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Bear(grass) attack!
posted by John : July 3, 2014

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Granite Mountain is usually where we go for glissades in June. Heavy snows keep the basin white and fast on the descent.

But this year was not like any other year. This year the snow was melted off the winter route and only just filling the basin on the north side. The rest of the meadows were covered in a different kind of white.


If you aren't familiar with beargrass you might think it looks a little like an alien plant. Sure, the base is a tuft of basic grass, but in the Spring a stalk grows out the middle with a big tip that kind of looks like a corn cob. As the weather warms tiny flowers burst from the cob from the bottom up until a ball of white is held aloft.

Even it's name is weird. Xerophyllum tenax. Granted, most Latin names are weird, but this one seems to be a little bit weirder. Beargrass is one of those plants that recolonizes burn zones and thrives in the subalpine.

I like it, but it's one of Clara's favorite plants. Way back in 2007 on her first overnight trip we found flowering beargrass at Scout Lake. She freaked out. It's always cool when we find it on a hike.

On Granite Mountain, though, it was a full on invasion. As soon as we broke out of the thick trees they began appearing. The long stalks leaned over the trail and soon my pristine, if smelly black shirt was dusted with beargrass pollen. In the meadows it was a thicker bloom than I remember ever seeing.

As we climbed higher we marched back in time and the flowers became cobs and then just patches of grass under the snow. Treen and I stayed low in the snow-filled basin to avoid the man-eating rocks along the ridge and saw no more flowers. As much as I know Treen loves flowers, I'm sure she was out of her mind on the snow. Soon the poor dog will have to hike without snow, but for now she revels in it and it soothes her weary paws. (Gee. Anthropomorphize much?)

The sun was already beginning to set as we headed back through the fields of beargrass down the mountain. I didn't have my good camera so we didn't linger. I'm sure we'll find beargrass on more peaks until the snow covers it up and it lies in wait for us. Ready to attack next Spring.


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