Canyon Rim Trail: June 5, 2012


Column by Nina Thayer

Bone dry. Los Alamos is bone dry and there are only a few wildflowers to be found. 

But I will gladly share a “secret trail” and the wildflowers I found there this morning.

 A friend and I are both recovering from recent knee replacement surgery, so we strolled at a leisurely pace the lovely new Canyon Rim Trail that parallels N.M. 502 entering town. 

We parked at the eastern trailhead immediately across the road from the Coop. There is no sign but one turns right (south) into the paved parking lot between two yellow and black striped poles. 

And immediately the flowers appear. Standing in the parking lot we were surrounded by many DYCs (Damn Yellow Composites), which I recognized to be Greenthread. 

The name comes from the stem and leaves, which are narrow and thread-like. 

The morning was cool and overcast with a gentle canyon breeze and beautiful views of the Meson Facility across Los Alamos Canyon.

Only a few hundred yards down the asphalt-paved trail I spotted a Yellow Prickly Pear to the right of the trail and then two more 30 feet and 40 feet away. 

Our pace was slowing and there were lovely red Indian Paintbrush giving us reason to pause. 

At this point the trail parallels DP Canyon, a small side canyon of the much larger Los Alamos Canyon. 

We crossed the pedestrian bridge where the canyon closely approaches the highway.

At the half-mile marker we returned and it was shortly after recrossing the bridge, that we found the prize of the day, a single gorgeous Variegated Penstemon about six feet off the trail on the canyon side (now our right.)

It had several 2-foot-tall spikes with narrow opposing leaves and stunning small white flowers with bright pink veins. 

It was a real treat that turned the mile-long hike into a successful treasure hunt.

Yes, it’s dry, bone dry, but there are treasurers to be found for those with sharp eyes. 

I hope I have tempted you to see for yourself.


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