On Saturday, July 2, I made the long drive up to Parish Lake to prehike it for a short trip I’m leading for the NPSO Annual Meeting. It was a really beautiful day, and it wasn’t spoiled by any mosquitoes. At around 3400′, it is actually somewhat late in the season here, and a lot of the flowers were finished. But there were still some things in bloom—notably the sundews, which are always the highlight of a trip to this cool bog. The wildlife and signs of their presence also made the trip worthwhile.
The walk down to the lake from the trailhead is only a half mile, and there are some great large trees. The abundant bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis) was about done, but twinflower (Linnaea borealis) was in perfect bloom. I decided to head to the east end of the lake first and save the bog for later (just in case I got wet again!). The rare Robbins’ pondweed (Potamogeton robbinsii) is abundant here, although I’ve never seen it anywhere else. It was actually in bloom, something I also hadn’t seen, although even the most avid of wildflower lovers wouldn’t get too excited about the odd little flowers of pondweeds. Swimming among the palm-frond-like leaves were lots of rough-skinned newts. They seemed to be everywhere in fact. I counted over 40 floating nearby on the surface of the lake, and many more were swimming under the pondweed and poking around the shoreline. Several were practically touching my boots.
There were also a great many damselflies. Mating season was evidently at full bore with lots of chasing and coupling. I spent quite a bit of time photographing newts and damselflies. This was also in part because I had to bring my old camera—my regular camera had in fact gotten damaged in my unexpected “dip” at Quaking Aspen Swamp (see Highs and Lows at Quaking Aspen Swamp). I was relieved my older camera and its batteries—unused for a year and a half—still worked, but it took a while to relearn all the buttons and settings.
I walked out onto a large log that had fallen in the water. There I discovered a most gruesome sight: the dried up corpses of 5 newts, 4 with their heads bitten off. Who would do that?! There were also large piles of what appeared to be scat filled with what looked like crayfish shells in several spots near the edge of the lake. These appeared in the bog as well. A flattened path leading from a pile of scat near a wide area in the inlet creek right to the edge of the lake looked like someone heavy had made it, but I sure wouldn’t walk that close to the edge of lake considering the unsteady ground of this floating bog in that area. I had no idea what made those piles, but I was out yesterday with some wildlife biologists (more butterfly surveys—I’ll post about that later), and they both said those were otter latrines. Whole families use the same spot, hence the large piles. Now it makes perfect sense to me that the path to the water could be from otters. If only I could have seen one!
There is another bog just a quarter of a mile northeast of Parish Lake, hidden in the woods just south of the intersection of Parish Lake Road 2266 and Road 450 that goes to Daly Lake. It requires a very short but rough (downhill over logs and through rhododendrons) bushwhack to get down to this tiny pond and bog, but it is well worth it. There’s enough room to park on Road 2266 just east of the bog so you can head in that way.
I scared up a great blue heron when I popped into the open. He flew around in a circle, making me think he might land again if I hid, but then he disappeared into the woods. I wish I’d seen him before he saw me, but I was probably making quite a racket pushing through branches on the way down, so I’d lost the element of surprise. I had better luck with a large garter snake who evidently thought he or she was hidden enough in the foliage at the edge of the pond to not slither off while I took a photograph.
A rare plant here is marsh skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata). I’ve only seen it in two places. I was thrilled that it was coming into bloom and very pretty. There was quite a bit of it. It actually has a circumboreal distribution and is sometimes called common skullcap, so I should qualify the rare designation by saying it is rare in the Cascades and uncommon in Oregon. I was also excited to find the carnivorous common bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris) in the water. It will bloom later in the summer. Bladderworts aren’t very common in the Cascades and always a fun find. Yellow pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) were also blooming in the pond and white bog orchids (Platanthera dilatata) in the surrounding wetland. Both kinds of sundews were present as well. I love this kind of habitat—after cliffs and outcrops, this is my favorite kind of area to explore.