Another Beautiful Day on Balm Mountain

The rocks at the southern end of the ridge are quite extraordinary, made even more beautiful by a fabulous display of colorful wildflowers, including sulphur buckwheat and skyrocket.

Clustered broomrape (Orobanche fasciculata) was popping up frequently. This particular plant had a reddish blush over the usual pale yellow flowers.

Clustered broomrape (Orobanche fasciculata) was popping up frequently. This particular plant had a reddish blush over the usual pale yellow flowers.

On July 26, John Koenig and I went for a long awaited trip to Balm Mountain. Back in 2011—a big snow year—we had made the trip up there (see Not Balmy Yet at Balm Mountain!), but since snow blocked the road and forced us to walk almost two miles to the parking spot, we didn’t have time to get to the south end of the mountain. We were relieved that nothing blocked the road on this trip or kept us from making it all the way to the south end of the ridge.

Although getting late in the bloom season, there were still plenty of flowers to satisfy us, including buckwheats (Eriogonum umbellatum and E. compositum), coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima), frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa), tongue-leaf luina (Rainiera stricta), and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum). We saw a gorgeous stand of western blue flax (Linum lewisii) along the road, but by the time we were hiking, all we saw of the many plants on the ridge were blue petals lying on the ground. Their ephemeral petals only last a day.

It was warm enough that the abundant butterflies were moving quickly, frustrating many of my attempts to photograph them. Hoffman’s checkerspots were particularly abundant, but we saw a number of swallowtails, fritillaries, clodius parnassians, a few coppers, and a single great arctic. The views were outstanding, and the rocks at Balm Mountain always fascinate me. Here is a glimpse of our terrific day.

Hoffman's checkerspots seemed to be flying everywhere. This one is nectaring on coyote mint.

Hoffman’s checkerspots seemed to be flying everywhere. This one is nectaring on coyote mint.

Coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima) against the golden soil

The pale purple of coyote mint is set off really well against the golden soil at the southern end of the ridge.

The rocks here are in thin layers that break off in soft-edged chunks.

The rocks here are in thin layers that break off into soft-edged chunks.

This is an uncommon hawkweed, Hieracium bolanderi or possibly H. greenei, that we found in the rocks of the old lookout site. There were only three plants, so we couldn't collect a specimen for confirmation.

This is an uncommon hawkweed, Hieracium bolanderi or possibly H. greenei, that we found in the rocks of the old lookout site. There were only three plants, so we couldn’t collect a specimen for confirmation.

The cliffs of Potter Mountain can be seen 4 miles or so to the east.

The cliffs of Potter Mountain can be seen 4 miles or so to the east.

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