Archive for the ‘Douglas County’ Category

Second Butterfly Survey in the Calapooyas

Looking north from the edge of the plateau where Loletta Lakes lie, there’s a good view of the Coal Creek drainage to the right and the hill above the quarry that we visited the previous week on the left. I’ve been to the rocky summit a number of times, but I’m still eyeing the rocky area down the eastern slope. Some day….

One week earlier, we looked for Sierra Nevada blues in the wetlands along the crest of the Calapooya Mountains (see Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys) with Willamette National Forest wildlife biologist Joe Doerr. We didn’t find as many as we’d hoped, so thinking that perhaps it was a bit early, we decided to wait an extra week before returning to the area to check out some additional wetlands. So on Tuesday, July 18, Joe, Joanne, Lori, John, and I returned to the area near Loletta Lakes. We were joined on this outing by Matt Georgeff, another Middle Fork district wildlife biologist. Read the rest of this entry »

Gorgeous Day at Grassy Ranch

From the summit above Grassy Ranch, there’s a grand view. Looking southeast, we could see still snowy Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey.Nancy and I saw the burned area in the middle ground when we drove up Medicine Creek Road a couple of weeks earlier. Spreading dogbane was abundant and attracting lots of pollinators.

On Saturday, July 15, John Koenig and I spent a long, wonderful day up in the Calapooya Mountains. After the butterfly survey a few days before (see Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys), I couldn’t wait to get back up there. We decided we were going to try to drive up Coal Creek Road 2133 without making very many stops—after all, we just drove by there a few days before. Our destination was Grassy Ranch and Reynolds Ridge, over on the south-facing slope of the Calapooyas. It was a long drive coming from Lane County to the north, and we wanted to have as much time as possible over on that side since we seldom get there. But alas, there were so many beautiful things to see, we just had to make one quick stop, then another, and another, and ….. We didn’t even cross over to the south side of the ridge until after noon. The first stop was for a beautiful sweep of Cardwell’s penstemon (Penstemon cardwellii). Then we had to get out at our favorite area where there is a long, wet roadside ditch filled with wildflowers. Here we discovered a single blooming plant of Sitka mistmaiden (Romanzoffia sitchensis), a species I’d never seen in the area. We surmised it must have come from a seed swept down the creek from a population hidden far up the steep, rocky slope. There were also lots of my favorite clover, King’s clover (Trifolium productum var. kingii or T. kingii, the name seems to go back and forth).

Cardwell’s penstemon seems to prefer gravel roadsides to more natural habitats.

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Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys

A male Sierra Nevada blue kindly sitting on my finger for a portrait at Bradley Lake

Last year, Joe Doerr, Willamette National Forest (WNF) wildlife biologist organized several trips to the Calapooyas to survey a lovely little butterfly known variously as Sierra Nevada or gray blue (Agriades or Plebejus podarce), which is at the northern end of its range in the Calapooyas (see More Butterfly Surveying in the Calapooyas). This year, we returned to many of the same areas we visited last year to see how they were doing. Our first trip was July 11. Joe and I were joined by John Koenig, Lori Humphreys, and Joanne Lowden, Middle Fork District wildlife biologist.

Bradley Lake is one of the prettiest subalpine wetlands I know of in the Western Cascades.

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A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 3

A variable checkerspot straddling the individual small flowers of spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) to sip the sweet nectar. Milkweed species were recently moved into the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. They both share the trait of milky sap in their stems and are both beloved by butterflies as well as other insects.

For the second day of our camping trip, Nancy and I went up to Twin Lakes and what I call the BVD Meadow, both accessed from the same parking spot at the end of Twin Lakes Road 4770. I’d never seen (or felt) the road in such poor condition with many miles of washboard and areas starting to wash out a bit. My van survived without flatting another tire, but on returning to the campground, I discovered I’d lost a hubcap. The flowers were good, though farther along than I expected at the meadow, and we went for a nice swim at Twin Lakes, but both places were buggier than I ever remember. So far, it has been a particularly bad year for mosquitoes in the Western Cascades. Read the rest of this entry »

A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 2

Two monarch caterpillars sharing the same purple milkweed plant.

Nancy Bray and I had been planning a trip to the North Umpqua for quite a while. I was rather torn between going to some of my favorite places in Douglas County and looking for more milkweed and monarch sites. As luck would have it, I was able to do both. While checking the distribution of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) on the Oregon Flora Project Atlas, I had noticed one record of milkweed on Medicine Creek Road 4775 in the North Umpqua area from 1994. While out with Crystal Shepherd on Monday, she told me she used to work at the Diamond Lake District and had seen the milkweed at that site just 5 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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