Originally Published: August 24, 2011 5:10 p.m.
Woodchute Wilderness Trail 102 is a handy route to see grand panoramas and colorful flowers with friends and family, nearly in your "own back yard," if you live in northern Arizona at least. Trail 102 runs 3 miles with little elevation change from the wilderness trailhead near the Potato Patch Campground atop Mingus Mountain to the overlook on the north edge of Woodchute Mountain. The trail continues north but most hikers turn back at the overlook. The views are great summer or winter. My hike in February was beautiful in the snow, sometimes hip deep. I saw some curious sights of plants covered with the white stuff, but no flowers. My hike in August changed all that. In addition to many colorful flowers, we saw deer, reptiles (a snake and horned lizard), many insect pollinators, and lots of birds. Several other hikers enjoyed this easy to follow trail, though the first mile includes some traffic noise above Hwy. 89a. The junction with Trail 104, after 2 miles of relatively easy walking, is marked by a couple of stock ponds, which display a different set of vegetation in a pleasant meadow habitat. This is a good hike for the casual walker and nature lover, at least when there is no snow to wade through.
I'll shift the focus this week, to displaying 3 links to photos of plants you are likely to see on Trail 102. I'll only post 1 mystery plant and invite you to propose a name for it. It is widely encountered throughout the State. Good luck.
I understand the hazard of "picture book taxonomy," though it is the most common approach to identifying plants in most field guides, such as "Plants of Arizona" by Anne Orth Epple. The online sites I link to include descriptions and multiple pictures to give you a well-balanced approach to plant identification. There are other tools, though, and you should consider exploring them if you have an interest in getting more out of your hikes by learning the plants you see along the path. The CD "Hoof'n It," available in the Friends bookstore at the PV Library includes an easy to use Excel spreadsheet of selected plants (i.e. trees and shrubs, cacti, vines, etc.) from popular hiking destinations like White Tanks Regional Park. By focusing your efforts on a specific place, your odds of correctly identifying each plant in question, goes up dramatically. This spreadsheet requires that you look at the plant first, then consult pictures to validate your conclusion as to the plant's identity rather than the other way around, looking at pictures first to figure out the identity of the plant in hand. This spreadsheet was written up in an article in the journal, "Desert Plants," published by the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in June 2007.
Under the circumstances, we will have to rely on pictures to a significant degree here. But that's OK. Life is a journey that begins with the next step. Enjoy.