Quick Trip to Pyramid Rock

Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) was abundant and at its peak bloom.

Last week I went down to the North Umpqua for a few days of exploring. The Native Plant Society of Oregon Annual Meeting is this coming weekend in the North Umpqua, so I wanted to check out what trails might have melted out at this early date and to prepare for leading a hike during the meeting. 

Menzies larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii), and frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) added lots of color to the scene.

After several days waiting for the weather to cooperate fully, I decided to go down on Thursday, June 1, even though it was still quite foggy and miserable at my house. I stalled until the road cameras indicated the sun was breaking through far better down in the Roseburg area. Unfortunately, all my dilly-dallying in the morning meant that I didn’t get on the road to Pyramid Rock until mid-afternoon. I wasn’t at all sure I could even get there, so my motivation was somewhat lacking. Indeed, I hit snow right at the trailhead for Bullpup Lake, where the road turns to face north briefly. I calculated I had a mile and a half of easy road walking and enough daylight to spend an hour on the rock, so I headed down the road on foot. There were a few small trees down, so it was just as well that I couldn’t drive any farther. The only problematic thing was finding the access to bushwhack out to Pyramid Rock. You can’t see it from the road, so I always clock the mileage to find the correct curve in the road. On foot, I wasn’t sure of my exact mileage, and there were several very similar curved spots in the road. But eventually I found the right spot and was able to climb down through the woods (across a rock pile with peeping pikas hiding below!) and out to the rock.

Looking over the north side of the rock, you can see the wild, wavy rock formation at the east end. The many out-of-reach plants are best seen with binoculars!

The wind was quite strong, and a cloud hung overhead most of the time, so I wasn’t as sad as I might have been to leave after only an hour of poking about and photographing the gorgeous wildflowers. Much of the time was spent waiting for the sun to reappear. Still it is an amazing spot, and I’m glad I was able to reach it this year. Here are a few more highlights.

The extremely early blooming Siskiyou fritillary (Fritillaria glauca) was already finishing up. Seeing it in bloom here was one of my goals, but you have to get out very early in the season to catch this pretty flower in bloom. I found fewer than a dozen flowers among the many individual leaves of non-flowering plants popping out of the scree.

One of my other goals for the trip was to try to explore farther down the slope, but upon facing it again in person, I decided there’s probably good reason I haven’t gotten to the bottom of the slope—it’s really steep and rather slippery. I went farther than on my previous trips but headed back up after going no more than halfway down.

A curious chipmunk wondered what I was doing walking along the road so early in the season. I doubt many people head out this deadend spur road until the fall hunting season.

In a miniature wetland in a roadside ditch, I found an unusual variegated clasping twisted-stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius). A nice reward for spending half my time walking on the road instead of being out on the rock.

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