Back to Warner Mountain Bog

Gentians blooming in the main bog.

Alpine laurel (Kalmia microphylla is already in seed by the time the flowers of the late-blooming gentians appear.

Having just discovered explorer’s gentians (Gentiana calycosa) on Warner Mountain (see previous post, Hidden Bog on Warner Mountain), my top priority was to get back to see them in full bloom. I contacted Molly Juillerat, botanist and Middle Fork District ranger, to see if she wanted to come. Luckily, she was free the following weekend. I figured that was enough time for the display to be worth the trip. As it turns out, a couple of other friends, Nancy and Keiko, were already planning to head up to that area as well. So we agreed to all drive up separately and meet by the lookout on August 2. Keiko brought her husband, Daniel, and Molly brought her faithful dog, Ruby. After checking out an interesting rocky spot a short way off the road that I’d noticed on Google Earth (not too many flowers but pikas under the rock pile!), we stopped to have lunch by the lookout. Sadly, the Cascade lilies were pretty much done—I was really fortunate to have seen them the week before. Then we headed over to the bog.

Ruby relaxing among the gentians. As an older dog, botanizing is about her speed.

Sundews among the sphagnum. The brownish color of the moss is one of the things that makes some wetlands stand out from greener meadows in aerial images.

As I’d hoped, the gentians were flowering well, and they were spread across more of the bog than I’d realized. The Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata) were also in better bloom, although still not at peak. Some of the tiny white flowers of round-leaved sundew were also out but much harder to spot. A patch of musk monkeyflower (Erythranthe moschata) was still in good bloom. One pool of water in the center had some tadpoles in it, and there were a few butterflies and dragonflies. We all wandered around looking for plants and insects, easily keeping a proper distance from each other, although sometimes we almost forgot we had to do that. It is easy to forget about the problems of the rest of the world while seemingly so far from what is going on elsewhere. One of the things I love most about being out botanizing in the mountains is really staying in the moment. At home, it is too easy these days to be distracted from the present with all the things there are to worry about.

Three anise swallowtail caterpillars on a single plant of ranger’s buttons. Earlier instars (stages) are black and white, resembling bird scat, like the ones in the middle and left (probably 3rd instar). More mature caterpillars lose their spines and become smooth and mostly green like the one on the right (probably 5th instar, the final stage before metamorphosing into a chrysalis).

There were more ranger’s buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum) than I had spotted the previous week, so I took a closer look and found several anise swallowtail caterpillars hanging on the stems. Nancy and I once had a marvelous day on nearby Groundhog Mountain (see The Day of the Caterpillar) counting dozens of swallowtail caterpillars on ranger’s buttons, so I always check for them this time of year. In deference to the pandemic, I pointed out the plant and backed off for others to take a look. In the “old” days, we would all have gathered around at the same time. I do hope we’ll be able to do that again, someday.

Daniel, Keiko, and Nancy at the top of the main bog. The white flowers are grass of Parnassus.

Leopard lily can be distinguished from the more common Columbia lily (Lilium columbianum) by the narrower leaves, widely spreading stamens, and affinity for wet habitat.

While looking at the area on Google Earth again the night before, I noticed another, much smaller bit of what appeared to be wetland, just a bit to the east. I wandered over there, using the aerial image on my phone (how did I ever explore without this!). Sure enough, there was another little creek winding through a very narrow strip of wetland. A few gentians and grass of Parnassus were blooming here. Molly and Ruby caught up with me. There was a small pool of water with a single clump of gorgeous leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum) in fresh bloom. This is more common south in Douglas County, so we’re always excited to see it in Lane County. Ruby, uninterested in flowers, enjoyed herself by taking a dip in the pool and then shaking herself off as dogs love to do. I called the others over, and we traced the wet area back up to where it suddenly sprung out of the ground, just like the larger bog. Looking at the maps on her phone, Molly figured out that this area was part of the headwaters of Youngs Creek. The upper section of the Youngs Rock trail crosses Youngs Creek where it is but a small stream, and growing in it is also a lovely patch of leopard lilies. Now I know that it emanates from here!

Molly and Ruby by the source of the smaller wetland.

After we had our fill of the bog, we all drove over to the Moon Point trailhead. Molly had dropped her husband Andy and their other dog Loki off at the bottom of the Youngs Rock trail with plans to pick them up at the Moon Point trailhead at 3:30 pm (the two trails are connected). They were there waiting when we arrived, having done many miles and several thousand feet of elevation in the time it took us to do little more than toodle around a wetland—botanizing is not a fast-paced activity! Andy agreed to come with us for a short bushwhack off the trail to see Moon Lake. We passed a glorious population of leopard lilies in the wet spot near the beginning of the trail on our way down. There were more ranger’s buttons blooming by the lake, but I couldn’t spot any caterpillars. Skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata), mountain owl-clover (Orthocarpus imbricatus), and hardhack (Spiraea douglasii) were all in colorful bloom, but the highlight for me was watching Loki swimming around the small lake and attempting to pull branches out of the water. I wish I had that kind of energy! I wasn’t too tired though, so after everyone else decided to go home, I walked the rest of the trail out to the end, the rocky viewpoint at Moon Point itself. It was a great day and so nice to finally go on an outing with other nature lovers (human and canine!).

Loki attempting in vain to yank a branch stuck in the water at Moon Lake.

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