All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Silent Mojave desert reveals its secrets

Double form of Argranthemum add class and colour to your annual garden. Donald McClure photo

About 20 miles from the sizzling streets, clunking slots  and exotic atmosphere of Las Vegas there is a quiet glimpse of another world with links to human activity going back thousands of years.  Beautiful Red Rock Canyon in the nearby Mojave desert is a welcome  respite from the unreal world of the city.

And according to my two boys the short trail we had selected for a day-away hike was  the easiest and shortest in the Park.   Given this was true there were still some challenging parts. What was child’s play for the younger legs, provided  some obstacles for the old guy and  occasionally dad had to clamour hand-over-hand around  rocks and down boulder-strewn slopes–which my companions took in stride.

The dry heat of the day seemed not as ferocious as our own humid summers back home, but the lack of moisture allowed fine desert dust to coat our hiking boots and trousers which only vanished when they were shaken and brushed in Bloomfield a few days later.   What was particularly fascinating for all of us was the absolute beauty of the wild flowers that bloomed in the desert along both sides of the trail.  And this wasn’t even the peak period.

Among the flowers which bloomed this spring were yellow primroses, pepper grass, yellow monkey flowers, poppies, cacti, asters  and many whose names escape me. On our excursion we climbed up (and under) huge boulders poised precariously on the trail as if waiting for the next tectonic  jiggle to send them rolling down the

Gorgeous form of desert cactus blooms in the dusty soil of Nevada near Las Vegas. Andrew McClure photo

hillside.  At the terminal point of this short hike we discovered a inspirational waterfall, which depending on the season, varies in size and intensity.  On this day it was a thin trickle which cascaded down from the rocks high above and landed on our heads and faces in  cooling splashes.

Oh yes son Andrew who  is a serious student of aboriginal culture was also fascinated by our discovery of Indian petroglyphs in the red rocks of this canyon and other signs of early domestic roasting pits, used by people perhaps as long as 4000 years ago.  Water particularly made this place a significant habitation site and their presence was strangely still about us as we hiked.

As far as flowers were concerned my favourites included the desert cactus and Globemallow or  Sphaeralcea ambigua.  The  spring blooming flowers are apricot to orange in color and look a bit like miniature  poppies.   The fruit is a brown capsule with many seeds. Leaves are fuzzy, deeply lobed, and on long stems, and It grows well in alkaline soil, both sandy or clay, often near creosote bushes.

Close by on the same trip we encountered the Keystone Thrust Fault one of the few places on earth where you can actually see where one of the earth’s crustal plates was thrust up over another  — clearly outlined in grey limestone on top of red sandstone.  All this accomplished about 65 million years ago.

Hiker Andrew McClure stands under ice cold water falling from high mountain spring at Red Canyon. Donald McClure photo

Chris McClure stands beside cave which once sheltered original inhabitants of Red Canyon oasis. Donald McClure photo

Major lesson learned from  Mojave:  If the rigours of modern civilization began to overtake you, look for a quiet

trail to help you recompose.  And be sure  to take along friends or  family.    Our day in the desert will long linger in the memory banks.

Your flower tip  of the week:

If you want sprightly colour in your garden from the last frost of spring until the first icy chill of November try a grouping of the annual commonly known as the  Marguerite daisy or Argyranthemum frutescens.  This native of the Canary Islands is available locally and after our pleasant experience last year we made a mental note to  pick up and plant  twice as many  this season.  What caught our interest particularly was the long blooming period and its  amazing bright colours in pink, red white and yellow.

Pick off spent flowers for faster regeneration .  Both flowers and leaves have a pleasant aroma.


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About the Author: He can tickle your funny bone or tug at your heart strings. County people may know him as a chronicler of everything that happens (or should happen) in the garden, but his interests stretch across the natural world. His unique sense of observation takes in a wide expanse of living and may even point out some truths about our own condition as managers of the world around us. With Loyalist antecedents in his family tree his roots go deep into the Ontario countryside.

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  1. kelly says:

    Fabulous article and photo’s! Amazing what beauty you can find in the desert!

  2. Karen MacInnes says:

    Your pictures are always a joy to see plus your knowledge of flora and fauna is something else!
    Love your blog! Keep up the good work, Donald.

  3. Donna McClure says:

    Having known Donald for some 60 years, (are we that old?) I have found him to be ever-learning, full of empathy and always ready to listen. His knowledge in gardens and all their worth, boggles my mind, but he sure knows how to present a vision of color in his yard every year. Now, I think Judy plays a huge part in all this glory! I have seen her toil many an hour in those gardens. I’m sure he thanks her in his own sweet way!!!!Donald knows everything about our collective families, though we haven’t got the promised book yet. However, he does carry a lot on his plate and we forgive Him. Keep on getting those hands dirty, Donald.

  4. Andrew says:

    I touch the earth and move on,
    while flame and flower, scent and water
    are changed into clans of crystal,
    eternalized in works of light.
    – Pablo Neruda

    Baptism – desert style. 🙂

  5. gerry kane says:

    Having not progressed beyond a brown thumb–in that everything I plant turns into a Mojave Desert– I live vicariously in the joy of Don McClure’s gardening adventures. I learn about flowers I can never grow and the world in which the flowers flourish. Good colour. Good prose. Good story. Thankyou Don.

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