Wildflowers of the Alpine Loop

Above Sundance, in the Utah mountains, the Alpine Loop is a scenic byway that is a wonderland of native wildflowers.  On a map it's shown as Route 92. It winds around the mountains in the Uinta National Forest, down past Timpanogos National Monument and Caves. The Alpine Loop has switchbacks through 27 miles, with the summit at an elevation of 8,000 feet.  

As you are going up Route 189, you can rent inner-tubes, and float down the Provo River.  Be prepared to paddle a lot with your arms.  It is cold and there are branches and rocks to avoid, so it is not for the faint of heart.  But we saw horses, and a wild turkey at the river edge, and ducks, and had a wild time.

The road is open between late May and late October.  There are campgrounds available along the Alpine Loop.  The Timpooneke Campground lies at 7, 400 feet amid fir, spruce and aspen trees, or 'Quakies' as my father called them.  The campground manager told us the other morning as she was walking through the site, she felt hot breath on her back and turned to find a moose behind her.  A stream runs through the camp and there is a nearby beaver pond.  It is cold at night.  Here is a good TRICK: Fill your nalgene bottle with boiling water and put it in the foot of your sleeping bag.  It will help keep you warmer until morning.

The Alpine Loop is laced with ferns and wildflowers.  Take a little drive and then walk among the wildflowers with us.  Are you ready?

 Wow, it's like a really big dandelion.  Western Salsify   Tragopogon dubiu  s .  

Wow, it's like a really big dandelion. Western Salsify Tragopogon dubius.  

The forest is like an immense art museum.  The colors used by Alexander Calder in his hanging mobiles, Gerrit Rietveld in his designs, and Piet Mondrian in his paintings set the background to make this giant 'dandelion' look surreal.  See the 'do' of the pink thistle below.

 The  Utah Thistle   Cirsium neomexicanum  reminded me of Andy Warhol's hair.

The Utah Thistle Cirsium neomexicanum reminded me of Andy Warhol's hair.

 As you climb in elevation you enter a forest of 'Quakies'.

As you climb in elevation you enter a forest of 'Quakies'.

 The forest floor is blanketed in thousands of lacy ferns...

The forest floor is blanketed in thousands of lacy ferns...

 Like this  Bracken Fern:   Dennstaedtiaceae (fern)  Pteridiumaquilinum, variety: pubescens.

Like this Bracken Fern: Dennstaedtiaceae (fern)  Pteridiumaquilinum, variety: pubescens.

 The aspen bark is a great study in black & white  contrasts.

The aspen bark is a great study in black & white  contrasts.

 Can you ID this?

Can you ID this?

 This looks like  Woolly Mullein:     Verbascumthapsus.

This looks like Woolly Mullein:   Verbascumthapsus.

 These tall curling brown stalks rise above the ferns.

These tall curling brown stalks rise above the ferns.

 This is  Horse-Nettle , a member of mint family. 

This is Horse-Nettle, a member of mint family. 

 The yellow flowers may be  Saw Groundsel   Senecio serra.

The yellow flowers may be Saw Groundsel Senecio serra.

 This looks like  Whorled Buckwheat .

This looks like Whorled Buckwheat.

  Sticky Geranium  Geranium viscosissimum .

Sticky Geranium Geranium viscosissimum.

I was fascinated by the delicate magenta veins of the tiny sticky Geranium.

 The  Nootka Rose   dressed in fuschia, has 5 pink petals.

The Nootka Rose  dressed in fuschia, has 5 pink petals.

 Here's a grouping of  Sticky Geraniums .

Here's a grouping of Sticky Geraniums.

 This looks like  Western Coneflower   Rudbeckia occidentalis.

This looks like Western Coneflower Rudbeckia occidentalis.

 A tiny bug is enjoying this yellow beauty.

A tiny bug is enjoying this yellow beauty.

  Cow Parsnip   Heracleum lanatum,  is like fireworks at night.

Cow Parsnip Heracleum lanatum, is like fireworks at night.

As we drove into Utah, we witnessed fireworks shooting up against the black sky all along the foothills of the mountains on the Wasatch Front.  There were thousand of explosions.  It seemed magical.  Then we realized it was the 24th of July, Pioneer Day,  the day the pioneers entered the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847 .

 Here are lots of tiny white wildflower...

Here are lots of tiny white wildflower...

 Getting ready to bloom on a stalk.

Getting ready to bloom on a stalk.

  Showy Goldeneye   Viguiera Multiflora  dot the side of the trails in August.

