Nancy, Taos

Nancy is a graduate student in the Master of Liberal Studies program in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. During summer 2012, she is participating in a course on New Mexico wildflowers at SMU-in-Taos.

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Hiker’s paradise

Many of us have decided that this is our favorite flower – the Columbine.

Our hike today to Williams Lake was a highlight of the week (so far, each day gets better and better). In spite of a few complaining hips, knees and feet, we did it. We are young, but we are not undergraduates.

We climbed the Williams Lake trail near the Taos ski valley into the Alpine zone in the shadow of Wheeler Peak,  at more than 13,000 feet the highest mountain in the range.

On the trail we saw elderberry, thimbleberry, wild strawberry and twin berry. Besides berries we saw new flowers: Old Man on the Mountain, California Corn Lily, Delphinium, Blue Bells and Columbine. We also saw Marshmallow plant. Long before Kraft sold marshmallows in plastic bags at Target, marshmallows were made from the root of this plant. Cut up the roots; blend with water until the water gets light and foamy. Wrap on a stick and enjoy a sweet treat. How did anyone ever come up with this? Hershey’s thought it was such a great idea that it began making marshmallows with sugar, and now we have something to float in hot chocolate.

Maria demonstrates how this lichen earned its name: Old Man’s Beard.

At Williams Lake we were in the Alpine zone, where the permafrost is just two feet below the surface at the height of summer. The tallest tree there is the Alpine willow, just seven to eight inches high and a favorite meal for bighorn sheep.

All the hikers we passed who were heading back down the trail told us to be sure to hike beyond the lake to see the waterfall. We followed a rocky path back into the forest and discovered a lovely waterfall, which made the perfect background for more Columbine photos. Going back down the mountain was a breeze, and once again we arrived at the van just before an afternoon shower.

Jane’s pressed flowers, gathered at Ft. Burgwin.

Back at Ft. Burgwin we checked on the flowers we pressed our first day. We learned to spray-mount them and were as proud as kindergartners with our finished projects. We would have displayed them in the dining hall if only someone had asked.

Facts of the Day

  • Cindy Gimble, who helps keep things running smoothly at Ft. Burgwin, is the daughter of Johnny Gimble, legendary fiddler and former member of Asleep at the Wheel and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. He used to host camps for fiddlers at SMU-in-Taos.
  • How do you tell if a mint plant has no smell? Mint plants with round stems have no smell. Mint plants with square stems have a smell. Of course, you could just smell the plant.
  • Always carefully wash mushrooms you buy at the grocery store. You don’t want to know why.

Be proud: Our class at Williams Lake, 11,000 feet, five-mile round-trip hike.

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