November 7, 2009

Sycamore Canyon Wilderness - The Fall Colors

Just a short drive from Dead Horse Ranch State Park, at the meeting place of the Verde Valley and Mogollon Rim is the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness in the Coconino National Forest. The beautiful perennial stream creates a verdant oasis in this otherwise stark desert landscape.

Amongst the mesquite, creosote bush, and cactus there was a herd of pronghorns.

The snows and rain that fall on the top of the rim at 7000 feet percolate through the lava beds, coconino sandstone, and supai shales to the bottom of the Colorado Plateau sedimentary layers. Here, in the redwall limestone springs emerge at the bottom of this canyon to supply this oasis with water.

This lush riparian forest consists primarily of cottonwoods, Arizona ash, walnut, willows, box elder, grape, and the namesake sycamores contast with the reds and oranges of the canyon walls. The alders remain green the longest and had not started dropping their leaves.

Slightly further back hackberries, acacias and mesquites provide slightly different shades of green and brown.

Just a few feet above the water table, the landscape changes to mid-desert vegetation of prickly-pear and cholla cactus, yucca, palo verde, agave, and junipers.

We visited Sycamore Canyon in late summer 7 years ago to see the beautiful green colors contrasting against the red rock of the redwall limestone.

But, to visit it in early November at the peak of the fall colors was a real treat. The bright yellows of the various trees made for a brilliant sight. The cool waters made for nice splashing for Hilina and Maile. This wonderland of vegetation is one of my favorite places in the world. And, I do not mean that lightly.

It is hard to argue when you see sites like this. It is just too easy to lay back, relax, and waste away the day in this true wilderness.

Oh and did I mention it was 75 degrees in early November at 3800 feet?

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