Archive for the ‘Douglas County’ Category

Weather Woes at Hemlock Lake

Our intrepid group smiling in spite of the rain and snow.

Bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis) just getting started. Last year’s leaves remain flattened on the groud, while the showy flower bracts are just developing atop the new year’s growth.

In my last post, I was lamenting about the three weeks of dry weather in May causing the lower elevations to dry out rapidly. So you’d think I’d have been thrilled to finally have some rainy weather. Well, I was, but unfortunately the rainiest day turned out to be Saturday, June 10, the day I was leading a hike to Hemlock Lake in the North Umpqua area for the Native Plant Society of Oregon Annual Meeting. I was really dreading going up there, especially when the forecast included a possible chance of thunderstorms. Since I’d had to shorten my trip the previous week, I didn’t have a chance to pre-hike Hemlock Lake and figure out what we were going to do. The full Yellowjacket Loop trail is over 5 miles—we surely wouldn’t do that in the cold rain. Luckily the president of the Umpqua Chapter had gone up a few days before, so at least I knew the road was okay. Read the rest of this entry »

Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 2, Illahee Rock

The old lookout still stands on the summit of Illahee Rock. Piles of wood at the base indicate plans for repairs. Frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) can be seen bloooming in the foreground.

After I left the beautiful roadside meadow (see Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 1, Illahee Meadow), I went to check on a meadow and rock area I’d never seen before. Just a half mile farther up Illahee Road 4760, there’s a sharp corner. A berm hides an old road, now merely a path, that heads south along Eagle Ridge. I reached a meadow I’d seen on Google Earth in an easy half mile. It was quite disappointing, however. Although there were still cat’s ears (Calochortus tolmiei) and spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) in bloom along the edges, the majority of the meadow was already completely dried out. A few paltry bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) were attempting to bloom but were clearly parched. I’m not sure why the meadow I’d been exploring below was in much better shape. I checked out a rocky area beyond the meadow, but it was way too steep to explore, and other than a few pretty bloom cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), there wasn’t much to see. Read the rest of this entry »

Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 1, Illahee Meadow

From the road, it looks like the meadow ends beyond oaks at the top, but in fact there is much more open ground even farther uphill to the west.

The tiny flowers of common bluecup are bright purple, but they are surprisingly hard to spot. The long, distinctive sepals grow much larger as the ovary matures.

On the second day of my North Umpqua trip (June 2), I headed up Illahee Road 4760, just past the Dry Creek store on the north side of Highway 138. I hadn’t been to Illahee Rock for 8 years, and there are some meadows on the way up I wanted to explore. I hate to end a story on a sour note, so let’s get this out of the way first: on the way back down from Illahee Rock, I flatted a tire, most likely on a sharp rock, but I don’t know. I struggled to get the lug nuts off, causing some mild panic and a whole lot of swearing, but eventually got the spare on and drove straight home. That meant skipping the third day of my trip, but at that point, I just wanted to get back to “civilization” and the comfort of my own home, and I couldn’t go anywhere on my small spare anyway. I had been nervous about the idea of going all the way up to Illahee Rock because on my previous trips I had found the upper reaches of the road—along the steep, naked edge of the much-burned Boulder Creek Wilderness—quite scary. But I was determined not to let fear stop me from doing what I wanted to do, and I actually thought the surface of the road was in better shape than I expected. Needless to say, I had plenty of time to regret that decision on the long drive home. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Look at Aspen Meadow and Bradley Lake

Sliver Rock and Crater Lake forest fire

After we crossed over the crest of the Calapooyas, we had a great view to the south of Sliver Rock in the foreground just in front of Balm Mountain and Mount Bailey in the distance. We could also see the smoke spewing from the forest fire at Crater Lake. Most of the foreground is in the Boulder Creek Wilderness, parts of which burned in fires in 1996 and 2008.

After our terrific trip to Balm Mountain (see Another Beautiful Day on Balm Mountain), I really wanted to do some more exploring in the area, so I suggested to John Koenig that we check out the lower part of the south end of Balm. My idea was to go down Road 3810 to where it deadends at the Skipper Lakes trailhead, head up the trail to the small lakes, which I’d only been to once, and climb uphill to look at the rocks below where we’d ended up on our previous trip along the ridge. The roads have been quite iffy in the Calapooyas this year, but our friend Rob Castleberry had been at Balm right after us and had done part of Road 3810, so I had high hopes we might be successful. We headed up there August 4. Alas, we only made it a short ways farther than where Rob had been when we came upon several trees blocking the road. Not again! This has been a frustrating year for road conditions. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Buggy Day at Hills Peak

The darling little flowers of Primrose monkeyflower (Erythranthe [Mimulus] primuloides) all seem to face the sun.

The darling little flowers of Primrose monkeyflower all seem to face the sun.

Suksdorf's paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii) was still quite eyecatching.

Suksdorf’s paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii) was still quite eyecatching.

