of the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise, Idaho, takes you to a sculpture of the Native American woman Sacajawea, surrounded by plants of the American Northwest. Sacajawea's role in the Lewis & Clark expedition is explained on an interpretive board next to the sculpture:
Lewis and Clark met Sacajawea and her French Husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, at Fort Mandan when she was about sixteen years old. An Agaidika (Shoshone of the Lemhi Band or “salmon-eater”), she had been captured by Hidatsa several years before near present-day Three Forks, Montana. On February 11, 1805, she gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. Sacajawea left with her family on the expedition on April 7 as an “interpretess” for her people. The Shoshone owned the horses the expedition needed to cross the mountains between the end of the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean. Sacajawea translated for the expedition not only to acquire horses from her own tribe, but also at the Flathead, Nez Perce, and Walla Walla villages.

Whether you walk back the way you came or take the “wilderness trail” down to the garden of “fire-resistant” plants, you may want to spend some time reflecting on all the plants (about 200), described by the Lewis & Clark expedition and new to western science, but well known and used by Native Americans long before.

Pillars of Rome in Southeast Oregon

The Pillars of Rome are fascinating grayish-brown-looking white bluffs in Malheur County in Oregon. These rock formations cover a roughly 5 miles long and 2 miles wide area near the Owyhee river. There are no marked trails. The pillars can be approached from various sides. Their clay-based structures, however, are brittle, like those of Roman ruins, and rocks may fall down at ant time. Fallen rocks, now covered with yellow-golden lichen, are laying around at the base. Caves and bird nests can be spotted at different altitudes of the pillar walls.

Getting there
Already a landmark for early pioneers of the Oregon Trail, crossing the Owyhee river nearby, today one still needs to rely on visual identification of this imposing structure: There are no obvious signposts guiding potential visitors. No via colonna. Once arrived in Rome
on route 95 between Burns Junction and Jordan Valley, take the well-maintained dirt road across the Rome store. Follow this road in northwest direction for about 2 miles, turn right, and then turn left. At this point you already should see the towering formation. Continue on to the west and park your car in a respectful distance from the pillars.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tompkins Memorial Trail around Northstar

Tompkins Memorial Trail (TMT) is a High-Sierra pine forest trail, easily accessible from the Village at Northstar. The trail is surrounding Northstar. Although the trail is never far away from Northstar condominiums, you still get the impression of hiking through forest. There are trail sections with views to the Northstar downhill skiing slopes or into Martis Valley. TMT is part of a trail network, connecting, for example, to Martis Creek Trail.

Getting there. From route 267 in California between Truckee and Kings Beach, take the Northstar exit and follow Northstar Drive to Northstar Village. The parking area is to your left before passing or getting into the village.
The trailhead is nearby at the corner of Northstar Drive and Big Springs Drive. Benches and trail map postings can be found at various TMT sites.

Further Information: Northstar Community Services District/Trails