The first clue is this flower, a Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla patens), a member of the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). One of the earliest native flowers to bloom in its region, the Pasque Flower was blooming profusely in the high mountain region I visited this past weekend.
When I spotted it, I thought it was a crocus, which I knew was not native to the region. I was not being totally naive in my identification, since this flower was called "wild crocus" by the pioneers in the area. Another common name for the flower is the Easter Flower, because of its early bloom period. A little research revealed its true identity and proved that it was right where it was supposed to be, between 8500 and 11000 feet above sea level. One other thing I learned in the research is that all parts of this delicate little plant is poisonous, full of cardiogenic toxins and oxytoxins.
Nor is this lichen planting likely an easy giveaway to my vacation location, unless you are able to discern what kind of stone the lichen is growing on. There are easily 5 or 6 different species of lichen growing in this photograph, from the blue-grey mass to the light yellow and rust spots on the rock.
Are you getting warm yet? Marco? Polo.
That's all I've got for you. Ready to guess? Yes, for those who concluded that I was in Colorado, and further, that I visited the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, give yourself a pat on the back. I was visiting family this past weekend and doing touristy things, which, for anyone unfortunate enough to accompany me, always means either a botanical or historical side visit. The Florissant Fossil Beds is an interesting little spot with lots of geology and paleontology to view and I highly recommend it to those who can stand lots of fairly dry science presentations. The Park Service does what they can to make the history, both ancient and recent, come alive for visitors, but there is only so much you can do to make an Eocene fossil formation exciting to the average viewer, however fascinating it is to nerds like ProfessorRoush. Also, if you visit Florissant, be prepared for lots of hiking. There are 15 miles of foot trails leading from the Visitor Center through the National Monument.