NARGS Campout Day 3: Potter Mountain

Along the rocky spine of Potter Mountain. Left to right: Rob, Kathy, Peter, Kelley, and Keiko.

Along the rocky spine of Potter Mountain. Left to right: Rob, Kathy, Peter, Kelley, and Keiko.

For our final day of the NARGS camping trip, June 21, Kelley, Peter, Kathy and I went for a half day trip up to Potter Mountain. Robin had to head back home, and her older dog, Austin, probably couldn’t have handled the rocks. We were joined by NPSO members Rob Castleberry and Keiko Bryan. Ever since I discovered Potter Mountain last year, I’ve been looking forward to taking my rock garden friends up to this beautiful natural rock garden, so I was very pleased that some of our campers were up to another bushwhack.

A few miles to the west is Balm Mountain, the long ridge with with bald spots on it. The rocks on Potter are completely different, even though the two mountains are only 5 miles apart.

A few miles to the west you can see Balm Mountain, the long ridge with with bald spots on it. The rocks on Potter are completely different, even though the two mountains are only 5 miles apart and about the same elevation (~6100′).

Proud alpenhund Paco, showing off his climbing skills.

Proud alpenhund Paco, showing off his climbing skills. Cliff penstemon grows happily in the craggy rocks.

As I’d hoped, the cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola) was blooming beautifully and was quite abundant. There was also plenty of creamy stonecrop (Sedum oregonense) and some frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa). Three species of buckwheats were in full bloom: sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum), the high elevation marum-leaved (E. marifolium), and northern buckwheat (E. compositum). There were still some cutleaf daisies (Erigeron compositus) in bloom, and the leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus var. confinis) was just starting to bloom on the lower rocks on the way up. Two of the most abundant plants on my previous trip (see Return to Potter Mountain), Martindale’s lomatium (Lomatium martindalei) and pumice sandwort (Eremogone pumicola), were now going to seed. The Merriam’s alumroot (Heuchera merriamii) was blooming on the north side of the main rock. Most of it is out of reach on the huge cliffs, but we did find a safe spot where we could see it up close, although the major dropoff next to it might make a person queezy. While the day was partly cloudy. Everyone seemed to enjoy the great views as well as the rocks and flowers.

California stickseed (Hackelia californica)

California stickseed (Hackelia californica) has larger leaves than our common blue stickseed (H. micrantha). That’s what caught my eye to begin with. They also clasp the stem conspicuously.

Since Kathy and Kelley had to drive all the way back home to the Medford area, we headed back to the campground in early afternoon. As we were driving the road along the ridge, I spotted a large plant with white flowers that I didn’t recognize. I had to stop the car to take a quick look, in spite of everyone else being ready to pack it in for the weekend. The plant had the distinctive circular eye of a borage family member. My best guess was a stickseed (Hackelia sp.), although it was just starting to bloom and didn’t have the diagnostic nutlets that irritatingly stick to your clothing if you brush by them. When I got home, I discovered it was California stickseed (Hackelia californica), an uncommon species in Oregon. According to the Oregon Flora Project Atlas, most of the records are in the mountains between Ashland and Crater Lake, with a few sites well to the north in the High Cascades between South Sister and Mount Jefferson. There were no records in Douglas County (or Lane County for that matter), so this population was at least 30 miles north of the southern populations and even farther away from the northern ones. Ironically, I’d just seen it for the first time last year on our NARGS camping trip near the campground at Hyatt Lake Reservoir. I only saw three plants along the side of the road, but I didn’t want to make my companions wait any longer while I searched for more, so I settled for some photos and a GPS waypoint to relocate it at a later date.

The beautiful spot along Staley Creek at the bridge crossing. The clumps of plant on the rock in the middle is streambank arnica not yet in bloom.

The beautiful spot along Staley Creek at the bridge crossing. The green clumps on the rock in the middle are streambank arnica not yet in bloom.

Streambank arnica (Arnica amplexicaulis) growing on the rocks in Staley Creek.

A close up of streambank arnica (Arnica amplexicaulis) growing on the rocks in Staley Creek.

I did have one more stop planned for everyone—at the awesome little gorge along Staley Creek since we passed right by it. I wanted everyone to at least get a quick look, but we all ended up going down to the upper part of the creek, above the gorge,  where the rushing water has carved out wonderful shapes in the rocks. Splashing cool water on my face was quite pleasant after three days of camping and many miles of gravel roads. Although there are a lot of weeds along the creek, there is one lovely native, streambank arnica (Arnica amplexicaulis), that grows perched on rocks right in the creek. Luckily, it was coming into bloom. It was a very nice end to a great weekend of catching up with old friends—human, canine, and floral!

2 Responses to “NARGS Campout Day 3: Potter Mountain”

  • Kristy Swanson:

    Sounds like a great day. I’m having fun looking up flowers as I read in the Floral Project Photo Album.

  • Peter Gallagher:

    Hi Tanya, I realized I never leave any comments at your site. Thought you might be interested to know that I did go back up to the L______ Lake site (I forgot the name)and got some of the rock wee looked at. That one big flat rock is now one of the steps on my front yard rock wall project!

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