Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Don's Blog Memorable Chock Stone

Among the images from my friend Jim Mytton was this photo of the Notchtop Chock Stone. It brought an immediate
tightness in my throat as I remembered this epic adventure. When I was at Cheley Colorado Camp in Estes Park in the late 40's and early 50's I loved hiking and was developing an interest in technical rock climbing. After several years I became proficient enough to earn the 4TH Degree Mountaineering Award at the camp. There were certain climbs that were named the hardest and required the most experience and Notchtop Mountain (elevation 12,129 feet) was in the most difficult group. As this photo shows we climbed in Levis, T-shirts, and hiking boots. After taking off from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park we hiked over to Lake Helene. I remember that we hung a left and climbed some gullies and turned right up to this long narrow traverse which was fully exposed. We had been indoctrinated in preparation for the famous chock stone where we had been told that some un-named camper in the past had "frozen" being unwilling to move right or left. 
It never occurred to us that we should be using ropes - just that it was not going to be us that 'froze'. What was unsaid was that we were fully aware that if we slipped it would be fatal and someone else would have to explain it to my mother. This fear was made worse if you had short legs. I can remember this as if it were happening right now. I took my time and concentrated on climbing past the stone. I have little recollection of the glory of the summit. I do remember that on the way up after this I was concerned about coming back down the same way. It was much easier coming back than the going up.

As I recall this adventure I see it from a different perspective. There have been some fatal climbing accidents on the mountain and I am glad that no one in our party was among them. That certainly was not due to our mountaineering expertise. There has been a healthy improvement in climbing techniques and equipment since 1951.
Below this photo of Notchtop  that I took several years ago I present a report of a recent ascent of the mountain from


With Notchtop's south ridge soaring above, work across the bottom of the lake and uphill to the left, through mild talus and grassy slopes. After entering the gully, look for a ramp going up to the right that would lead back to the south ridge. It should look very easy and is in a small cirque with large boulders at its base. An easy scramble leads to a nice perch on the ridge crest. This makes a nice place to rope up and/or put on climbing shoes.

With a two hundred foot rope, two pitches can be made of a series of rock steps in the ridge. These steps are separated by low angle spots that can be used as alternate belays with a shorter rope. Many different paths are obvious on the initial pitches. Look for a cool line and enjoy. Eventually find a belay beneath the south ridge as it increasingly steepens above. A grassy ledge leads right around a spectacular corner. It is never very difficult and is nicely protected for both the leader and the second. Stretch the rope out to a belay beneath the east meadow.

The "notch" should be visible above you. Follow the path of least resistance for a rambling pitch up the east meadow. Find a belay beneath a steep headwall that blocks access to the notch. Look for the easiest path path through the headwall. It should be a crack on the left that is well protected. It goes up to a small roof, where a step to the left leads to easy terrain. This is one of the best pitches on the route.

From the notch, scramble south along a ledge until it is possible to scramble to the summit of the Notch Spire. Keep in mind that this ledge is on the opposite side of the mountain that the climb was on. It is very obvious. Enjoy the summit of the spire. It is very small and very cool.

After descending the spire, work uphill to the north. The goal is to find the West Gully, a third class gully, full of yucky talus, that descends to the lake at the base of the route. Look for some cairns and and a well worn path. Several rap stations appear, but the cliffs below are long, and the trail goes right beneath them anyway. The scramble from the notch to the West Gully is longer and more intricate than would be expected. Don't worry, just look carefully for the path everybody else has used before. Some snow may be in the upper part of the West Gully until mid-summer. This traverse is not a good place to be caught in a big electrical storm. Maybe that's why there are several rap stations encountered along the traverse.

Descend the West Gully down to the start of the route. This is the traverse from the gully to the ridge line. Pick-up any stashed gear or head directly down to the Lake. Reverse the approach to Lake Helene and Bear Lake via the Fern Lake trail.

This is a wonderful route and not too sustained for its grade. It is a good first time route for someone looking to do a moderate tour in the mountains. It is a wonderful route to cruise 3rd class. With a two hundred foot rope, it can easily be done in 5 pitches. Enjoy.

