Archive for July, 2010
When John Koenig said he had a day free to head up to the Calapooyas with me, I was excited about showing him the wonderful spot I’d explored a couple of weeks ago and seeing if my mystery plant was in bloom yet (see More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas). So Wednesday (July 28), John and I headed back up Coal Creek Road. We couldn’t help but stop a number of times along the roadside because there was so much in bloom. The butterflies seemed to be everywhere, enjoying the flowers as much as we were. One of the plants that had drawn us both to this area many times is the rare Epilobium luteum. It was just starting to bloom. Also in the creeks and wet ditch that drain Balm Mountain were perfect Mitella caulescens, Veronica americana, masses of Senecio triangularis, and some gorgeous Epilobium glaberrimum. It may have small flowers, but they are a lovely shade of rose and are set off by attractive glaucous foliage. Glaucous foliage turned out to be the theme of the day. Farther up the road, there was a long stretch of Agastache urticifolia in full bloom. This is a real favorite of hummingbirds and large butterflies, but neither that nor flowering Castilleja miniata and pruinosa seemed to be attracting hummers. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in the fall of 2007, I checked out Big Swamp, a large wetland just south of the line between Lane and Douglas counties. This is before the Western Cascades were available in high resolution on Google Earth, so I wasn’t really sure where the good (boggy) part of the swamp was. After my hike, I drove up Big Swamp Road 2153, hoping to get a good look down on the swamp (I did). I continued on to see what was up the road and found a large wetland right next to the road. Above it loomed the rocky face of Hills Peak. I had no time to check it out that day but decided it was a place I had to get to. I had planned to do it late last summer, but the raging Tumblebug fire just to the west cancelled those plans. Read the rest of this entry »
Anyone who has read my blog reports probably can tell that cliffs are my favorite habitat. There’s just something awe inspiring about seemingly delicate flowers clinging to life high up on sheer rock. How do they even get there? There must be a lot of luck involved getting a seed into a tiny crevice on the side of a cliff where the roots can take hold. The contrast between the ephemeral flowers and age-old rock also appeals to the artist in me.
The cliffs at Table Rock have to be some of the most amazing in the Western Cascades. Over 300′ high in places, they stretch for almost 500 yards on the northeast-facing side, above the trail, and almost as much facing east—an area that looks too scary to explore. They have also created massive talus slopes. The trail crosses the talus, which in places continues over 200′ both above and below. This much rock creates what must be the equivalent to a major metropolitan area for pikas. Read the rest of this entry »
McCord Creek Falls is a great place to get a closeup look at the plants that grow on the spectacular but normally out-of-reach cliffs along the Gorge. At such a low elevation, it blooms earlier than most sites that are in the Western Cascades, so I’ve never checked it out this late in the year. On Wednesday (July 21), I was happily surprised to find a number of things still in bloom. Late-blooming Campanula rotundifolia is in its prime now, and the pretty and rare Erigeron oreganus and Hieracium longiberbe were still blooming well. Penstemon richardsonii was still showing a lot of color, and the ocean spray (Holodiscus discolor) was dripping its pretty cream wands off the cliffs. In the cool, wet conditions down at Elowah Falls, Arnica lanceolata (formerly amplexicaulis) and Packera (Senecio) bolanderi were blooming well.
I saw some things I’d missed in the past and had one nice addition to my list. I finally saw the white-flowered Spiraea betulifolia, and it was in flower. That’s a new plant for me. It doesn’t range very far south in Oregon. It grows in the woods right along the trail, but with all the other shrubs and its late flowering, I’d never noticed it before, although I knew from others’ lists that it was there. Some Madia gracilis was just starting on the trail along the cliff. I’d never noticed it before either.
It turns out a number of the ferns on the cliff face are Rocky Mountain woodsia (Woodsia scopulina). I’m surprised I didn’t look more closely at them before. I think that perhaps because they were still in good shape when the similar but glabrous fragile fern (Cystopteris fragilis) would have been shriveling up, they were more conspicuous. It does appear that Woodsia scopulina is found at a number of Gorge sites, so it isn’t very surprising. Still it is one of my favorite rock ferns and not very common in Oregon, so it was good to see it there. As late as it was, I was hoping to collect some seed but didn’t have much luck with the gorgeous Synthyris stellata. I did find some Bolandra oregana seed though and just a few Erigeron seeds were ripe. It is always worth checking out a spot well past “peak” flowering. You never know what you’ll find.
Yesterday (July 19), I returned to the Calapooyas to explore an interesting spot I discovered last fall. It’s an unnamed high point along the ridge just south of Loletta Lakes, so I’m going to dub it Loletta Peak. Much of it is steep, open gravel, and I had wondered for years what might be up there. Only last October, after the first dusting of snow had landed, did I finally manage to climb up there. I was thrilled to discover Castilleja rupicola on the north-facing cliffs (see More Castilleja rupicola in Douglas County). This is the most southern point I’d ever seen it. I was anxious to see it there in bloom as well as to see what other treasures the area might hold. Read the rest of this entry »
Pikas have to be the cutest animals in the Western Cascades, if not anywhere. It always makes me smile to hear their nasal “eemp” sound emanating from under the rocks of a talus slope, and it is a really special treat to actually see them. I hadn’t been to Whetstone Mountain in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness in several years, and I was looking forward to spending some time looking for pikas, as I’d seen them there in the past. Along the drive up, there were great masses of pink rhododendrons and purple Penstemon cardwellii, and this continued at the parking area and much of the trail. The moist woods were also beautiful with a great show of bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis), queen’s cup (Clintonia uniflora), and Sitka valerian (Valeriana sitchensis). The foliage covering the forest floor was quite lush with a great variety of interesting leaf shapes, but I didn’t linger too much until I got to my favorite spot—a great talus slope next to a shallow pond. This is prime pika habitat as the rocks are large and stable, and there is plenty of foliage nearby for hay-making. Read the rest of this entry »
Sabine and I first discovered the Youngs Rock trail in December of 2004, while looking for a sunny place to hike in the winter. The following year, we returned 7 times, trying to go back every 3 weeks or so to track the changing waves of wildflowers. We found unusual plants almost every time. Each time we returned, we thought we’d seen it all, only to be surprised by another exciting find. I’d been there 17 times all together, but somehow I’d missed seeing most of the July blooming. So yesterday (July 12), we headed back there again. I was quite certain that, this time, we wouldn’t find anything special.
