Archive for August, 2010
On my First Trip to Hills Peak in northeastern Douglas County (click here for aerial photo), I took a look at the top of the peak and three nearby wetlands. But there were several interesting looking spots that I did not have time for, so I decided it deserved a return trip. Boy, was I right! What a wonderful day I had Thursday (August 26), with great weather, interesting and unusual plants (even though most flowers were finished), and some great wildlife experiences, including a terrific hour spent hanging out with pikas.
While exploring the part of the Western Cascades called the Calapooya Mountains over the last few years, I have repeatedly been drawn by the seemingly bleached open slopes of Balm Mountain (see map). After finding so many unusual plants at the next peak to the NNW, what I’ve dubbed Loletta Peak (see previous posts on Loletta Peak), I’ve become even more obsessed with finding out what treasures await on Balm Mountain. Yesterday (August 23), I finally indulged my curiosity. I decided to approach this mountain from my usual route up Coal Creek Road 2133. I’d never driven to the end of Road 3810, which goes just below the south sides of Loletta Peak and Balm Mountain and can be accessed from the north only by Road 5851, which is most quickly reached via Coal Creek Road. When I investigated the Skipper Lakes trail last year (see Some Oddities at Skipper Lakes), just below the southeast side of Balm Mountain, I headed in from the north side, which was a shorter drive. Unfortunately the spur road was bad and the trailhead non-existent. I eventually found the trail and discovered a real trailhead at the south end, right where road 3810 deadends.
Yesterday (August 21), I sort of took the day off from exploring the Western Cascades to join Gerry Carr, Dick Halse, Stu Garrett, and Barbara Ertter for a trip up to Fuji Mountain. Barbara is a Potentilla expert from the Jepson Herbarium who lives in Idaho, and she wanted to see the rare Potentilla up there. While Fuji is a High Cascade peak, the upper trailhead is accessed from the same road as Hells Half Acre. I wanted to show everyone the interesting old quarry spot along Eagle Creek Road 5883 that Sabine and I had discovered after our last trip to Fuji Mountain in 2007 (see Unusual Botanical Spot on Eagle Creek Road), just up from the Hells Half Acre trailhead, so after our successful hike to Fuji, we made a stop on the way back. The Ageratina occidentalis was coming into bloom and the lovely Parnassia cirrata was just starting to open. The green-flowered alumroot (Heuchera chlorantha), so abundant along the road, was just about finished. I was also able to show Dick Halse, an expert with our rockcress, an Arabis/Boechera that I’d seen there before. Alas, it was too over the hill for him to identify. Read the rest of this entry »
Earlier this week (August 18), Sabine Dutoit, Andrew Mylko, and I went to see what was left at Lowder Mountain and take a quick look at Quaking Aspen Swamp. I was actually surprised at how far along things were at Lowder, no doubt the recent hot days pushed a few more plants over the edge. There were still a number of ericaceous woodland plants in good bloom, including Pyrola picta and Chimaphila umbellata. At the small wetland that empties into Quaking Aspen Swamp, Kyhosia bolanderi and Parnassia cirrata were in bloom along with some early Stachys cooleyae. These were down in QAS as well. Lowder Mountain is a great place for butterflies earlier in the season, but they seemed to be disappearing along with the flowers.
My favorite spot at Lowder is the rocky ridge the trail passes by partway up. This is where some of the uncommon rock-loving plants occur, especially on the small north-facing cliff side. Not surprisingly, most everything is finished here so long after the moisture has disappeared. Seeds were ripe on Castilleja rupicola, Eremogone pumicola, Silene douglasii, and Lomatium hallii, and already gone from the early-blooming Phlox diffusa. But there are two special plants here that are just peaking now: Gentiana calycosa and Campanula rotundifolia. Both inhabit the north side of the ridge and are quite difficult to access for closeups. The Campanula especially is way down the cliff. I didn’t see it here for years. Binoculars are a must here and even more so on the upper cliffs below the summit. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday (August 15), I finally got around to returning to the wetland area just west of Wolf Mountain in southeastern Lane County. I’m calling the apparently unnamed area Warfield Creek wetlands since it is the headwaters of Warfield Creek. I discovered this cool spot last September by looking for wetlands with Google Earth (see Warfield Creek Bog report). While it was only a couple of weeks earlier than my trip last year, I hoped to see some earlier bloomers at the bog and possibly to explore the wetland area upstream of the bog. As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by a number of butterflies and loads of blooming hardhack (Spiraea douglasii). I probably spent almost an hour and a half happily wandering around near the car and nearby lake before I even put my rubber boots on and headed into the bog. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday’s Forest Service field trip to Groundhog Mountain went well. As it was on Friday the 13th, I had been just a little superstitious. The crowd was much bigger than expected—17 or 18 I believe—but we managed to negotiate all the many car stops fairly well. And despite the heat in the Valley, at over 5000′ it was cooler, and there was a pleasant breeze, so we were pretty comfortable. There was plenty to see, and hopefully everyone enjoyed themselves and learned a few new plants and butterflies. Read the rest of this entry »
The area around Groundhog and Little Groundhog Mountains (really two ends of the same formation) is one of my very favorite places. I discovered it 9 years ago and have returned over 20 times. Although it is highly impacted, with many roads and a great deal of the forest logged in the recent past, this is an amazing spot for roadside botanizing and watching butterflies. When Molly Juillerat, the botanist for the Middle Fork district of the Willamette National Forest, asked me to help her lead a field trip to see plants and butterflies, I immediately suggested Groundhog Mountain as the destination.