Yes it kind of sounds like the Notchtop that we climbed in jeans and hiking boots and T-shirts with two leaders and a bunch of fit teen-agers with no ropes and no metal and no belays and no raps. I can see why my throat constricts when I see that chock stone picture.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Brother Bob at Cheley Camp in 1948

My friend Jim Mytton sent me some slides that he had transferred to digital several years ago. He and my deceased brother Bob had been friends for many years at Cheley Camps in Estes Park Colorado and these images are from 1948. Bob is getting off the bus at camp. The previous day he had been put on the Denver Zephyr in Chicago by my parents. Traveling west on the Burlington Route the train passed through our home town, La Grange, and within two blocks of our home.The trip to Denver with the other campers from the Chicago area included eating dinner and breakfast in the dining car and sleeping in "births" made up at bed time by the Pullman Porter. In the morning before breakfast he woke up in the flat prairies of eastern Colorado before being met at the Station in Denver by camp representatives. This red bus took the excited party from Denver into the mountains stopping in Lyons for a snack before arriving at Cheley Camp near Estes Park.

Notice that Bob is wearing a coat and tie and carrying an overcoat on his arm.


This photo was taken that summer on a backpack from the Arapahoe Peaks area to
Brainard Lake via Crater Lake.These intrepid campers include (from the left) Walt Sweet,
Tom Weill, Bob, Nick Clinch, and George Karch in the white shirt.


Here is a great shot of Bob serving dinner that summer with Sonny Toughy in front.
I went to Cheley Camp from 1949-1951 and went through many of the experiences that
Bob talked about including the same backpack trip. Bob is gone but the camp is still going strong and my 
grandchildren are going there now.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Don's Blog Our Christmas Tree is Trimmed 12-10-15

Our Christmas Tree has changed through the years. Initially we got the tallest tree available and filled it with lights and ornaments much like my parents before me. I actually had to tie it to one of the ceiling beams to make sure it wasn't pulled down in the excitement. We loved the smell of the tree. More recently we became allergic to the smell of the white pine. We got a tabletop artificial tree but it was never the same - the romance was missing. Last year we trimmed the ficus with purple lights and a few ornaments and it was slightly "better than nothing." This year we have enlisted an 'old friend' to re-inject the romance into the process. I first met him in 1969 when he was 'harvested' near Blue Lake in the Wrangle Mountains in the panhandle of Southeast Alaska. He was of the White River Herd. When I got him the rack was blood red as he had come out of the velvet only a few days before. There is a layer of blood vessels between the velvet cover and the bone and when the velvet is lost there is a spectacular bright red coloring. The rack was mounted in Anchorage and has been with us ever since. This barren ground caribou rack is our Christmas Tree. Who knows what will be next?


Monday, December 7, 2015

Final Flower for the Day European Beautyberry 12-7-15

This is the final post on the Flower for the Day Blog. This is another beautyberry, Callicarpa bodinieri, rather than Callicarpa americana (American Beautyberry). The berries come off the branches on opposing sides and the clusters are purple and much smaller.

Like the post this berry bush is in its final stage. The berries have been present for several months and
are ready to fall off the branch. 
I am using this beautiful berry to show off the new extension tubes  that I am using on my 100mm macro lens.
The extension tubes allow for more magnification of the target.


Macro lens alone.


Macro lens plus a 12mm extension tube.


Macro lens plus both 12mm and 20mm extension tubes.


Macro lens plus 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm extension tubes. I will definitely have fun with this for next years flowers.
I have enjoyed sending you this years flowers. See you next year.
TFG (The Flower Guy)


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Flower for the Day Greenland Final flower again Arctic Eyebright 11-2-15

As soon as I sent the "other" final Greenland flower, Mystery Flower #2 was identified by Elizabeth at info@Greenland.com. It is Euphrasia frigida (Pugsley) and translates from the Danish to arctic eye comfort. The common name, arctic eyebright, refers to its use in treating eye inflammations. An eye compress is made using the leaves, stem, and small pieces of the flowers.

It is common in alpine meadows where snow is found. The white petals are notched and form a lower lip.
The sepals are lavender. From first view I was interested to see how these tiny flowers
emerge from the different whorls on the stem. This plant was found near the ice melt from the Russell Glacier
near Kangerlussuaq on the western shore of Greenland.
Who wouldn't love a country that has an information website that can identify flowers overnight.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Flower for the Day Alpine Gentian Greenland

The rare alpine gentian (Gentians nivalis) presents as a distinct ultramarine blue in a narrow tube culminating in a wheel shaped 5 lobed corolla. This image shows all stages. The flowers open up only in full sun and close even with overcast conditions. These are annuals that return by re-seeding only.
Studies of alpine (snow) gentian seeds in a community seed bank showed that the half life of experimentally buried seeds 
was 15-32 years depending on the depth of burial and soil type. This suggests why alpine gentian numbers can recover
quickly after a population crash and bodes well for their continued long term survival despite their scarcity.
It is certainly an unforgettable color and my favorite of this polar series.

