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rainbow tour

I haven’t been cooking much lately because we’ve spent the weekend polishing off leftovers, planning our summer, enjoying my return to normalcy, and taking it easy (not really in my vocabulary, but sometimes it is worse to fight it). This morning we packed up the dog and camera and set off down the canyon for a stab at the blooms in Boulder.

a lesson in geography, weather
I realize there may be some climate confusion for folks who see pictures of snowy mountain ridges posted alongside beautiful wildflowers in my entries. For clarification: we live in the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 8500 feet. Don’t try looking anywhere on the US East Coast for a point that is 8500 feet, because there isn’t one. Our bathroom is higher than their highest peak Mount Mitchell (6684 ft.) in North Carolina. [That’s right, the highest peak on the East Coast is not Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, even though many New Englanders would like you to think as much.] The town of Boulder, Colorado lies to the East of us by 18 miles and is nestled against the Front Range at 5430 feet.

satellite imagery by Google

The terrain abruptly transitions from mountainous to flat when you arrive in Boulder from the West. From here on out, you’re on the Great Plains. The 3000 foot elevation difference between our house and Boulder usually translates into approximately 16Β°F difference in temperature for dry air. Boulder is typically warmer unless there is an inversion. Large scale weather moves from West to East here and as the air masses descend over the North American Continental Divide, they release their moisture on the western slopes of the mighty Rocky Mountains (orographic precipitation). That is why there is so much great skiing in this state.

a sample temperature profile based on USGS professional paper 1019

While we sit in the rain shadow of the Rockies, we still tend to receive some leftover moisture. It can snow a foot at our house and Boulder can remain bone dry. On occasion we have upslope events when the air masses arrive from the East instead of the West. That is when Denver and Boulder get whacked with snow and we usually enjoy a nice Big Dump Snow Day at home too. But usually, Boulder is enjoying weather that is 1/2 season warmer than ours. Their winters are milder, their summers are hotter and drier, and their flowers bloom earlier.

We were greeted with a veritable rainbow of wildflowers this morning! Already, some of the varieties are past prime while others are just getting started. Here’s a tour:

sand lily

common mouse ear chickweed

buzzy bee on golden banner

western wallflower

spring beauty

wild iris

blue flax

Boulder hit the 80s today, but we were there early because we hate the heat and we loathe crowds. Early morning starts are a necessity for mountaineering because you want to ascend while the snowpack is still firm and frozen as well as get off the mountain before afternoon thunderstorms roll in, but we also like to apply it to our hikes. Most people just don’t get out early, and I like it that way.

a blooming cherry in front of flatiron #3

Something that I quite love about Boulder is how green it is – in more ways than one! For a city of about 100,000, full of buildings and homes, you’d never know it from the views. I didn’t quite realize this until Jeremy pointed it out from a nice vantage point today.

you see a lot of trees

Looking to the West of that shot is where Boulder abuts the foothills – the gateway back home for us.

the view north along the front range

25 nibbles at “rainbow tour”

  1. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    I get panic attacks just thinking about hiking but there’s something about your photography that makes me want to climb every mountain. Your neck of the woods sounds somewhat like New Zealand in that you can be in the middle of a city but also so close to nature (at least where my flat is – outside my bedroom window is a damn valley!) Also, good grief you live high up! :)

  2. manggy says:

    Beautiful views! I love nature (and my share of city life as well– I’m spoiled and I want it both ways), and it would be such a thrill to hike that, but I’m not sure I can take it as well as you guys do– you, Jeremy, and Kaweah are all probably polycythemic and I would suffocate on your doorstep. And oh yeah, freeze, heh :)

    I love how you put the temperature of Boulder in red. 52Β°F!!1!ZOMG!!1!1!! Hahaha.

  3. Lan says:

    it’s cold where you live.

    thank you for the geography lesson. i didn’t do very well in my geo class in college, i think i passed with a C.