Yesterday, (August 9), Molly and I headed up to Groundhog to “prehike” for Friday’s field trip. There are no trails, so we were mainly checking the road conditions and deciding which of the many great sites would be most interesting at this time of year. There are numerous wetlands, several good seeps, excellent rocky roadcut spots, and several small lakes to choose from. Our first stop was Waterdog Lake. This shallow body of water is usually drying out in August, creating mud flats along the edges where specialized plants such as Rorippa curvisiliqua and Gnaphalium palustre appear. I was surprised to see how much water was still there. The Rorippa had barely started as what mud there was had not really dried out yet. The unusual spherical flowers of Sparganium were sticking up above the water. I’m still not sure of the species as they had characteristics of both S. angustifolium and the far less common S. natans. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday (August 7), I returned to Loletta Peak, primarily to look for female plants of the dieocious Galium grayanum I had discovered three weeks ago (see More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas). There was still plenty blooming along the roadside. The masses of pale yellow Epilobium luteum were almost at peak as was the nice stretch of Artemisia douglasiana. For the first time, I saw the two look-alikes, Stellaria crispa and S. obtusa growing side by side in the damp ditch. At a glance, it was easy to spot the difference between the tight, almost prostrate stems of S. obtusa and the lax but more upright stems of S. crispa with widely spread out leaves. There seemed to be lots of trucks driving around the normally empty roads. Hunting season is coming up, and, alas, this is a popular place for hunting. I met one nice young man out scouting with his daughter. He quickly figured out that I “probably didn’t like that sort of thing.” I replied that I enjoy seeing animals alive in the wild, but we had a pleasant conversation about the road conditions and nearby wet meadows. He was obviously very familiar with the area, too, but looked at it from a different viewpoint. Read the rest of this entry »
Not every day of botanizing goes smoothly and leads to great finds and wonderful photos. In the interest of a balanced representation of my pursuit of botanical knowledge, I thought I would include a report about my less than successful day at Gordon Meadows yesterday (August 5). Gordon Meadows is a fabulous wetland area east of Sweet Home. I’d been there a number of times, and, sometimes along with friends Sabine Dutoit and John Koenig, had discovered a number of exciting plants, including the first recorded spot for Montia chamissoi in Linn County and a few plants of the rare Corallorhiza trifida. There are many other uncommon plants here as well. My previous trips had all been in June and July when it is very colorful or in September for scouting trips. I’d never seen it in August and hoped there would be something I’d missed before. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday (August 1), I headed up to Hells Half Acre for what was supposed to be a fairly relaxing day. I’d had good luck with butterflies in August there in the past and thought I might take it easy and just enjoy hanging out in the meadows and not doing any strenuous bushwhacking. Hah! Most of the forest plants such as bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis) and queen’s cup (Clintonia uniflora) were on the wane. There were lots of ericaceous plants coming into bloom including Orthilia secunda and some very pretty Pyrola picta. One clump of indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) was just starting to push through the ground.
Lots of things were still blooming in the lower meadow area, however. I was disappointed that there were no butterflies in the first two meadows (or sections of a larger meadow if you like), in spite of lingering Senecio triangularis and Valeriana sitchensis, two butterfly favorites. These meadows were quite overgrown with bracken and, as the trail is seldom used, had to be plowed through. The last meadow was a different story. It was much grassier, with very little bracken, and filled with fresh Alice’s fleabane (Erigeron aliceae) and pink owl-clover (Orthocarpus imbricatus). A number of blues were flitting about along with some checkerspots, mylitta crescents, a few parnassians, and at least one hydaspe fritillary. I spent a while trying to photograph them before heading up to Hell’s Half Acre, the much larger meadow at the end of the trail. I was joined by a very nice couple and their sweet dog Pepper who were unsure about where the trail was. For those going up there, the trail is really hard to follow in the meadows, and there is no sign where the trail picks up in the woods on the right-hand side just in front of an enormous noble fir. Read the rest of this entry »