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I have readily admitted that the main motivation for these Diaries is for me to have a set of notes from my trips for future use when memories fade and one trip just blends into another. Each day’s report is best written at the end of the day being reported on and the images of that day need to reflect what I’m writing – no point in saying that you’ve seen xyz when you have no images to prove it.

Today’s report somehow got missed out and it’s now the 17 May 2012 when I try to write this report up from memory and with the help of images taken.

Every cactus trip has its highs and lows, the latter often due to ‘driving days’ where few or no cacti are seen and the objective is just to eat miles to get to better cactus spots. S2535, east of Vernal was an early comfort break stop, in the hope of finding some cacti in the most likely looking scenery for 24 hours. Alas, no cacti seen, even though I’m always on the look out for the odd Opuntia to avoid a ‘no cacti’ stop.

Our cameras were hungry for cacti as lens fodder and research back home had told us that Pediocactus simpsonii was listed in the Dinosaur National Monument. We picked up the usual park map at the entrance to the park and wondered if we had done the right thing in buying a National Park Annual card, as this week seemed to be National Park weeks, with no admission charges. As the road climbed and offered some views over the plateau below us we stopped at the first view-point (S2536). We were happy to find an Opuntiod or two, one looked like a small Opuntia sp with flattened pads while another looked like a collection of spiny eggs on the ground. Perhaps this is the part that survives cold winters, protected by a layer of snow, while other (annual?) pads take care of growth and flowering during more favourable times. The start of more typical Opuntia pads could be seen.

S2537 was another official view-point with picnic facilities between the pine trees. We took our walkie talkies and spread out. I walked around between the trees in the faint hope that small cacti would find safety among the shrubs and seedling trees between the picnic sites. If there were, their shelters also hid them from my probing eyes. Angie, closer to the main road, did not fare much better. The Opuntias here were more advanced in their growing season and seemed to confirm the view that the rounded pads were ‘survival’ pads in the cold as more new, flat pads were emerging.

The walkie-talkie crackled and Cliff reported finding Pediocactus farther along the road and after some shouting to get the direction in which he had walked, we found him bent over in typical ‘photographing small cacti’ pose – Pediocactus simpsonii, some in flower, being the main target.

Another view-point (S2538) and this time we found a succulent, possibly a Crassulaceae with Sedum lanceolatum as the prime ID candidate. It’s difficult to ID plants if you are not familiar with the Family and when the plant that you see does not have flowers or fruits that are often key to the plant’s identification.

We finished today’s photo sessions at S2539, just another comfort break without cacti or other interesting plants found.

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