Bristow Prairie

Sabine and I had a very nice time yesterday at Bristow Prairie. No problem getting up there and no hunters, unlike my last trip. We parked on the road a little before the gravel pit and walked up into the meadow from there. We headed down toward the lake until we found the cairns. I hadn’t been sure if the trail was still in existence, since it is on the USGS map but not the new district map. Maybe that’s because it is actually in the Umpqua NF. We also hadn’t found the north trailhead although we drove very slowly hoping to spot it.

Sorbus scopulina

Sorbus scopulina in fruit

From the cairns, we decided to follow the High Divide trail to the south first and do the lake later. We were able to follow it no problem. We found some Horkelia fusca very quickly just after the trail passes through a short stretch of woods into a logged area. Unfortunately this and most everything else we saw was on the Douglas County side of the county line which appears to go right through the lake. The trail passes through some pretty sloping meadows. Mostly we saw lots of goldenrod, Symphyotrichum foliaceum, Eucephalus ledophyllus, old coneflowers and lots of Hypericum perforatum and miserably stinky Madia glomerata. There were lots of gorgeous Sorbus scopulina with brightly colored, shiny berries. The rocky meadows on the west facing side of the ridge were covered with fading Eriogonum compositum, umbellatum, AND marifolium. All 3 common little polygonums were there and blooming as well. Also some Alaska yellowcedar and a small patch of oaks. I guess that is the area called Picture Rock Prairie.

We turned around before making it all the way to the south trailhead as it started to head downhill and looked from my aerial photo like we were past the meadow areas. On the way back, I cut down through the meadow that goes all the way from the top down to the trail while Sabine took the regular switchbacks down. The top has a number of small incense cedars creeping in that should probably be removed. On the way down, I was surprised to see a damp spot, presumably spring-fed, with some blooming Parnassia cirrata and fading rangers buttons. I expected to see more of those at the lake but couldn’t find any sign of them. There were lots of Perideridia gairdneri in nice bloom there as well as at the lake.

We spent quite a while down at the lake and really enjoyed that. I was having a lucky day and many of the plants I “called up” appeared. I said to Sabine we ought to keep our eyes open for Spiranthes and it appeared right away. All were unhooded, but the first were 3-ranked and the ones on the south of the lake were regular, delicate single-ranked S. stellata. I don’t know what the orchid people think about the first ones. Maybe they are hybrids. Right after I said we should look for Comarum palustre under all the sedges, we both looked down and in unison said “here it is”, and it was still blooming nicely. There was a ton of it. I also found Montia chamissoi and Epilobium oregonense after searching likely habitat. There was Cicuta douglasii, Trifolium howellii, and lots of the old spring stuff like Caltha leptosepala, Dodecatheon jeffreyi, and Pedicularis groenlandica.

What I was especially happy about was all the aquatics in the lake. The pond lilies were still blooming, there was Sagittaria cuneata at the end of its bloom, Menyanthes trifoliata leaves and some Potamogeton, possibly P. epihydrus again. I think I solved my mystery of the small underwater leaves from Bradley Lake. They seem like they might be patches of baby waterlily leaves.

When I went down the west side of the lake to see the cotton grass and try to get closer to the water, I found several logs to walk out onto. Since we did the longer trail, I left my rubber boots in the car and was pussyfooting through the mucky areas trying not to get my feet wet. Bad idea as I walked over a rotten part of log and disturbed some wasps. I got stung twice on my hands and let out a major holler that Sabine could hear from the other end of the meadow where she was waiting. She thought I’d fallen in. My thumb is completely swollen and itchy today, but it could have been much worse.

That ended any thought of heading out the trail to the north and exploring the Lane County side, but it was getting late anyway. The cliffs at the north end look worth taking a closer look at. There was an interesting old Arnica there, possibly A. diversifolia again. There were also some very strange Phacelias along the road. One was a hastata type, but the other had wider green leaves with no side lobes and grew in a low, tight clump and had upright, nasty stinging hairs. Nothing like all the ones we’ve been looking at all summer which at this point I think must be P. heterophylla. ssp. virgata, P. nemoralis, and P. hastata.

On the way back, we went farther down Rd. 5850 to return via Coal Creek Rd instead of heading back to Bearbones Rd. At MP 42, we stopped to look at an intriguing, small, east-facing cliff and found another population of Heuchera merriamii and Ageratina occidentalis growing with Penstemon rupicola (T25S.R3E.Sec 3 or 10, I’m not sure).

The last stop was at Campers Flat CG so I could soak my aching hands in the river. There was some narrow-leaved willow there (Salix exigua? I can’t wait for the new FNA volume with Salicaceae). I was also surprised to discover the big alders along the river there are actually Alnus rhombifolia not rubra. Maybe there’s more of it around than I’ve realized. I’ve only recently started checking every alder I see. More of the shrubby ones have been A. incana than I previously realized.

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