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La Sals, UT
2011-08-3013 by
La Sals, UT  
Scenic Drive           
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On the way home I spotted the La Sal scenic loop and took it until I ran into some private homes and then turned back and went on FR 0071, which I then took a few miles to a trailhead. I turned around at that point. I drove past the La Sals in 2003 and don't really remember them at all. I remember passing the Abajos for some reason, but not the La Sals. I went past them again last summer, but didn't have the time to look at them. This time, I had the time and the desire, so I spent close to 2 hours on this side trip.

Probably the nicest thing about them this time of year is the cool air compared to Moab. The vegetation is a little different from what I'm use to. Desert shrubs give way to pinyon and juniper, which forms a dense band on the west slopes. Above that, Gambel Oak seems to cloak almost the entire mid-elevation zone. They are about 10 to 15 feet tall, 3 to 6 inches or so in diameter and dense. It looks healthy, and it's everywhere. Near creeks and on north facing slopes, Douglas fir mixes in. I saw maybe 2 or 3 ponderosa pines in a creek bottom with the Doug-fir, but I saw far more ponderosa pines near Monticello then on the La Sals. While the west side seems like it should be the wetter side of the mountain, the vegetation on other aspects may be different. However, it did not appear to be from a distance.

The oak goes up pretty high and mingles with aspen before that takes over. From there spruce mingled in, but it wasn't as dense as the aspen or the oaks. I turned around at a trailhead on the road at the end of a switchback at an elevation near 9,000'. From what I could see, above that point it was a mix of aspen and spruce up to a very high treeline (looked to be over 12k') and the alpine zone. The mountain tops looked like bare rock from 3,000 below.

I looked at some photos taken on the south side of the La Sal Pass area, and of the higher peaks. There is some alpine vegetation, but it is low on the slopes and it must have browned out when I saw the range, as nothing looked green up there. Not so for the Peaks near Flag which still have green in their green areas. On the south slope, in photos, there appear to be scattered ponderosa in a mostly Gambel oak forest. I guess being a small range deep in to the desert mid-elevation moisture is lacking and that limits ponderosa growth.
Let it SNOW!!! above 5500'.
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