Peak(s):  "Golden Bear Pk"  -  13,010 feet
Hagar Mtn  -  13,220 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2020
Date Climbed:   07/17/2020
Author:  petal53run
 A Bowl Full of Flowers   

A Bowl Full of Flowers

When dinosaurs switched to an angiosperm diet, they survived another 65 million years. The colorful petals of flowering plants enticed the reptiles to chow down more food than their Jurassic relatives. As the dinosaurs bulldozed their way across the land, by way of their digestive tracts, flowers quickly diversified into 235000 species as recognized today. About 300 of these blanket the northern alpine meadow by the Eisenhower & Johnson tunnels.

I heard about the bowlful of flowers going up to Golden Bear (GB) and its 13000ft neighbors. So this hike has been on my early season bucket list. Job demands pressured me to stop climbing so GB, class 1-2, sounded perfect for getting back into things. Also, I’m a horticulturist and during this pandemic (my flowers need me at the park), I wanted to marvel at the wild side of floralculture.

Easily accessible by passenger car, I was second in the parking lot west of Eisenhower tunnel and encouraged by the first group of ladies to enjoy my hike because their goal was to photograph flowers. From the parking lot to the service road is Upper Straight Creek Trail, a paved walkway that changes into a double track dirt road (11140ft) framed by blankets of red mountain or alpine avens (pic1).Then a couple strides later, tons of alpine sunflowers (pic2) with fiery halos bloomed among the feathery avens. Continuing hiking SE of Straight Creek, mountain thistles (pic3) dominanted the edge of the trail as it climbed into clumps of vivid purple/white columbines (pic4). The trail thins into a rocky single track as it passes through willows. Bundles of penstemon (bell shaped for hummingbirds & pic5) yellow alpine wallflowers (pic6), bistort (looks like a Qtip &pic7) and marsh marigolds (pic8) filled both sides of the trail. From here, water flows over the trail. There were a couple pretty waterfalls, too (pic9). At the fork (11880ft), a cairn marks the right turn toward Loveland ski area (pic10).

The climb was gradual and decorated with compact sunflowers and maroon button roseroots (pic11). Thank goodness for the herds of sauropods who unwittingly planted these dazzling displays of color in this harsh environment. Turning one of the hairpins, a marmot was looking over the bolder field from his perch (pic12). Hiking higher, the steepness of the trail was doable, visible and mostly a solid dry surface while being careful to not step on the yellow stonecrop flowers (pic13) as they hugged the embedded stones in the trail. It faded when gaining the ridge to a line of metal fence posts. Since I was there, I turned right to stand on top of the tunnel (12620ft). I turned 180 degrees and walked on tundra to top GB (pic14) (13010ft). Here I savored the successful climb and lunch. Then the most astounding sight flew by: four F-16s cut through the unobstructed sky (pic15).

My new boots were breaking in comfortably and I went for Hagar. Like GB, the ridge is on the continental divide. The initial gain was on tundra spotted with campion and alpine forget me nots. Scrabbling was a manageable class 2-3. I’m pretty sure the 6th hump was Hagar (pic16)(13220); a bunch of rocky blocks. At that point, my new boots stopped me from going to Citadel. After my descent (pic17), I had hiked enough for the first break-in round.

I highly recommend the GB & Hagar hike. It was pleasant, surprisingly quiet from the visible line of traffic, close to Denver and a spectacular display of colorful flowers; thanks to our Cretaceous herbivore friends for eating these things.

In sum, I thought the standout in the landscape were the dinosaurs for their overwhelming stature. And while studying the photos of the flowers patting themselves on their little backs after hiking GB/Hagar I realized something. The first dinosaurs thought like Kermit the Frog: green is an ordinary color. Maybe the late Mesozoic era dinosaurs were not colorblind. I say the true conquistadors of the world were the angiosperms. They made color a temptation; a craving so strong that dinosaurs, the extinct species, were merely the paid movers in their search for more color in their diet. And that’s why flowering plants are happily blooming their little hearts out.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Comments or Questions
dinosaur flowers
07/22/2020 19:57
Very interesting! To think that flowers wittingly outsmarted the dinosaur and this trail is proof.

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