Showy Goldeneye Viguiera Multiflora dot the side of the trails in August.

  Black Twinberr  ys  are peeking out from behind their red 'fan' bracts. 

Black Twinberrys are peeking out from behind their red 'fan' bracts. 

They look cute.  They'd make a great pair of ear-rings, but don't eat them, as they are toxic.

 This ant was having a picnic on a trumpeted flower.

This ant was having a picnic on a trumpeted flower.

  Richardson's Geranium     is   like the Sticky Geranium, only white.

Richardson's Geranium  is like the Sticky Geranium, only white.

 These pink & green spiky pods are curious.

These pink & green spiky pods are curious.

  Filfoil Yarrow   Achillea millefolium  is a petite fragrant wildflower.

Filfoil Yarrow Achillea millefolium is a petite fragrant wildflower.

  Pacific Aster   Aster ascendens  peek out between grass blades.  Their petals look like lavender eye lashes.

Pacific Aster Aster ascendens peek out between grass blades.  Their petals look like lavender eye lashes.

 This looks like landscaping grass you pay a lot of money for in LA.

This looks like landscaping grass you pay a lot of money for in LA.

 Can you ID this lovely lavender wildflower?

Can you ID this lovely lavender wildflower?

 The Quaking Aspen leaves always tremor in the breeze.

The Quaking Aspen leaves always tremor in the breeze.

 My favorite color...

My favorite color...

 Another blue wildflower.

Another blue wildflower.

 And here we go...

And here we go...

 Into the woods...

Into the woods...

 And through the trees.

And through the trees.

 And into a field of clover.

And into a field of clover.

 This white flower looks like  Flaxflower   Linanthastrum nuttallii .

This white flower looks like Flaxflower Linanthastrum nuttallii.

 The  Red Baneberry  plant and berry are poisonous.

The Red Baneberry plant and berry are poisonous.

  Curley Gumweed   Grindelia squarrosa.

Curley Gumweed Grindelia squarrosa.

 Lichen spreads across on a bolder.

Lichen spreads across on a bolder.

 The  Monkshood   Aconitum columbianum  top looks like the garb of a medieval monk.

The Monkshood Aconitum columbianum top looks like the garb of a medieval monk.

Other names for Aconitum include: Queen of all Poisons, and Wolf's Bane.  It is thought that the poison derived from this plant was used on the tips of arrows to kill wolves.  The Greeks poisoned the tips of their arrows with Aconitum, and arrow tips poisoned with it have been used by different groups of native populations to kill ibex, bear, and whales.  The Roman poet Oped in his epic poem, Metamorphoses, tells that Wolf's Bane came from the mouths of Cerberus.  Cerberus, as Oped tells it, was the three headed guard dog whose work it was to guard the gates of Hell.  The myth tells that some of it's saliva fell on the ground, and from where it fell the poisonous plant Aconitum grew, that grows amid the rocks.  Maybe Cerberus was a cousin to Fluffy, the three headed dog in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, except legend tells that one of Cerberus' heads was that of a lion, another a wolf, and the last a dog's head.  Well I'm relieved I only took a picture of it, pretty as it is, and didn't touch it.

 This is the view to the top.

This is the view to the top.

 The view to the left.

The view to the left.

 And to the right.

And to the right.

 Country road.

Country road.

As you can see, it had started to get dark by now.  We had foil dinners.  They were delicious and only a tiny bit burnt with corn on the cob steamed in the husks.  The girls slept by the creek, except one lucky one who found the car warm.  As I lay on the hard packed ground, regretting I hadn't patched my good sleeping pad, I was grateful for the warmth of the boiling water in the nalgene bottle.  I kept wishing I had put mending my good Camp 7 down bag on the to-do list, but it with its whirlwind of down were sitting in the garage in a plastic bag.  I wished I had a to-do list.  But breakfast was coming soon with eggs, pancakes, maple syrup and butter, bacon and a fire. Oh yeah, a big fire.

 Take me home...

Take me home...

Well, we had packed our gear and had headed down the mountain.  First we headed up until the road turned into a dirt road, and then we headed down to the entrance of the Timpanogus Cave.

 Sunflowers at the side of the road...

Sunflowers at the side of the road...

 Waved goodbye.

Waved goodbye.

After leaving the cave, the road was lined with sunflowers, waist high.  Their smiling faces were saying goodbye to us and hello to those they greet as they stand, guardians to the mouth of the canyon.

 I will always remember the wonder of the Alpine Loop.

I will always remember the wonder of the Alpine Loop.