  4. Amy says:

    Jen, love the pictures — the flowers are just *gorgeous.* We took a vacation last June out to Boulder and the Rockies — it was our first time, and I remember seeing tons of blooming golden banner. I will never forget the scenery on that trip…it was heart-achingly beautiful! You’re lucky to live there! :)

  5. Tartelette says:

    I grew up in the mountains and your post reminded me of the wonderful hikes I used to do with my dad in Spring and Summer. Gosh, I miss those days!! I did Mt Mitchell, ehehe…ok so no big deal for your type of terrain but no I have got Colorado envy!! The pictures of the flowers are perfect!

  6. Rosa says:

    Wow, mindblowing pictures! I’d love to visit that part of the world! Stunningly beautiful!



  7. Abby says:

    Great post – I’d love to see Colorado someday. Your pictures are so beautiful! The orange wildflowers are my fave!

    And we N.C.ers know about Mount Mitchell. We just don’t like to brag. HA.

  8. Amy says:

    Those wildflowers are stunning! :)

  9. Graeme says:

    What a nice weekend – Great plant life.

    I’m just having a hard time imagining how you “packed up the dog” Lol.
    Does she fold away?

  10. Judith says:

    I’ve always wanted to visit Colorado, and now that I live a day’s drive away in Iowa I don’t have the money for a trip. Boo. It’s funny you mention Mt. Mitchell. My elementary school textbooks couldn’t shut up about two things: how diverse our state’s soil was and how high Mt. Mitchell was. When I went there I remember thinking “gee, this is nothing special.” I love some of our mountains, but in that part of the country it’s more about the colours of the ranges than the height.

  11. zoe / puku says:

    wow, that really is a green city! I wonder if that was by official design or just the type of people attracted to living/building in Boulder?

    and I can’t believe how cold and dry you live… after our 4+ years in tropical FNQueensland I am really struggling in autumnal Sydney (freezing, skin cracking and falling off), I don’t expect to survive the winter, and um, Sydney winter is looking kinda tame compared to Your Town!

  12. peabody says:

    I just had a flashback to 8th grade science class. :)
    You do have some lovely flowers out your part.

  13. Mrs Ergul says:

    You sure know your flowers and I can’t say the same for myself sadly

  14. Kitt says:

    What a lovely day! The lilacs are blooming down here and smell delicious. Glad you got some flower-viewing to brighten your day, too.

  15. Christine says:

    Jen – who knew I’d learn some fun botany and geography on a food blog? :)

    I think it’s so cool that you’ve been able to get out and photograph so much of spring’s fleeting but marvelous splendor. Also, I think it’s great that Boulder is so green. I grow more and more envious of where you live, Jen. :)

  16. Astrid says:

    That was a fun post to read. Makes me want to get up and go out early. There’s lots of nice hiking to do here in Switzerland. Of course, I have to drag with me three kids five and under… There better be some lovely flowers to justify that level of exertion!

  17. White On Rice Couple says:

    We’re jealous of your view! Gorgeous!!
    Maybe we should move to that area instead of Pagosa, thinking…
    Thanks for the great lesson too, I feel like I should be taking a test on this later!

  18. cindy says:

    Where I live isn’t bad, but you live in paradise. Wait–doesn’t it get HOT in the summer?

    Great shot of the bee!

  19. Isa says:

    The pictures are amazing! It looks like a georgeous place the Boulder.

  20. Maja says:

    Nice to see you’re active as always! :) The pictures are amazing! :) I hope you’re now cancer-free and that drugs’ side effects are wearing off. As soon as you tell us that, i’m opening that champagne, i didn’t forget! :) xoxoxo, Maja

  21. diva says:

    do love stopping by your blog. you take lovely pictures as always. love the one with the pretty bee!

  22. andromeda says:

    beautiful pictures!! i’ve been lurking around your site for a while, salivating at your cooking pictures. the flowers are lovely though! funny that you call it a “western wallflower”. we have a few Siberian wallflowers (purple) and my neighbour has the orange one. i see the orange ones at nurseries and i look at the tag every time EXPECTING it to be called “—— wallflower” but they never are. the places around here (no. cal) give it some exotic name, which while i’m sure is technically correct, it makes no sense that they would call the purple ones wallflowers and the orange ones something completely different even though they look like exactly the same plant save for the color of the flowers. thanks for the clarification!