This is the last of the Greenland flowers. I enjoyed identifying them.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Flower for the Day Alpine Sandwort Greenland 11-30

Alpine sandwort (Arenaria lateriflora) is a tundra plant that is a member of the Pink Family (Caryophyllacea)
along with moss campion and chickweed. Its striking flowers consist of 5 white petals, 5 light green sepals, a light
green superior ovary with 3 styles and 10 stamens. They can be distinguished from the chickweeds and the starworts in that the ends of the petals are convex.
This little beauty was on our last tundra hike in Greenland.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Flower for the Day Yellow Oxytrope Greenland 11-23

Yellow oxytrope (Oxytropis arctica) is in the legume family. The flowers arise on a single stalk and have distinctive sharply beaked keels. Oxytropis is Greek for the pointed keel of the petal unit (Corolla).

Also known as arctic locoweed the genus is noted for its production of a phytotoxin containing
swainsonine  which is harmful to grazing animals. Too much of this toxin can produce neurological symptoms 
resembling "loconess" and even death in these animals. We did not eat this flower but not because we had any
inside information or special knowledge of what it could cause. We just were not eating flowers that day.

It has many names: Field Locoweed, Northern Oxytrope, White Smallflower

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Don''s Blog Orange sea lichen 11-22

This Orange sea lichen (Xanthoria parietina) is a foliose (leafy) lichen and was 
living on a granite boulder at the base of the Greenland Ice sheet. It was a really
brilliant orange.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Flower for the My Birthday Arctic Wintergreen Greenland 11-21

Plants in the Wintergreen Family (Pyrolaceae) are low growing herbs with leaves clustered at the base and with showy waxy flowers. The Large-Flowered Arctic Wintergreen (Pyrola grandiflora) has a reddish stalk arising from a basal rosette of leathery evergreen leaves (below) with rounded tips and prominent white veins.

The stalk bears sweet scented creamy white flowers, each with 5 petals, 5 sepals, and 8-10 prominent
yellow stamens (below). A distinctive characteristic is a downward curving style at the center of each flower. The flowers face the ground when they open, rotating to face more horizontally as they mature.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Flower for the Day White Poppy Greenland

In going over some images of a cemetery in Qaqortaq Greenland I noticed that this white poppy (Papaver radicatum) was growing on a grave. It is also called P.lapponicum. White poppies are common especially in areas where clouds and fog obscure the sun. Poppy flowers constantly turn to face the sun. In fact poppies turn to face the sun throughout all the 24 hours of daylight when that occurs. Growth in the stalk results from the elongation of stalk cells and those cells on the sunlit side grow slower than those on the shadier side. This differential causes the stalk to bend toward the slow growing side instead of facing straight up and allows it to "follow" the sun. This is made possible because the G3 plant hormone (gibberrillic acid) in the tip of the stalk stimulates elongation in the cells below and since sunlight inhibits the formation of this hormone then growth is slowed on the sunlit side producing the differential. It is this differential that allows the poppy to follow the sun without becoming twisted on itself.
Under cloudy or foggy conditions the poppies grow straight as above.

The white poppies that the family has put on the grave are a sign of peace and reconciliation.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Flower for the Day Bistort Greenland

Bistort (Polygonum bistorta) is a member of the Dock Family (Polygonaceae). Technically it grows with sepals only but
practically these cannot be distinguished from petals. The flower is white to slightly pink. It is commonly found in the Colorado Rockies.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Flower for the Day American Beautyberry 11-18-15

Recently we went to our favorite country Antique Store in Hopewell. Mickey, the owner who raised commercial flowers before retirement, told us about American Beautyberry with an excellent description. The next day as we walked in Kirkwood Park we came upon American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). This is a rapidly growing shrub native to the southern U.S. The purple fruit grows late into the fall and is a favorite of small birds and deer. 
The crushed leaves contain a chemical, callicarpenal, which has been shown in tests to be effective as a mosquito repellant.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Flower for the Day Brook Saxifrage - Greenland 11-17

Brook Saxifrage  (Saxifraga rivularis) lives in wet places alongside brooks and in moist meadows. It has light green stems with distinctive shiny green leaves with scalloped edges. Each stem bears one to five small white flowers with petals twice the length of sepals.  
Saxifrage means "rock breaker" and may derive from the plants living in rocky areas. This stand of saxifrage was on the top of a moist tundra hummock. 