After a much-needed rest following the NPSO Annual Meeting, (see Field Trip Highlights from NPSO Annual Meeting), I did manage to get out a couple of times last week. On Wednesday, July 20, Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, Ginny McVickar, and I headed out to Hills Peak for a leisurely day to see what we could find. There were still lots of flowers out, and we stopped to admire rhodies (Rhododendron macrophyllum) and penstemons (Penstemon cardwellii and P. rupicola) blooming well along the roads on the way to the marshy lake east of Hills Peak, our first stop. Unfortunately, there were lots of mosquitoes, but we still managed to spend a few hours exploring the area. Primrose monkeyflower (Erythranthe [Mimulus] primuloides) was gorgeous, very small hooded ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana) were starting to flower, and the first one-flowered gentian (Gentianopsis simplex) was out. Bistort (Bistorta bistortoides) was in full bloom, but oddly, it wasn’t attracting many butterflies. We did see a number of dragonflies, and Ginny and I spotted a huge bug I’d never seen before. It was around 2″ long with nasty looking pincer-like fore arms. It was hanging out in the shallow water in the boggy area north of the lake. Read the rest of this entry »

More Butterfly Surveying in the Calapooyas

I watched a male Sierra Nevada blue (top) chasing a female around, but she played hard to get, and he never managed to catch her.

After our successful day finding Sierra Nevada blues at Bristow Prairie (see Searching for Butterflies at Bristow Prairie), Joe Doerr, Willamette National Forest (WNF) wildlife biologist, was hot to see if we could find more populations of the rare butterfly within the WNF. Other surveyors had been looking for them on the Umpqua National Forest in the past couple of years, but after I spotted them at Loletta Lakes last year (see NARGS Campout Day 2: Loletta Lakes), just inside the WNF, it seemed likely there might be more spots nearby. The boundary of the Forests is the crest of the Calapooyas, so while the northern Bristow Prairie site is in Lane County, both populations there are just west of the crest, putting them over on the Umpqua National Forest side. So far, this area is the northern end of their limited range, which reaches south to the Sierra Nevada in California. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Butterflies at Bristow Prairie

A gorgeous clodius parnassian. Note the transparent wing tips.

An elegant clodius parnassian. Note the transparent wing tips.

On Monday, June 20, I was invited by wildlife biologist Joe Doerr to join a group of wildlife biologists and botanists from the Willamette National Forest on a trip to Bristow Prairie. The goals were generally to familiarize everyone with butterfly species in our area and specifically to search for the Sierra Nevada blue, also called gray blue or arrowhead arctic blue (Agriades or Plebejus podarce—so many names!). Last year I discovered it at Reynolds Ridge (see A Day Full of Surprises) a year after it was first discovered there by Forest Service biologists surveying for it in southern Oregon. I mentioned it to Lori Humphreys who promptly went out and discovered it for the first time in Lane County in the little wetland off of the High Divide trail just north of Bristow Prairie. I saw it the same spot a few days later (see NARGS Campout Day 1: Bristow Prairie). This being the northernmost site so far, it seemed like the nearest place to take everyone to see it. Along with the forest service employees, our group included Lori, Dana Ross, Gary Pearson, and Rick Ahrens, expert naturalists and also non-agency “volunteers”. Read the rest of this entry »

More Discoveries along the Calapooya Crest

Cascade gras-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata var. intermedia) is one of my favorite wildflowers and a wonderful bonus this late in the season.

Cascade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata var. intermedia) is one of my favorite wildflowers and a wonderful bonus this late in the season.

Ever since our early June trip to the meadow along Road 3810 on the south side of Loletta Peak (see Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas: The Sequel), John Koenig and I had been planning to return to see the later blooming plants, especially the Cascade fringed grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata) that we found there. Just before we had planned to go, Ed Alverson e-mailed me about the quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) we had discovered there. He’s been studying the scattered populations on the west side of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington. The timing was perfect, as we were able to take Ed along on August 12 to see the population in what we were now calling “Aspen Meadow.” We had been somewhat concerned with all the fires down in Douglas County, especially the Potter Mountain complex burning just east of Balm Mountain (thankfully not actually on Potter Mountain). But other than some drifting smoke above, we had no problems reaching our destination and enjoying what was an otherwise lovely day. Read the rest of this entry »

More Wonderful Wildlife Sightings at Hills Peak

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

Having finally seen my first pika of the year on my trip to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, I was reminded that I had never gotten to Hills Peak last year—my favorite pika-viewing site. With the flowers fading, I decided that would be a good destination on July 23, 2015. I’d also been wanting to try climbing up to the base of the cliffs on the left side of the talus slope for several years, but I’d had friends with me on my previous trips and didn’t want to drag anyone else up such a steep slope or make them wait for me, although hanging out on the lower rocks, watching for pikas is an enjoyable way to pass the day. And in fact that’s what I did for most of the day after I finished checking out the cliffs, where most things were finished except the Scotch harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). I also checked out the small bog and lake to the west, but there were only a few things left in bloom, so I went back to visit some more with the pikas. Since I’m so far behind on my reports, I’ll just share some photos of the wonderful wildlife I saw.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

Read the rest of this entry »

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