A Fine Day at Fuller Lake

We came across this amazing display of scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) along the road and stopped for a while to watch the hummingbirds fighting over it.

We had to stop at our favorite butterfly-watching site along Road 3810 where the dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) attracts numerous butterflies and other insects with its candy-like fragrance. Nectaring here a fritillary and an Edith’s copper.

On August 1, John Koenig and I headed back to the Calapooyas to visit Fuller Lake, just east of Reynolds Ridge. John had never been there before. It was my third trip, but it had been six years since my previous visit, and somehow I’d neglected to post a report on this blog of either of the earlier visits. There’s a short but somewhat rough road down to the trailhead, but surprisingly the trail was in great shape. It’s an old road that leads to the lake, less than a mile away. Sadly, the shelter that was still there on my last visit was nothing but a pile of boards. There was also evidence of an old dock along the lake that was in similar disarray.

The lake itself was as pretty as I remember it. A large talus slope bounds the south end of the lake. We headed down the west side toward the talus. Most of the flowers were finished blooming, but we did come across one exceptional stand of leopard lilies (Lilium pardalinum) in their full glory. It was clear there had been a lovely show of camas (Camassia sp.) a month or so earlier. We even found a couple of stray flowers left. We imagined it must look a lot like nearby Bradley Lake, but although it was already August, this was my earliest trip, so I’ve never seen its spring bloom.

Considering John is over 6′ tall, you can see how impressive these leopards lilies are. Oddly, these were the only ones in bloom at Fuller Lake.

Crossing the talus slope, we saw quite a bit of evidence of pika habitation. Although there were no large haystacks, there were scattered piles of carefully arranged grasses and other plants. Latrines of tiny scat were also here and there under the rocks. It didn’t take long before I could hear the muffled peeps of annoyed pikas coming from under the rocks beneath my feet. I looked and looked but couldn’t see any above the rocks.

I was quite impressed with how carefully some pika had arranged the grass in this stash. Usually, the hay piles seem more like all the piles accumulating on my desk. I guess some pikas are neater than others—just like people!

This photo of western dodder was taken on my previous trip to Fuller Lake on August 16, 2013.

We slowly made our way across the talus to the east side of the lake. On both my previous trips, I had found a large area of western dodder (Cuscuta suksdorfii), a rare parasitic plant that twines around its hosts. I couldn’t find any trace of it this time; perhaps it was still too early in the season. Western asters (Symphyotrichum spathulatum), Alice’s fleabane (Erigeron aliceae), and Gray’s lovage (Ligusticum grayi) were in good bloom, attracting a number of butterflies and bees. We wandered around the area looking for any new plants to add to my old list, and looking for the sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) I had noted on my earlier trips. I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it, but it turned out to be on the west side of the lake. One of the reasons I have to keep returning to sites is because I forget much of what I’ve seen, even with photos, lists, and occasionally making voice recordings (too lazy this time!). We could see that there were lots of seed capsules of mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi), so there’s a good chance that the Sierra Nevada blues occupy this wetland. It’s definitely worth a trip back to see the spring bloom and look for the butterflies.

Pikas living in the talus slope at the south end of Fuller Lake have quite the view of this pretty lake.

On the way back across the talus (there are too many shrubs at the north end to try to circumnavigate the lake), we looked again for pikas. I was listening to a number of them below me while waiting for John to catch up. When he did, he pointed out a pika sitting above us, calling out with its adorable cry of “eemp, eemp.” I only saw it for a minute or so before it ran back under the rocks, but it was still a thrill. No year is complete for me without getting at least one visit with these amazing and adorable little creatures.

A pika calling out a warning to the rest of the colony about the scary people crossing its talus slope!

We stopped along Coal Creek Road where wet ditches are filled with wild flowers. I’ve never seen so many police car moths (Gnophaela vermiculata), most likely because of the abundance of tall bluebells (Mertensia paniculata), a likely host food plant. Here, two of them are nectaring on the late-blooming pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margariticea).

Bees were enamored of the unusual spherical flower heads of Rangers buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum) in bloom in the Reynolds Ridge roadside wetland. Oddly, wild honeybees are everywhere in the Calapooyas.

I’d never noticed this little onion in the Reynolds Ridge roadside meadow before. I brought a snippet home, and although it was past blooming, I was able to spot the crest on the ovary that conifrms it is Sierra onion (Allium campanulatum), my first guess, and a species I’d only seen farther south in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide.

Back on the main road, it’s less than half a mile to the large roadside wetland just east of the Reynolds Ridge shelter meadow. We’d been here several times together over the last few years, but I’d spotted one area on Google Earth that I’d never checked out before, so with only a few hours of daylight left, we headed over to the east end of the meadow and through a smidgen of woods into a large, sloping wet meadow just hidden out of view. I’d noticed interesting rippling patterns in the aerial image. Those were what had caught my interest and had led me to believe this was a wetland rather than a dry meadow. In person, we could see these ripples as wet channels flowing down into the lowest end of the meadow. They were all filled with the large circular leaves of marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala). In between were slightly higher mossy ridges where sundews appeared. Clearly there’d been an amazing display of marsh marigold and shooting stars a couple of months earlier. We’d found the Sierra Nevada blues in the wet area at the west end of the main meadow, so I imagine they love this spot as well with both their host plant (shooting star) and their favorite nectar plant, bistort (Bistorta bistortoides). There’s was also quite a bit of Bolander’s tarweed (Kyhosia bolanderi) still in bloom and just opening once out of the sun.

Evening shadows overtaking the hidden wetland at Reynolds Ridge. Bistort can be seen still blooming in the foreground.

The sun was getting ready to set, so we had to bid adieu to this wonderful part of the Calapooyas, but it is definitely high up on our to-do list for next year to retrace our steps from this trip but much earlier next year and see both Fuller Lake and Reynolds Ridge at peak bloom, and hopefully see more butterflies and pikas. Can’t wait!

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