Gray Fox

The Gray fox family that has chosen our property as a home is back this year. This is the most common type of fox in Arizona, living in the deserts and mountains. Flag Hike- Fox dainty 4x3-1These foxes are the only member of the dog family that can climb trees, where they will eat birds and eggs, or acorns or fruit.

Flag Hike- Fox sky watching vertical 4x3-1They stay on the alert from all directions, and have created a den in a rocky hillside. The den has numerous exits, and might extend for dozens of feet underground. They come out during the day to bask in the sun and to hunt. They weigh about 10 pounds.

Flag Hike- Fox side 4x3-1Flag Hike- Fox cat-like 4x3-1Flag Hike- Fox face-1They seem to trust that we are not a great danger to them.

Hiking in the Cool Country of Northern Arizona

A short, easy Summer loop hike from Snow Bowl Road on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff leads to Alfa Fia Tank.

The Trailhead for Alfa Fia Tank

The Trailhead for Alfa Fia Tank begins at this post and rail fenced meadow. Parking a car is easy.

The San Francisco Peaks as seen from the shoulder of the mountain.

The San Francisco Peaks as seen from the shoulder of the mountain.

A butterfly on wild Iris.

A butterfly on wild Iris.

Deep ferns line the trail.

Deep ferns line the trail.

Aspen, Spruce and Ponderosa Pine trees.

Aspen, Spruce and Ponderosa Pine trees.

The first view of the meadow and the distant cinder cones of the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

The first view of the meadow and the distant cinder cones of the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

Alfa Fia Tank.

Alfa Fia Tank.

Tall Aspens surround the meadow.

Tall Aspens surround the meadow.

Aspen Corner -  Alfa Fia Tank don't fence me in-1

The meadow offers many great picnic spots.

The area once was fenced, but only the posts and a few strands of barbed wire remain.

The area once was fenced, but only the posts and a few strands of barbed wire remain.

Rain closes in on the trail.

Rain closes in on the trail. The Summer monsoon season typically lasts through July, with frequent showers and thunderstorms.

Filled with Surprises

Cave Creek area desert wash

I enjoy finding things about Arizona that are new to me after living here for a lifetime. I grew up hiking with my father and scouring the ground ahead and around me for rocks that he would help me identify. I find myself doing the same thing now with plants. Sometimes the new ones are minuscule, as this morning’s find.

I took a quick hike in the Cave Creek area, and deep in a wash were these amazingly tiny specimens. Can you spot them?

Cave Creek Eriastrum diffusum, Phlox Family ( Polemoniaceae ), Miniature Wool Star

Sometimes to really see what’s out there in nature, you have to get in really close.

Cave Creek in April Eriastrum diffusum, Phlox Family ( Polemoniaceae ), Miniature Wool Star

Cave Creek Eriastrum diffusum, Phlox Family ( Polemoniaceae ), Miniature Wool Star

Yes, crawling about on hands and knees can be dirty and awkward, and I do have to watch out for spines and biting things, but the interesting things are there to be found. These tiny flowers bloom in the desert in April and are called Miniature Wool Star, Eriastrum diffusum, Phlox Family (Polemoniaceae) I don’t recall seeing them before, but they actually are very common. Often they might be larger than these, up to 8 inches in height. These were barely 2 inches off the ground.