Pajarito Rambler: Canada Bonita Trail in August

Pajarito Rambler: Canada Bonita Trail in August

By NINA THAYER
Los Alamos

As promised, today this rambler hiked the same trail we shared with you this past June and like a favorite museum with rooms full of new displays, the Canada Bonita Trail has many new wildflowers with only a few of the favorites from June.

Park at the west end of the ski hill paved parking lot. Walk 50 yards along the gravel Camp May Road and then turn right at the trailhead sign.

Fireweed. Photo by Nina Thayer

The first difference you will notice on the right side of the road is that the bright pink-purple Fireweed (also called Bloomin’ Sally) has matured. While the blooms on some stalks have turned to white fluffy seed heads, the other blooms are at or very near the top of the stalk (raceme).

This rambler had not gotten far when we realized we were not alone on this gorgeous morning. About 60 members of the LAHS cross country team passed us first going and then coming from a practice run to the meadow.  “Good morning”, “Looking good” and “Have a great season!” rang out over and over.

Aspen Daisy. Photo by Nina Thayer

As you climb the first and biggest hill, the predominant colors are blue and yellow. The major yellow contributor is Showy Golden Eye (also called Golden Aster). It is a composite with many 1-2 inch blooms on a bushy stem. It is called Golden Eye because both disk flowers and ray flowers are yellow. With the abundant rain this summer it varies from 2-5 feet in height.

The pale-blue-purple daisy-like blooms you see everywhere have a handful of common names including Showy Fleabane, but I like Aspen Daisy best, because here it is under the aspens. It is one of at least four Erigerons (Latin name from the Aster family) found along this trail. 

Purple Geranium. Photo by Nina Thayer

Keep alert and you will see the rather small dark Purple Geranium, cousin to the Richard’s Geranium we saw in June, which is still visible. As in June White Yarrow is the predominant white flower. 

Three of the showiest of the new late summer bloomers along this trail are, Death Camus, Scarlet Gilia and the Rocky Mountain Bee Plant.

Death Camus. Photo by Nina Thayer

The Death Camus has a single 1-2 foot stem with many small cream-colored flowers, with six pointed petals each with a green spot at its base. It is very distinctive andtrue to its name, it is poisonous. This rambler saw only three.

The true eye-catcher is the Scarlet Gilia (also called Skyrocket or Fairy Trumpet) that we have seen in previous years on other local trails.

Scarlet Gilia. Photo by Nina Thayer 

Bright red trumpet-shaped flowers bloom along a single stalk. The blooms have distinctive yellow stamens and often are found in groups. 

Next this rambler found a half dozen of the beautiful pink-purple Rocky Mountain Bee-Plant. Each plant has a one-to-five foot stem topped with multiple flowers, which appear almost fluffy because of the many long white stamens. Bees love this plant as the picture shows.

Rocky Mountain Bee-Plant. Photo by Nina Thayer

Just before arriving at the meadow a lovely surprise awaits on the right side of the trail. It is the small, delicate Violet Woodsorrel with one or two pink flowers on a 6-8 inch stem and shamrock-shaped leaf.

Violet Woodsorrel. Photo by Nina Thayer

At long last we arrive at the meadow. After all we’ve seen can there really be anything new? The answer is a loud “yes” as we quickly spot the showy Brown-Eyed Susan. A closer look finds the rather small, but attractive Alpine Goldenrod and large groups of deep blue Harebells. 

Brown-Eyed Susan. Photo by Nina Thayer

Return the way you came, remembering to glance up at the ski-hill trails, looking all-the world like the well-manicured fairways of a giant’s golf course. 

Now this rambler has shared 10 beautiful new reasons to re-hike the Canada Bonita Trail. Sharp eyes will spot many more wildflowers not included. If your soul needs to identify them, I suggest one of the wildflower walks by our local expert, Chick Keller. Watch the PEEC calendar for his next one or check out Teralene Foxx and Dorothy Hoard’s illustrated guide, Flowers of the Southwestern Forests and Woodlands, Los Alamos Historical Society, 1984.

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