Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Painted Canyon

Entrance to Painted Canyon

On the east side of the Coachella Valley runs the San Andreas fault and the Mecca Hills. The hills are dissected by a maze of medium size to tiny canyons. Painted canyon was today's

Before venturing into the Mecca hills, we made a brief detour to the east shore of the Salton Sea. My goal was to see some new species of tiger beetles. I was concerned, because the guide lists most of the local species as finishing their flight times in October. So it's not surprising that I saw none. Fortunately, the bird life was worth the visit.

East Shore of the Salton Sea

Black-necked Stilts

White Pelicans were abundant in the shallows

The first partof the Painted Canyon loop takes you through Ladder Canyon. Ladder Canyon is a narrow but deep slot canyon. The name comes from a series of ladders that have been placed in the canyon to allow hikers to negotiate several dry waterfalls in the canyon. This is not an exercise for the claustrophobic.

Leon on one of the ladders

In a narrow section of Ladder Canyon
This photo only works with somebody in it to show the scale

Looking up from Ladder Canyon, the sky is a narrow ribbon of blue far above you.

The canyon first closes in on you. At it's narrowest, I was unable to hold my butterfly net horizontally because the caynon walls were too close together. Gradually the walls become lower and further apart. Eventually, the trail emerges onto the stark, parched canyon rim.

Shadow self-portrait on the canyon rim

Beavertail Cactus

The trail winds along the rim of painted canyon for a way, then drops into the canyon itself. Painted Canyon is said to be named for the brigthly colored rock formations in the canyon walls. I found the colors to be brighter and more varied on our hike in Parallel Red Canyon two years ago. But it's still beautiful. In several places, white quartz fills myriad cracks in nearly black rocks, making them look as though they had been spattered with paint. Perhaps this is the real source of the canyon's name.

In Painted Canyon

Rocks and vegetation on the canyon floor

White quartz in a black rock gives it a painted appearance

We saw few insects on this hike. The grasshopper Trimerotropis pallidipennis posed nicely- but as a very abundant western species it was not terribly exciting. The sunset over the Santa Rosa Mountains and the Salton Sea was.

Trimerotropis pallidipennis

Salton Sunset

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At 16:03, Blogger Up Welng said...

this is all nice doug, but how about some eye candy of hunky men hanging-out around the swimming pool?

you are on vacation, right?

a still-pissed californian queer

At 16:56, Blogger BentonQuest said...

Your pictures always make me envious!

At 17:33, Blogger Unknown said...

I think I'll enjoy those canyons vicariously through your pictures! :)

At 19:38, Blogger cedrorum said...

Great pictures and post. I have always found the Salton Sea fascinating. Ladder canyon reminds me of red rock canyon just outside of Las Vegas. I used to climb around a bit there. And yes, I found the heights to get to me more than the claustrophobia.

At 21:11, Blogger Amila Suwa said...

Great photos, thanks for sharing them. Ladder Canyon looks interesting. As you promised, lots of great Sky Watch captures.

At 23:08, Blogger Ur-spo said...

I enjoyed them too, particularly Leon's backside.

At 01:22, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Rick- Having a wonderful time, wish you were here. But the economy is keeping folks away. We're the only folks here right now, and since you wanted photos of hunky men we'll have to wait for some other guests to arrive.

Ben and Lem- Thanks. Other than the claustrophobia, this hike is pretty easy.

cedrorum- Did you used to climb? Like with ropes and such? I haven't done it in decades, but one of the places that I have done it is Red Rocks outside of Vegas. We did not care for it- the rock surface was very sharp little shards sticking up everywhere. But it's gorgeous country.

Amila- I'm saving up good shots for skywatch. It will be something new- we'll see what I end up choosing.

Spo- That shot is actually staged. When I first tried to get pictures of Leon on the ladder, he was bent over even more than he is in this shot, and it was a picture of just his backside.

At 18:26, Blogger rodger said...

My, what long legs you have!

I really love the shot looking up from Ladder Canyon. Wish I were there!

At 23:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pictures of the Salton Sea brought back memories - I collected a few Cicindela (Habroscelimorpha) californica mojavei along its north shore while hunting for a rare buprestid on a shrub in the washes (found it). I'd love to go back!

At 07:22, Blogger cedrorum said...

No, I didn't climb with ropes and such, just my hands. I got myself in some precarious situations a couple of times doing that. Put it this way, coming down is way trickier than going up when you don't use ropes.

At 20:36, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Rodger- The loooong legs effect is what prompted me to take the photo.

Ted- I'm envious.What shrub and what buprestid?

cedrorum- I completely believe the coming down part. I got stung by wasps too many times, so I gave it up.

At 23:19, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gyascutus allenrolfeae on iodinebush (Allenrolfea occidentalis) - big, black, and beautiful! The plant occurs along the vegetated drainage washes extending from the north shore, and the beetles can be found in June sitting on the stems.

At 20:57, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Ted- Guyascutus is a genus I have much fondness for. I have collected and photographed G. caelata in the Whetstone Mountains of Arizona a number of times now. I believe that we had had some discussion of the nomenclature of this genus over on BugGuide.

At 17:21, Blogger Kathie Brown said...

Doug, I want to go there! That view up through the slot would be perfect for Sky Watch. You are getter better and better with photos and words! I saw that grasshopper on my window on Sunday. Thanks to you I now know what it is! Does it have a common name?

At 07:55, Blogger Arvind said...

Hello claustrophobia! I had shivers running down my spine from seeing some of the pics, although they were all gorgeous!

Came here via carnival of the arid

At 10:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 13:21, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos. I have to say I think I'd have skipped on the narrow squishy climb down!

At 15:23, Blogger Diane AZ said...

Wow, really great set of photos, especially that narrow section of Ladder Canyon, and the water birds.


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