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Exploring Near Grassy Glade

A lovely madrone (Arbutus menziesii) grows on the backside of the rocky ridge.

On my most recent trip (see Surveying Milkweed at Maple Creek Meadow), I had seen an intriguing rocky slope to the east. I realized it was one of the sites in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County that I had made a note to survey. It was just north of Grassy Glade, where there is a good population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia), so I decided for my next outing, on May 15, to check it out, as well as some other openings in that area. Read the rest of this entry »

Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”

This is the same view across the meadow, with the same milkweed and rabbitbrush, as I posted last year. You can see an open, rocky slope on the near ridge. I visited it a few days later. Grassy Glade is nearby on that ridge but can’t be seen from here. Unfortunately, the clouds never really broke, so we couldn’t see the view of Diamond Peak.

Last July, I discovered a new site for purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in the Rigdon area (see Another New Milkweed and Monarch Site!) and dubbed it “Maple Creek Meadow” since the nearest named feature is Maple Creek. I had been looking forward to getting an earlier look at it but wanted to wait until the milkweed had at least emerged. Since I had seen it coming up in some of the nearby sites, John Koenig and I decided to head up there on May 11. Knowing where I was going and how great a place it is, I found the boring, 1.7-mile walk up the bermed-off Road 217 much more pleasant than I did last year when I was wondering all the while if it would be worth it. We had hoped the morning clouds would burn off, but we were under clouds most of the day, so we didn’t get to see many butterflies. Read the rest of this entry »

First Look at Coal Creek Bluff Milkweed

Ever since our trip to Coal Creek Bluff at the end of March (see First Flowers at Coal Creek Bluff), John Koenig and I had been looking forward to a return visit. Now that I knew the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was emerging from its long winter dormancy, we wanted to get there as soon as possible. On Monday, May 7, we headed down to the Rigdon area along with Sheila Klest. We were very happy to drive out of the fog into a beautiful sunny day. Unlike our last trip, we were all prepared with extra shoes for walking through the creek. It was lower than in March but still not crossable without getting wet. With suitable footgear, the crossing hardly slowed us down.

It was difficult to spot the milkweed in some areas where there were similar colors to still brownish purple leaves and whitish branches mimicking the old stalks. There are several milkweed plants in the foreground of this photo.

We decided we wanted to head straight to the south end of the bluff to look for the milkweed. We cut up around the side where we were able to climb up the small but steep rocky slope along the south edge. This brought us up on the bluff a little way down from the top but not too far from where I’d placed a cairn last year by a dead plant with seed capsules. John located the cairn fairly quickly. We found the large plant next to it and four more plants coming up nearby, two of which were pretty small. I was glad to confirm they really were milkweed plants, but it was rather disappointing that the population was so small. We wandered around separately looking for more and then gave up and started to head down the ridge, intending on looping around to the creek and back up on the north side—the same way John and I did the last trip. But I had this nagging feeling that I’d missed some up higher, so I climbed back up to the top. There was a milkweed, and another, and another! Right by the edge of the forest, there was a small area with at least a dozen plants. As I walked over a bit to the north, I ran into Sheila. She also had the same idea that we hadn’t been very thorough and had found another dozen or so plants. Since John was way down at the bottom at this point, we decided we’d better come back here at the end of our loop and do a more careful survey. Read the rest of this entry »

Purple Milkweed Emerging on Milkweed Ridge

Purple milkweed is tinged with purple as it emerges, and its inflorescence is already well developed.

With my showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) at home emerging from the ground, I hoped the purple or heartleaf milkweed (A. cordifolia) would be up in the Rigdon area in southeastern Lane County. On May 2, I headed down to see if I could find the first plants. I started out by climbing up the hill at Big Pine Opening, the one site visible from Road 21 and the lowest elevation site in the area at 2300′. The milkweed is only in the northeast corner, above an old quarry, but it is a very healthy population. Sure enough, they were up! Having never seen them this early in the season, I was quite surprised to find the flower heads already formed as they emerge. They must be in a hurry to bloom! The plants come up quite dark, their glaucous leaves suffused with red-violet. This makes them quite easy to spot against green grass but hides them well in bare soil. They are often found in very rocky areas, but sometimes they seem to be happy enough in meadows with no rocks but perhaps gravelly soil beneath. I’m still trying to get an idea of their preferred habitats, but they certainly seem to want to be in well-drained soil. Read the rest of this entry »

More New Meadows in the Rigdon Area

Looking south toward the Calapooyas from “Buckbrush Meadow,” Dome Rock can be seen on the far left, and the snowy patch in the center is Bristow Prairie.

