Archive for May, 2010
Heading back up to Deception Butte yesterday (May 29), I came upon a gorgeous bear on Rd 5847. This was probably about where Sabine and I saw a bear several weeks ago. Could it be the same bear? I imagine their territories are fairly large, but perhaps it is a related bear. It is always exciting to see a bear but especially exciting to see bears (or the same bear!) twice in one month. The flowers at Deception Butte are a little farther along than my last trip (see Dodecatheon at Deception Butte), but not as far as I expected. While the Dodecatheon pulchellum is finished, the Lomatium utriculatum still looks beautiful. Some little Hemizonella minima has started and there are beautiful flowering plants of Cerastium arvense down low on the far west end of the meadow.
Normally, my eyes tend to be fixed on the ground, looking for plants and stepping carefully across steep rocky areas such as this. Luckily, I looked up in time to see a surprising show of color in the sky. Two prisms of light were hanging along the same line. This really confounded me. It certainly wasn’t the arc of a rainbow, and I’d seen sundogs—they are vertical on either side of the sun. An internet search indicated this was most likely a circumhorizon arc, something I’d never heard of before. It’s part of a very large halo around the sun. It is only seen at certain times of year when the sun is very high. I was in fact looking due south right around when the sun was highest in the sky. I had seen a light halo around the sun as I drove east of Hwy 58 in the morning, so evidently the atmospheric conditions were right for some wonderful optic phenomena. For some amazing photos of circumhorizon arcs and other colorful atmospheric displays, check out Atmospheric Optics. Read the rest of this entry »
When admiring a froth of tiny white flowers growing over seepy rocks in the Western Cascades, it’s usually necessary to take a closer look before putting a name on the plant. Despite being in entirely different families, Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii) and Nuttall’s saxifrage (Cascadia nuttallii, formerly Saxifraga nuttallii) are very similar in appearance and enjoy the same habitat. This is an interesting case of convergent evolution. While Romanzoffia thompsonii tends to be found at higher elevations, in some places, including at Cloverpatch, they grow side by side. Romanzoffia thompsonii is an annual, while Cascadia nuttallii is considered a perennial. To me at least, this isn’t apparent from sight. Read the rest of this entry »
The promised sunny day never materialized, but with all the rain we’ve had lately, John Koenig and I didn’t let the weather stop us from going up to Cloverpatch on Monday (May 24). John once had a survey plot in one of the oak patches near the trail, so he’d been there many times, but he’d never been to the upper meadows before. I was anxious to get to the upper west meadows I’d finally reached in February when little was in bloom. So we were excited to head out for a long day of exploring.
Much of what I’d seen earlier this month (read The Rocky Meadows of Cloverpatch) was still blooming including many fairy slippers. There was even a little Crocidium multicaule still blooming almost 3 months after I’d seen it there on my first trip this year. The balsamroot was much farther along though, and this was one of the highlights of the day. Their large, sunny yellow flowerheads brightened up the mostly cloudy day and more than made up for the fact that it sprinkled off and on for most of the afternoon. Luckily, these were very light showers that didn’t soak through clothes, and we were both prepared with rain pants for all the wet foliage we had to pass through. Read the rest of this entry »
Sunday (May 23rd), Sabine and I led a hike to Heckletooth Mountain, right outside of Oakridge, for a group of folks mainly from the Native Plant Society (NPSO) and the Rock Garden Society (NARGS). We had been thinking about doing this for several years as this is a relatively close-in, easy access hike with a number of wonderful wildflowers. We planned the hike much earlier this year when it looked like it was going to be an exceptionally early spring. As we all know, hindsight is 20/20 vision. The cold spring practically stopped everything dead in its tracks. I did at least have the foresight to schedule a rain date, so people were prepared when we decided to move the hike from Saturday to Sunday. Not only did it rain for much of Saturday, but the snow level came down well below 3000′.
We were quite surprised to have 19 participants (one of the canine variety) on what was still an iffy weather day. We had spent much of the week worrying about the trip in light of the dreadful combination of downpours, hail, high winds, and thunderstorms, as well as the low snow level, and had been thinking about our backup plan should snow prevent us from getting to the top of the mountain. What we hadn’t considered was what to do if we couldn’t even reach the trailhead. As we made our way up the short gravel road to the trailhead, we were surprised and dismayed to see two good-sized trees across the road. Another fitting saying is “many hands make light work.” It turned out having 18 people was perfect for this situation—that and a bow saw that I keep in the back of my vehicle for emergencies. Had I been alone, I would have just turned around, but with this gungho crowd, we dispatched the road block in no time. Read the rest of this entry »
Although the promised sunny day didn’t really materialize until after we got back to the car, Sabine and I had a good trip to Deception Butte near Oakridge yesterday. It was a last minute decision to head up to this relatively low-elevation, rocky knob after I remembered that there was Dodecatheon pulchellum up there growing in a very similar situation to the ones at Cloverpatch, and I wanted to continue to survey and collect at my known populations. Being a botanist—not an ardent hiker—we headed up to the upper trailhead (accessed from Road 549 off of 5847). This makes the trip quite short, although it is still steep and rocky.
The open rocky slope was not as far along as I’d hoped, in spite of being south-facing and only 3500′ in elevation. Both Lomatium hallii and L. utriculatum were in bloom, along with a few of their close relative, Sanicula graveolens. Lots of things were showing promise of a great bloom in the next few weeks, however, and as we traversed the open area, we found more Delphinium menziesii in bloom along with a few early Castilleja hispida, Romanzoffia californica, and Cascadia nuttallii. The tiny Collinsia parviflora and Mimulus alsinoides were also in bloom. The madrones are gorgeous up there. The ones up at our level were in bud, but we could see them blooming a couple of hundred feet below near the bottom of the open area. Tempting as it was to go down the slope to see what else might be further along, I could imagine how my calves would feel trying to get back up to the top, so I settled for binoculars to explore the lower areas. Read the rest of this entry »
Anyone who has driven down Highway 58 toward Oakridge in Lane County has probably noticed the distinctive terraced meadows of Cloverpatch Butte across the river. The Cloverpatch Trail cuts through just a few of these, giving a small glimpse of the meadow, rock, and seep habitats found all along the south slope. Most of the meadows are well below 3000′, making this more upland prairie than subalpine meadow, but elements of both are present.
The trail starts at the east end maybe halfway up (reached from TIre Creek Road 5826, 3.8 miles up from North Shore Rd 5821), bypassing the easternmost meadow by only about 50′. It then switchbacks through the woods and into several meadows in the middle before heading uphill through the woods continuing north to road 124 and the top of Cloverpatch Butte itself. At the end of February, I went to Cloverpatch hoping to find a way to the uppermost meadows at the west end. With the help of my wonderful GPS (how did we survive without all these great electronic gizmos?), I had no problem finding it. There were some dazzling drifts of Crocidium multicaule and a great view west down Lookout Point Reservoir. I had thought maybe I could check that out again yesterday, but my main goal for the day was to explore the highest meadow up to the east. I had been there a number of times before, but had never done a very thorough job. Two plants of great interest to me grow up there: Dodecatheon pulchellum and Woodsia scopulina. Both are uncommon in the Western Cascades. Read the rest of this entry »