Monday, May 7, 2012

Monolith Gardens Loop - Cerbat Flats RA - 5/6/12

                             Monolith in Monolith Garden, Kingman, AZ

                                Flowers found on the Monolith Garden Loop

 For the second day of the two day Kingman, AZ excursion, the Around the Bend Friends visited an area of bike and hike trails found near the junction of Hwy 93 and Interstate 40. A larger group of twenty-two hikers went on a short 3.5 mile trail with tons of blooming flowers. A smaller group of five married couples (coincidentally!) went on the Monolith Garden Loop Trail where, not only were there tons of flowers, but also rock formations galore! As this was a purely desert hike, we got out there early as it was to be a warm day with a small bit of wind.

                                Monolith Garden landscape.

 The hike began at a trailhead to the north of Hwy 93 but as we made our approach to the loop, we hiked underneath one of the highway's bridges. At around 3/4 of a mile, we reached the loop and turned left for a clockwise adventure into the beautiful desert. The trail was flat with very few places of elevation change over the course of 8 miles.

                                Monolith Garden Loop Trail

 The monoliths for which the "garden" is named were made of the same conglomerate as was found in the mountains of yesterday's hike. The tallest plants were "trees" of the ephedra family. Yes, Mormon Tea the size of joshua trees! As we hiked, we enjoyed conversation and lots of photography. The trail took us through wide canyons and across open desert.


 To the left, there is a photo of a rock formation that we called either a turtle or a camel. (Or, a turtle that ate a camel....) Anyway, as we rounded one corner, we were surprised to see ocotillo plants. We don't have these plants in the wilds of Las Vegas. Several bicyclists were sharing the system of trails and passed by us a few times.
This part was familiar to us as we often hike on bike trails at home, too.


Fouquieria splendens Engelm. is a desert plant of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Common names include ocotillo, desert coral, coachwhip, Jacob's staff, and vine cactus, although it is not a true cactus. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green. 

 With rainfall the plant quickly becomes lush with small (2-4 cm) ovate leaves, which may remain for weeks or even months. The bright crimson flowers appear especially after rainfall in spring, summer, and occasionally fall. Flowers are clustered indeterminantly at the tips of each mature stem. Individual flowers are mildly zygomorphic and are pollinated by hummingbirds and native carpenter bees. Ocotillo plants prefer well drained sandy or gravely loam soils with light to moderate amounts of organic content. ~ Wikipedia

                        Blooming Beavertail Cactus - Opuntia basilaris

 We took our break at the high point of the hike seen to the left, a saddle between wide canyons. When we started out again, we found a desert tortoise on the trail. She was headed up the hill toward her burrow found just below the row of rock. She wasn't too alarmed to see all those two legged creatures, she was just anxious to take the food that was in her mouth back home. For us, though, it was very thrilling.

                                             Desert Tortoise

     The tortoises are able to live where ground temperature may exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) because of their ability to dig underground burrows and escape the heat. At least 95% of its life is spent in burrows. There, it is also protected from freezing winter weather while dormant, from November through February or March. With its burrow, this tortoise creates a subterranean environment that can be beneficial to other reptiles, mammals, birds and invertebrates.
     The desert tortoise is a herbivore. Grasses form the bulk of its diet, but it also eats herbs, annual wildflowers, and new growth of cacti, as well as their fruit and flowers. Rocks and soil are also ingested, perhaps as a means of maintaining intestinal digestive bacteria as a source of supplementary calcium or other minerals. As with birds, stones may also function as gastroliths, enabling more efficient digestion of plant material in the stomach.
     Much of the tortoise’s water intake comes from moisture in the grasses and wildflowers they consume in the spring. A large urinary bladder can store over forty percent of the tortoise's body weight in water, urea, uric acid and nitrogenous wastes. During very dry times they may give off waste as a white paste rather than a watery urine. During periods of adequate rainfall, they drink copiously from any pools they find, and eliminate solid urates. Adult tortoises can survive a year or more without access to water.
     One defense mechanism the tortoise has when it is handled is to empty its bladder. This can leave the tortoise in a very vulnerable condition in dry areas, and they should never be alarmed, handled or picked up in the wild unless they are in imminent danger (like in a road). If they must be handled, and their bladder is emptied, then water should be provided in order to restore the fluid in their body. ~ Wikipedia

 We passed a number of turnoff trails but Chris competently found the right routes and got us back to the loop approach before the heat got too bad. Hiking back to the cars, we were all tired but very happily satisfied with our little excursion to our neighboring state. Until next year, Kingman! And a great big "thank you" to Chris and Diane for coordinating the whole shebang!

                                Hiking among the desert blooms.

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