On April 22nd, John Koenig and I went back down to Rigdon to continue looking at meadows we hadn’t visited before. This time we chose several near Youngs Rock Road 1929. One small opening sitting atop a ridge off of Road 423, an apparently little-used logging road, had intrigued us. There didn’t seem to be much of a reason for an open spot in the woods there. This was my first day playing with the free Avenza mapping app I’d put on my fairly new iPhone. I had downloaded (again for free!) all the USGS quad maps for the area, placing them in a folder together on the phone so they’d be connected. I had also spent some time the night before looking at the Google Maps aerial view of the area on the phone while I was connected the night before. We had to find the spot along the road to park at and follow a ridge through woods to the hidden meadow. The GPS on the phone worked perfectly with the maps and aerial view to show me exactly where we were and where we were going. This is even better than my old GPS! Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Shy Creek Meadows Area

A view of the snow on Diamond Peak and the Calapooyas from the manzanita-covered main Shy Creek Meadow

On April 4, I brought John Koenig and Sheila Klest to see the area I’m calling Shy Creek Meadows, several meadows along abandoned forest road 034 near Coal Creek in the Rigdon area of Lane County that I first visited last fall (see Further Low-Elevation Meadow Exploration). While we didn’t find any purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia), we had a great day. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

First Flowers at Coal Creek Bluff

After discovering new sites for purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in the Western Cascades last summer, my main goal for this spring and summer is to explore these lower elevation meadows in the Rigdon and North Umpqua areas of the Western Cascades for more milkweed sites—and hopefully more monarch sightings. Several weeks ago, John Koenig, Sheila Klest, and I tried to get to what I named “Coal Creek Bluff” last fall on my first visit there (see Final Outing of 2017). We drove across a thin layer of snow on the bridge across Coal Creek but were immediately stopped by a tree across the road. So we changed our plans and went back to “Monarch Meadow” and “Many Creeks Meadow”. John hadn’t been to Monarch Meadow, and Sheila hadn’t been to Many Creeks Meadow. It was an enjoyable day, and things were a little further along than the earlier trips I posted about most recently, but it was still quite early, so not much to report yet.

Gold stars light up the steep slope near the base of the open area. A glimpse of Coal Creek can be seen through the trees below.

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Very Early Visit to Monarch Meadow

A view of Dome Rock from the top of Monarch Meadow

With the continued spring-like weather, Sabine Dutoit and I wanted to head out to Road 21 and Hills Creek Reservoir for our annual ritual to see the gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) in bloom. Seeing the first show of floral color really starts the year off right. The fact that it is so much earlier than usual worries me, but for now, I’m trying to just enjoy being able to start botanizing in February. They were much farther along than last week when John Koenig and I stopped to check, but they still have a long way to go before they are at peak bloom. Hopefully, we’ll get some rain soon to keep them going. Read the rest of this entry »

First Meadow Survey of 2018

John enjoying the view (and a moment of sunshine) at our first new meadow site of the year.

On Monday, January 29, John Koenig and I attended a meeting of the Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative at the Forest Service office in Westfir. The purpose of the meeting was to propose surveying projects in the Rigdon area of the Middle Fork District of the Willamette National Forest (south of Oakridge and Hills Creek Reservoir). Earlier in the month, Molly Juillerat, the district botanist, and I met to talk about meadows we want to survey, especially those that might have purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). I spent some time looking at Google Earth searching for potential meadow sites I hadn’t been to yet and put together a list of 16 low-elevation open areas I think are worth checking out. Read the rest of this entry »

Final Outing of 2017

With the continued warm weather of late October, I made one final trip to the Rigdon area south of Oakridge to look at another interesting spot. During my many trips up Coal Creek Road 2133 to get up to high elevation sites in the Calapooyas, I had often caught glances of an open slope on the far side of Coal Creek. I’d wondered for years about this intriguing spot, so it seemed like the right time to figure out how to explore it.  On October 31st, I followed the route of my previous trip (see http://westerncascades.com/2018/01/27/further-low-elevation-meadow-exploration/previous post) but turned south off of Road 200 onto Road 210. I’d never been down this road before, so I wasn’t sure whether it was even driveable. It actually was in good shape for a while, and a gate across it was open, but I decided to park at the gate anyway as it didn’t look as though it was well driven. As it turned out, there was a tree blocking the road farther along, and there were other spots where it was clearly growing over from disuse. But it made for a pleasant enough walk until the road was bisected by a creek. At this time of year it wasn’t too hard to ford the creek, jumping from rock to rock, but when the water is higher in the spring, it might be necessary to head upstream to find a narrower crossing than I took. Not too long after traversing the creek, the slope on my left went uphill, rather than downhill toward Coal Creek as it had done until then. I knew this meant I’d come to my destination at last!

Looking north across the rocky slope.

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