Comment: Hummocks are humps of ground which are elevated above the base soil of the tundra. In a well developed hummock area the hummocks are roughly the same size with matching vegetation (one kind of plant on the hummock top and another kind in the crevices between them). One theory of hummock formation indicates that winter freezing forms polygonal cracks in the soil and summer meltwater flows into these cracks enlarging them and rounding the polygons into hummocks with troughs between them. 
Anyone walking on the tundra has had the quandry of whether to stay on the tops of the hummocks or to try to walk in the troughs between them. My short legs demand that I dance on the top of the hummocks. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Don's Blog An idyllic picnic lunch on a sunny late fall day 11-16

We are sitting in our Crazy Creek chairs by this small waterfall on Charette Creek in Warren County. There is a spectacular limestone bluff in the background above the creek bed.

We sit by the crystal clear water across from this huge sycamore tree.

I lean back in my chair and take in the towering branches above me. It is cool and crisp and the days are 
getting short. And you know what that means.

BAM BAM Bam !!!  Its the week before deer hunting season. 
Hopefully they are not shooting at us but it feels like its about 10 yards away and
who can be sure that these folks know that the season starts next week. One thing we both know - 
our lunch is over.


Don's Blog An idyllic picnic lunch on a sunny late fall day 11-16

We are sitting in our Crazy Creek chairs by this small waterfall on Charette Creek in Warren County. There is a spectacular limestone bluff in the background above the creek bed.

We sit by the crystal clear water across from this huge sycamore tree.


I lean back in my chair and take in the towering branches above me. It is cool and crisp and the days are 
getting short. And you know what that means.


BAM BAM Bam !!!  Its the week before deer hunting season. 
Hopefully they are not shooting at us but it feels like its about 10 yards away and
who can be sure that these folks know that the season starts next week. One thing we both know - 
our lunch is over.


Flower for the Day Greenland Mystery Flower #2 11-16-15

This is the last mystery flower from my Greenland images.

This is a special flower: the blossoms come from a whorl of green and brown leaves.The tiny flowers have notched white petals and lavender sepals. There are 2 or more whorls arising in sequence from each bract.
It doesn't need  a name to be enjoyed. I'm pleased just to have taken its picture and it certainly has added mystery to my life.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Greenland and Memories of the Alaskan Arctic 11-13

My Blog Reports of my trip to Greenland are slowly winding down. The trip was powerful in its ability to remind me of our times living in Anchorage in the late 60's. One of the first flowers that I recognized in Greenland was an old friend from Alaska - Arctic Cotton. Here is a classic portrait of Jan and our older boys in an entire field of Arctic Cotton in 1967.

In the wilds of Alaska we combined  artistic ingenuity with the need for handling life's challenges. Our neighbor Barbara Myers painted flowers on this useful art object. We learned from the old 'acrylic paint on the bottom' lesson why the old masters used several coats of sealer to protect their art work. Once the art was sealed it was eminently successful and highly utilitarian.

In fact we never left home without it.

This is the young Queen on the ice pack at the village of Point Hope Alaska in June of 1970.

This is the happy couple under some massive whale bones in the coastal whaling village of Point Hope. It is no wonder that I had a longing for the arctic through the years that came to fruition with multiple Canoe Expeditions to Arctic Canada and this summers trip to Greenland.

..... There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
         And the rivers all run God knows where;
      There are lives that are erring and aimless,
         And deaths that just hang by a hair;
      There are hardships that nobody reckons;
      There are valleys unpeopled and still;
      There's a landoh, it beckons and beckons,
         And I want to go backand I will. .....
      It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder,

   It's the forests where silence has lease;
      It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder,   
      It's the stillness that fills me with peace.
          Robert W. Service  The Spell of the Yukon

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Greenland Mystery Flower #1 Primrose 11-12

With help from flower pros in Colorado we think that this flower from the shore of western Greenland is a primrose.
It is either Primula egaliksensis (Greenland primrose) or Primula stricta.  They both grow in Greenland.   The pink to lilac (sometimes white) flowers are composed of five deeply notched petals fused into a tube at the base.They are arranged in a solitary tight umbel of 5 to 8 flowers at the tip of a long stem arising from a rosette of spoon-shaped basal leaves (below). 
P. egaliksensis is very similar in color, size, and shape to P. stricta. The distinction between the two requires a magnified look at the calyx. Of the two only P.egaliksensis has minute glandular hairs on the lobes of the calyx.  These hairs end in a tiny sticky globe (which I probably could have seen with my macro lens- if I had read three books, looked it up on my laptop, and sent multiple e-mails and texts and a few phone calls from the western shores of Greenland). At least I didn't step on it as I was warned not to do by Page Burt in her book Barrenland Beauties.

