gifts of elevation

July 20, 2019  •  2 Comments

This blog finds life in the northern hemisphere just a month beyond the summer solstice, and adjustments are being made throughout the natural world. Many of the migratory birds living here during the summer have already had chicks that have fledged and gone on their way.  Others are in the process of creating another brood.  The color in the garden has gone from assorted hues of purple and blue to eye-popping reds, yellows, and oranges. And the high country between Tres Piedras and Tierra Amarilla is covered with all manner of growing things.  Huge swaths of cinquefoil, lupine, ferns, and false hellebores (corn lilies) transition into high meadows of lush grass and an amazing variety of wildflowers around 10,000 feet in elevation.  The last time we made this drive, there were still big lenses of snow.  Areas where there was snow, standing water and marsh marigolds, are now full of tiny violets, wild geraniums, orange sneezeweed, mountain parsley, harebells, some very late wild iris, and paintbrush - both yellow and red.  The meadow below overlooks the Brazos Cliffs.  Lots of yellow and green here, including paintbrush in the foreground.

yellow paintbrush, meadow, and Brazosyellow paintbrush, meadow, and Brazos

Here is a yellow paintbrush bud, in the partial shade of a spruce tree.

yellow paintbrushyellow paintbrush

Below are two scarlet paintbrush tucked under a single corn lily stalk with its graceful, whirling leaves.

false hellebore and paintbrushfalse hellebore and paintbrush

While photographing these meadows and the plants that populate them, I have to constantly remind myself to watch where I step.  Some of the flowers are so tiny that not only would I not see them, but it would be very easy to destroy them.  Another reason to tread with care is that some flowers, because of their deep colors, hairs, and reflective power, seem to appear out of nowhere.  I found myself almost stumbling into a group of Whipple's penstemon.  I had neither seen nor photographed these rich, deep wine-hued flowers for years.  They are very hairy, and the hairs reflect light in such a way that closer inspection is required before you see the juicy color.  Each flower is an ecosystem.  Many insects gather on the blossoms.

Whipple's penstemonWhipple's penstemon

Another shot of the Whipple's penstemon with the Brazos Cliffs in the background

Whipple's penstemon and BrazosWhipple's penstemon and Brazos


Those of us who live in the mountain west are lucky.  We can escape the heat by gaining elevation, and searching for the gifts it holds. 

until next Monday,


a passion for the [email protected]


Steve Immel(non-registered)
Like Victoria I love the Brazos Cliff backdrop especially with the shallow depth of field that brings the Whipple's penstemon forward in the photograph. The scarlet paintbrush are beautifully framed by corn lily stalk. The subtle yellows of the paintbrush in images one and two are soft and lovely. It's a wonderful set from one of my favorite spots all year long.
I’ve never heard of or seen that last flower. Love the mountain backdrop!
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