Expedition: September 2012

Peak Fall Foliage at Cottonwood Canyon!

Sept 12 001
Sheep Pass
Sept 12 002
Bolted lettuce

Sept 12 003Sept 12 004Sept 12 005Sept 12 006There were only four of us on this trip We had to record what we grew and put the cold frame to bed for the winter. We got up before dawn to see the sun rise over the Patriarch Grove, as we often do. We also measured 100 more dead bristlecone pines on the slope above the Timberline Ancients Nature Trail to double-check whether or not the proportion of left- straight- and right-handed spiral grain is different in dead trees than in living trees. It is not.

We noted that these trees practically never have broken trunks. When they fall over, it is because the whole root ball is ripped out of the ground. This means the ” spiral grain strengthens the tree and keeps it from being broken by the wind” hypothesis doesn’t work for bristlecone pines.
We checked up on some of the artificial hypoliths we had deployed in June. All but one of the hypoliths we placed near the Sierra Overlook were missing. Somebody had found then and picked them up. But the ones at 11,800′ Sheep Pass are still there and some are already showing signs of colonization by cyanobacteria.

At the cold frame, we found some bolted lettuces. Alan (the Barcroft caretaker) told us that he had harvested radishes, lettuce and garlic on multiple occasions. That’s the problem when you plant crops that grow in two months (radishes and lettuce) but don’t come back to check on them for three months. Next year we’ll plant carrots, which take longer.

Alan said he had re-filled the rain barrel two and a half times. We had the drip irrigation timer set to run for 12 minutes per day, which was maybe too much. Next year we’ll try 8 minutes per day.

The calendula and sweet basil had not done well. The plants were stunted, and the calendula never flowered. We turned off the digital timer, drained the rain barrel and pump, and dug some sheep manure into the growth chambers. The battery voltage is still +14.4 volts!
Five miles down the road from Crooked Creek the quaking aspens in Cottonwood Canyon were in peak colors. Yellow, orange and green – it was spectacular! Sublime. Here are some pictures.


On the way home we stopped at Obsidian Dome and Panum Crater, near Mono Lake. These are well worth seeing.

What we learned:

  • Dead bristlecones pines have the same proportion of left, straight, and right-handed grain as living ones,
  • Bristlecone pines get uprooted by the wind, not broken,
  • You have to place artificial hypoliths far from any parking lot if you don’t want people to find them,
  • Three months on White Mountain Peak is enough time for the hypolith colonization process to start (soil grains clinging strongly due to exo-cellular polysaccharides, but no green film),
  • Our irrigation system worked,
  • Calendula and sweet basil do not do well in our cold frame,
  • We should try carrots next year,
  • Panum Crater and Obsidian Dome are just a few minutes out of our way and are very interesting and educational – especially Panum Crater, which is a miniature volcano that you can walk around and into,
  • The fall foliage in Cottonwood Canyon is a must-see.