Highs and Lows at Quaking Aspen Swamp

Lovely Columbia windflower in the forest on the trail down to Quaking Aspen Swamp.

Lovely Columbia windflower in the forest on the trail down to Quaking Aspen Swamp.

Ruby "dogging" her mom's heels. In front are alpine aster, notable for their solitary flower heads.

Ruby “dogging” her mom’s heels. I wouldn’t recommend taking a dog into a bog like this, but Ruby is an incredibly well behaved canine and a pleasure to botanize with. In front of her are alpine asters, notable for their solitary flower heads.

Yesterday, June 30, Nancy Bray and I accompanied Molly Juillerat and her sweet dog, Ruby, on a trip to Quaking Aspen Swamp. Like last week’s trip to Horsepasture Mountain, this will be one of the sites Native Plant Society of Oregon annual meeting participants will visit, and Molly will be leading that hike. She is the Middle Fork district botanist, so this is out of her area, and we came to help familiarize her with the ins and outs (and, as it turns out, the ups and downs!) of this neat wetland. Since there isn’t a trail in the wetland itself, it takes some planning to figure out how to navigate it and where the best flowers are.

There were a number of highlights. Many of the predominantly white woodland flowers were at their peak. These included floriferous patches of bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis), Columbia windflower (Anemone deltoidea), and queen’s cup (Clintonia uniflora). Out along the edges of the wetland, there were pretty displays of alpine aster (Oreostemma alpigenum), blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium idahoense), and bog microseris (Microseris borealis). While the amazing colorful sheets of marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala) and mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi) were over, there were a few pockets of still fresh flowers to be seen. The abundant sundews (Drosera rotundifolia, D. anglica, and hybrid D. x obovata) were just starting to bloom.

The latest style in hiking hats? In one spot in the wetland, we came across a number of green commas, or perhaps I should say they came upon us. They seemed to think that we were quite tasty and repeatedly landed on our hats and other clothing.

The latest style in hiking hats? Nancy on the left, Molly on the right.
In one spot in the wetland, we came across a number of green commas, or perhaps I should say they came upon us. They seemed to think that we were quite tasty and repeatedly landed on our hats and other clothing.

TIger lilies (Lilium columbianum) are favorites of pale swallowtails.

Tiger lilies (Lilium columbianum) are favorites of pale swallowtails.

The weather was lovely, and everything seemed to be going well until we were finishing up our circumnavigation. First I noticed my sunglasses were missing. Oh well, I’ve lost plenty before. Hopefully someone else will find them (unlikely in the tall wetland foliage). Then I told Molly that there were some pools of water in this one area just before you head up onto higher and drier ground. I started to look for them when suddenly I was waist deep in cold water. Just as quickly I somehow bounced back out. It all happened so quickly I don’t even remember if I hit bottom. I just remember my hands pushing on ground that seemed to be floating. I keep my camera in a fanny pack and that and my back pocket with my GPS had gone under. The GPS barely got wet in the second or two it was dunked. I imagine my pocket soaked up the water got through to the GPS. Unfortunately, the camera bag had filled with several inches of water, and that was the first thing I grabbed when I was again on solid ground. I dried it off as best as possible with the few parts of my clothes that weren’t completely soaked. I wish I had a photo of the place I fell in. Even after I’d broken through, there was almost no trace of open water, just benign looking plants covering the treacherous well.

More strange growth habits in bunchberries. They typically have one flower head per stalk, but these had several smaller flower heads coming off the same stalk. I wonder why there are so many non-conformists among bunchberries?

More non-conformist bunchberries. While they typically have one flower head per stalk, these had several smaller flower heads coming off the same stalk.

The camera viewfinder started to fog up a bit on the way back to the car. We put it on a towel and let it sit in the sun on the dashboard on the drive home. Thankfully, it seems to be working fine this morning, with no sign of water inside. I’m glad I didn’t twist my ankle or otherwise injure myself, and I’m even more thankful that it wasn’t Ruby who fell in or either of my other companions. But it was definitely still the low point, literally and figuratively, of our outing. And you can be sure Molly will not be bringing anyone to that corner of the wetland!

I was surprised to see a bunch of ants blithely running all over this sundew (most likely a hybrid) without getting trapped. They seemed to be removing the sundew's sticky substance. Perhaps it is like honeydew to them.

I was surprised to see a bunch of ants tempting fate by running all over this sundew (most likely a hybrid) without getting trapped. They seemed to be removing the sundew’s sticky substance. Perhaps it is like honeydew to them.

3 Responses to “Highs and Lows at Quaking Aspen Swamp”

  • Lori R:

    I’m sorry that happened to you. I have enjoyed reading your newsletter. I recently visited some wetland areas in WA and most people had a walking stick – maybe that’s why?? I’ve never used one before, but the leader suggested it in muddy areas. I would have never thought there would be a hole like that. Thank you for sharing that.

  • Hi Lori,

    Sticks are very helpful for checking depth of holes and channels in bogs. I don’t carry one because I’m always pulling out my camera or binoculars, and it would be one more thing to lose. But I may have to reconsider that. I’m careful to look for water, but this hole was completely hidden. Good lesson to be even more careful!

  • Ginny:

    Tanya, Hard to imagine sinking in that deep so quickly. Good thing your reflexes are quick! I recall some pretty wet areas when we were there last year and that was a drought year to boot. Glad you and camera are ok.

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