NARGS Campout Day 1: Bristow Prairie

While John looks at plants, Jim and Peter are admiring the view from atop one of the smaller side rocks below the large pillar rock near the beginning of the trail.

While John looks at plants, Jim and Peter are admiring the view from atop one of the smaller side rocks below the large pillar rock near the beginning of the trail.

It was again my turn to organize the annual camping trip for a group of Oregon members of the North American Rock Garden Society, and while it would be an obvious choice for me to pick somewhere near me in the Western Cascades, it was actually the rest of last year’s group (see NARGS Annual Campout Hike to Grizzly Peak) that came up with the idea that we should go to the Calapooya Mountains. Apparently, I’d mentioned the area often enough to pique their interest (imagine that!). Scouting for this trip and the abnormally low snow pack were the two main reasons I’ve pretty much spent the entire last two months exploring the Calapooyas. In fact, the first time I made it as far north as Linn County was just a few days ago on a trip to Tidbits.

With the blooming season as far along as it has been, I planned the trip for June 18–21, and I’m so glad I did. If we had done it this weekend, we would have roasted in this heatwave. Instead, we had beautiful weather with very pleasant temperatures. For our first day, we went up to Bristow Prairie to do the north end of the High Divide trail as far as the beautiful rock garden—the highlight of the day, not surprisingly among a group of rock plant lovers. Since some of our normal attendees weren’t able to come this year, I invited some local NPSO friends to join us for day trips. On Friday, June 19th, in addition to Robin and her dog Austin, Kelley, Peter, Christine and her husband Yaghoub, and me, we were joined by my husband, Jim, and Dave Predeek and John Koenig. It was a really good group and far more men than usual! Here are some brief highlights.

Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) was especially plentiful and at peak bloom.

Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) was especially plentiful and at peak bloom.

flowery rock garden

Christine and Robin heading across the steep, flowery rock garden. Among the plants in bloom were paintbrush (Castilleja sp.), bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), and farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena).

As we'd seen in the past, most of the farewell-to-spring was unusually small in this area.

As we’d seen in past years, most of the farewell-to-spring was exceptionally small in this area. These were just a few inches tall. Whether it was from lack of water or genes, I’m not sure. Hopefully we’ll get a rainy spring again soon, and we can see if they are taller.

We had a very good butterfly day. After we headed back from the rock garden area, we went over to check the small wetland at the south end of the meadow where Lori Humphreys found some Sierra Nevada blues recently (see my last post: A Day Full of Surprises). Not only did we see a couple of Sierra Nevada blues, we saw a monarch! I’ve been hearing a number of people on the NABA Google Group reporting monarchs in their yards after planting milkweed (Asclepias sp.), but I rarely see them in the Cascades where there’s barely any milkweed.

Left) western tailed blue, middle) Sierra Nevada blue, right) greenish blue

Left) western tailed blue, middle) Sierra Nevada blue, right) greenish blue

After we returned to the cars, we drove over to the main meadow. While one of the cars headed back to the campground after checking out the view and roadside plants, the rest of us headed over to the lake. I wanted to see if there were any Sierra Nevada blues in the much larger wetland surrounding it. Unfortunately, a cloud hovered over the area the whole time we were down there, even though the rest of the sky was mostly blue. We spotted a few butterflies sitting still on plants, but none were flying, so it was hard to say if there might be Sierra Nevada blues there as well. On both the way to and from the lake, we accidentally scared up a family of grouse. The babies hid in the grass, waiting until the last possible moment to fly up and give us all a good scare. All in all, it was a great first day.

An anise swallowtail waiting for the sun to come back out on a white bog orchid (Platanthera dilatata).

A tattered anise swallowtail hangs out on a white bog orchid (Platanthera dilatata) while waiting for the sun to come back out.

Peter and John at the shallow lake admiring the abundant bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), bog orchids, and elephant's head (Pedicularis groenlandica).

Peter and John by the shallow lake among the abundant bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), bog orchids, and elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica).

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