  23. Christina says:

    Lovely pictures!

  24. DJStates says:

    Lovely photos. You need a Winter that you survive to really appreciate the Spring. But hey, you did it kid, so enjoy those wild mountain blossoms!

    Amazing how local the weather is in Colorado. I am told that there are neighborhoods in Hawaii where moving a block can change your annual rainfall but 10s of inches. In the Midwest we get to watch the storms roll across the radar map with forecasts that say “a line of thunderstorms will hit Chelsea at 5:15, Ann Arbor at 5:35 and downtown Ypsilanti at 5:50”. Spooky for those of us who grew up with weather forecasts that were about as accurate as the Farmer’s Almanac.

  25. jenyu says:

    Laura = yes, I love living up high as it makes for great ski conditions in winter :) You know, if I lived in NZ I’d be outside hiking every day (with good rain gear!). Just take care as some of the tracks in NZ are really quite dicey! But absolutely lovely :)

    Mark – it only takes 2 weeks to acclimate to the elevation :) We’ll wrap you in several blankets if you ever come to visit us!

    Lan – mmmm, usually :) oh, it’s always good to learn things, no?

    Amy – thank you! We really love it here. We thought long and hard about where we wanted to settle down and Boulder won out by two hairs!

    Tartelette – Mitchell is a gorgeous hike. We did it one morning before my girlfriend’s wedding in Asheville a few years ago. The terrain and plants are so different, but absolutely wonderful and pleasant. You’ll have to come visit me sometime in summer when the high country wildflowers are in bloom. You’ll see pics of those in a month or so – stay tuned!

    Rosa – thank you :)

    Abby – I knew you NC’ers would pipe up about Mitchell! That is a wonderful hike and the drive getting to the trailhead was also beautiful, as was Asheville (we were there for a wedding in April – stunning!). Colorado is waiting for you!

    Amy – thanks!

    Graeme – packing up the dog = gathering her leash, collapsible bowl, treats, poop bags, and dog :) She doesn’t quite fold away, rather she leaps into the back of the Subaru and cries incessantly until we reach the trailhead!

    Judith – in general, it’s always about the journey up the mountain. I enjoy the east coast mountains, but I have to say that my heart belongs to the Sierra Nevada – my absolute favorite mountain range in the world. A very special place.

    Zoe/puku – oh, there is a lot of urban planning in Boulder that is entirely intentional. It is a well-planned city as cities goes in this country. Yes, having been to Sydney last year, I must say there is a huge difference between my town and Sydney – although I cannot even imagine what it must have been like in Queensland! I hope you’ll survive Sydney winter!!

    Peabody – thanks :)

    Mrs. Ergul – it’s just a hobby of mine… I’m not so great with trees and shrubs! :)

    Kitt – yeah, you guys are even warmer than we are!

    Christine – ha ha ha! I’m a tool ;) Hey, there are houses for sale out here. Boulder’s winters are milder than AA!!

    Astrid – oh, I sure hope you get out to see the flowers in your own neck of the woods. They must be stunning. And it is a wonderful thing to do with small children!

    WoRC – yes yes! move here and we can be cooking buddies and you can protect me from ornery Viet female waitresses :) No test, just come visit!

    Cindy – you guys live in a pretty sweet place. We just can’t justify spending the rest of our lives paying off a shack in the bay area and sitting in traffic for a substantial fraction of our lives :) Boulder hits the 90s in summer and we get up to the 80s (that’s hot for me) in our town, but it’s usually dry. Our summers are short, but I can’t say I’m sad about that. Usually when it cools down, I’m eying my skis daily :)

    Isa – thank you, it really is a lovely place.

    Maja – thanks, you are so kind. Still dealing with side effects, but the thought of not having to undergo further chemo is quite lovely. I have radiation starting soon, so don’t pop the cork just yet, sweetie!! :) xxoo

    Diva – thank you!!

    Andromeda – that’s really interesting about the naming convention. I first identified western wallflowers (orange) in the Sierra Nevada. I wonder if domestic versions are named differently?

    Chrstina – thanks :)

    DJStates – will do.

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