Imagine my surprise when the second I stepped out of the car, there were some roses blooming—practically flat on the ground. I only know of one rose that grows like this, Rosa spithamea, the well named ground rose. I’d only seen it in the southern part of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide (at Abbott Butte and nearby), so I wasn’t ready to jump to that ID right away. There were some taller Rosa gymnocarpa growing nearby, so we had to consider these might just be odd plants of that. Perhaps they’d been mowed down by trail work or something. Nope. The undeveloped hips were completely different. Those of R. gymnocarpa are glabrous and somewhat narrow. Red glands covered the hips, sepals, leaf margins and more of the low-growing roses. We found several more areas of them still close to the trail just south of the Spur Road 435 parking area that comes in about a third of the way up the trail. Despite keeping an eye out for them all day as we headed north up the trail, we never found more, but it would be worth looking along the southern end of the trail. After looking through photos and the floras, I’m pretty convinced they are indeed Rosa spithamea (but if someone has a better idea, let me know!). Read the rest of this entry »
On my very first trip to Three Pyramids, back on June 23, 2003, I discovered an unusual yellow-flowered Castilleja rupicola (cliff paintbrush). I mentioned this to Mark Egger, the author of the upcoming Flora of North America treatment of Castilleja, and he said he’d never seen one (click here to see Mark’s beautiful Castilleja photos). I’d been hoping to see it again some day. I also wanted to continue my quest to check out all the Dodecatheon pulchellum sites I know, so I decided a trip to the Pyramids trail was in order, and yesterday (July 9), Sabine and I headed up there.
Interestingly, the bloom season was almost the same as it was on that first trip. On almost every trail I’ve been on this year, flowering has been about two weeks later than “usual”— whatever that is these days. The weather was quite different, however. On my first trip, I remember the clouds were so low that for a few minutes, all I could see from my perch on the tiny summit was mist below me. It was quite unnerving, and I was so relieved when they lifted some before I went down—especially because it turned out I was totally disoriented and facing the opposite direction I thought I was. Yesterday, on the other hand, was quite hot, and while it was clear all around us, thunder clouds built up over the Three Sisters and Mount Washington as the day wore on, and we could hear rumbling all the way back down. Read the rest of this entry »
Bristow Prairie is a large, damp meadow area in the Calapooya Mountains. There is a trail of sorts that starts in Douglas County and runs along a ridge down to the main meadow area. A wet meadow and a shallow lake with a number of aquatic plants lies below the trail just by the county line. The trail is harder to follow to the north on the Lane County side—or so I thought. I’d only been there twice. The first trip (see Bristow Prairie), Sabine and I checked the lake and explored the Douglas County ridge looking for Horkelia fusca. I’ve seen it in a few places in Douglas County, but it seems determined to avoid crossing into Lane County. Late last summer, we bushwhacked down to two small lakes hidden in the woods, one on each side of the county line (see Hidden Lakes at Bristow Prairie), and then did a little exploring on the ridge to the north. We came across a large, open, gravelly slope. As it was August, it was all dried up, but it definitely looked worth returning earlier in the year. We also found an odd dried up plant that I later determined must be whisker brush (Leptosiphon [Linanthus] ciliatus), something I’d never even heard of, let alone seen. Read the rest of this entry »
The Western Cascades is one of the best tree-growing places in the world, and we have some beautiful old growth forest still remaining in spite of the extensive logging. But the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so, naturally, I’m always looking for non-forested spots—meadows, outcrops, wetlands, and so on. While I use Google Earth to look for naturally open areas now, in the “old days”, I used to look for white spots on the USGS map. Sometimes I got lucky. On a trip to Twin Lakes in August of 2004, I got really lucky when I discovered the old BVD trail.
The Twin Lakes trail is one of the most beautiful in the North Umpqua district. There are two beautiful lakes, huge old growth trees in the forest, and both wet and dry meadows. The second time I went to Twin Lakes, I ended up camping by the trailhead. I woke up really early and decided to see what a nearby large white area on the map represented. Instead of heading west from the parking lot onto the Twin Lakes trail, I headed east. There is a very short stretch of road that ends at a man-made pool of water, presumably there for fire fighting. A sign read “BVD Trail No. 1511, caution this trail is not maintained and may be difficult to follow”. They were right about the faint trail being hard to follow, but by going straight along the ridge for less than a third of a mile, I did end up quite quickly and easily in a huge south-facing sloping meadow with wonderful rock outcrops down slope. As it was late August, everything was dried up, but I could see the remnants of balsamroot, buckwheats, and other great plants. The following year, I went back to see it in bloom and was thrilled to find lots of wonderful flowers, some of which were quite uncommon. Read the rest of this entry »