? Pink Family -notched petals like chick weed

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Flower for the Day Arctic Poppy Greenland 10-11

This is arctic poppy (Papaver radicatum) on the tundra. It is a solar collector. The  flowers have yellow petals which are shaped to reflect the rays of the sun onto the ovaries in the center of the corolla raising the temperature to encourage rapid maturation of the seeds. The flower head rotates to face the sun (much like sunflowers) keeping the rays focused. There are dark hairs on the outside of the maturing capsules which absorb heat also aiding seed maturation. The small black seeds are dispersed by the wind through holes in the top of the mature dry capsule.
Arctic poppies have wintergreen leaves. These are leaves that develop late in the summer and survive the winter. They remain green and can start photosynthesis as soon as the weather warms in the spring before there has been time for the new season's leaves to function. This gives the plant an important head start.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Local Swimmer breaks personal record with early November swim 11-9

Bright sunny day - clear water.

There is no hesitation. The life guard is praying that he will not be needed.

There she goes!

And here she comes.

My hero!

Flower for the Day Mouse-ear Chickweed Greenland 11-9

Mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum) is an herbaceous plant with showy white starlike flowers
bearing five notched petals. It is distinct because of the rounded tips of the petals and hairy leaves which resemble mouses ears. It is a perennial broad leaf weed with a sprawling growth pattern.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Flower for the Day Bearberry Greenland 11-5

Bearberry plants (Arctostaphylos) form mats on the tundra. The flowers are seen only in the spring (June). The leaves (below) turn
vibrant scarlet, coloring large areas of the tundra. The leaves are rounded and the base tapers to the petiole. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Flower for the Day Beach Pea Greenland 11-4

Beach Pea (Lathyrus maritimus) is a legume with many other names: sea pea, circumpolar pea, and sea vetchling. The flowers are broad with a dark purple  standard petal and paler purple and white keel and wing petals.

These beach peas were on the shore at Bratahlid, Eric the Red's hillside estate on a fjord on the south western 
coast of Greenland. Sea peas have a large worldwide distribution because of the capacity of its seeds to maintain viability in sea water for over 5 years.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Rainy Halloween Day 10-31

Neighbors drop by to check out the new kayak.

Flower for the Day Queen in the Garden 11-3

The Queen shows how tall the dahlias and morning glories grew this year. They will soon be gone 
only to return again next year.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Flower for the Day Celosia 11-2

The nights are getting colder and the garden is winding down. The celosia (Celosia cristata) in the front garden
is mature forming spear heads and cockscomb structures in bright magenta. I save the seed heads for drying and
for the seeds which are very successful in producing this annual year after year.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Flower for the Day Moss Campion Greenland 10-30

Moss campion (Silene acaulis), part of the pinks family, is a cushion plant. It is an evergreen perennial which is common in the high arctic on sand crevices and tundra. It develops a long taproot which anchors the plant and helps it extract water and nutrients from deep in the ground. The leaves and branches form a compact cushion and the flowers are a showy magenta. Larger cushions indicate older plants. Some have been dated to more than three hundred years of age. 
Moss campion is a remarkable arctic survivor withstanding both cold and drying wind. The abrasion of snow and sand driven by gale force winds can cause much more damage to a plant than just the cold alone. The dead and withered leaves of moss campion do not drop off but accumulate making the plant more like a cushion. The dead leaves shelter the living leaves from snow abrasion in the winter and from drying out in the summer. In the summer the leaves absorb the sun's warmth and trap the warmed air so that the temperature in the cushion is several degrees higher than that of the surrounding outside air. The dead leaves also provide nutrients to the cushion.
On the tundra it is like an old friend that always shows up.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Flower for the Day Lapland Rosebay Greenland 10-29

Lapland rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum) has showy upward facing flowers. It is a member of the Heath Family
(Ericaceae). The rosebay has larger blossoms than the alpine azalea and the difference between the two is in the number of stamen - 10 for the rhodadendron and 5 for the azalea.
This flower was an amazing Greenland tundra find. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Flower for the Day Marsh Marigold - Greenland 10-28

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). It is in the buttercup family and its other names
include double yellow marigold and Kingscup. It is a delicate but sturdy tundra plant. 
There are no petals but five rounded sepals. Caltha means cup and refers to the shape 
of the flower. The name from the Middle Ages referred to it as the flower of the Virgin Mary 
or Mary's gold and marybud.
 It was mentioned by Shakespeare in Cymbelline II.3:  
    Winking Marybuds begin
    To open their golden eyes