Rabbitbrush and butterscotch.

Last week was full of rocks and trees and even flowers. Joy and I took the children to Garden of the Gods, where red sandstone in ragged forms towers above the walking paths. Even the littlest guy walked more than two miles among the juniper and mountain mahogany, and wildflowers mostly gone to seed. The Gambel oaks, also known as Rocky Mountain white oak or Colorado scrub oak, had probably displayed more varied shades of orange and yellow a few weeks ago, but when we encountered them the leaves had aged to a rich, mellow gold.

We saw the rabbitbrush in many forms and places, but didn’t know what it was until just before we left the park and saw its picture in the visitor center. I have known of rabbitbrush for decades and I hope that after this extended encounter I will not forget it so easily. We saw its flower, two sorts of galls on the plants, and noticed its needly leaves and how they are softer than conifer needles. One of the galls is cottony gall; the other I haven’t been able to identify.

The very next day the whole family drove up to Woodland Park; it’s less than an hour to this town that lies at 8500 feet. We walked along Lovell Gulch Trail, among several species of conifers and groves of aspens. We suspected they were aspens, but we knew that birch have similar bark, so when we got home I googled around and it became clear that yes, what we saw were aspens, so plentiful in the Rockies and in dry places high up, while birches like floodplains and shade. And the few leaves that we saw  — most had fallen after turning bright yellow — matched the pictures of aspen. I only saw one bright leaf, of another species.

We admired the bark of other trees, especially one that had lots of texture, and fresh sap flowing. Soldier had a sudden thought, came close to get a whiff, and concluded, “Oh, it must be a Jeffrey pine — they smell like butterscotch.” Indeed. Oh, that was delicious! I made up a mnemonic story for myself about a boy named Jeffrey who was walking down the trail and discovered a butterscotch drop on a tree trunk.

The view of the mountains is striking from there, a different perspective from our daily one. We have seen Pikes Peak from several angles now, and don’t know the names of any of the other peaks visible from here. Soldier just read that Colorado has more than 50 peaks over 14,000 feet. Colder temperatures are coming this week, and yes, snow is on the forecast, too. So our views will grow even more spectacular.

11 thoughts on “Rabbitbrush and butterscotch.

  1. I enjoy following your family adventures. You see and record things I may have seen but never looked at closely the way your camera eye does. And those children are seeing and learning the way mine never had the chance to. Inspiring–all of you!

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  2. Oh my, those impressive red rocks!! I’ve never seen anything like them! Truly astounding! I very much enjoyed your Rabbit Brush educating, they are rather sweet. I wish blogs could share all the senses as I’d love to smell that butterscotch aroma! Soldier is remarkably well informed!
    It must be a delight to be able to see those vast mountains on a regular basis! I look forward to snowy views!

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  3. Such beauty surrounding you on those walks! I love the different barks of trees, there’s always so much interest in the texture and colours of bark. Imagine a sap that smells like butterscotch … how intriguing! Meg:)

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  4. Ha, Pike’s Peak! I have heard of this only because I spent my childhood reading the What Katy Did series over and over again. In the fourth book, Clover, Katy’s sister Clover goes to Colorado with her delicate little brother to nurse him back to health, and Pike’s Peak features. Nice to see it ‘in person’:) Glad you are enjoying good times with your lovely family xx

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  5. Beautiful photos! How wonderful to smell a tree that has the aroma of butterscotch!! Why doesn’t everyone have that in backyards across the nation? I’d think it would be wonderfully popular. The photo of the evergreen with the little blue “berries” is so pretty. And those white galls! How unusual! I’m thrilled you’re having such a good time there.

    Liked by 1 person

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