Archive for the ‘Forest’ Category

Gorgeous Day on Middle Pyramid

The view from the summit was spectacular on this clear day. Looking north we had a clear view of Mt. Hood and even Mt. Saint Helens framed by Coffin Mountain (left) and Bachelor Mountain.

The view from the summit was spectacular on this clear day. Looking north we had a great view of Mt. Hood and even Mt. Saint Helens framed by Coffin Mountain (left) and Bachelor Mountain (right). Trappers Butte is in front on the left.

Cliff penstemon can live in the harshest spots and still look beautiful—much nicer than the ones in my garden, which wouldn't even bloom this year. Three-fingerd Jack is in the background.

Cliff penstemon can survive in the harshest spots and still look beautiful—much nicer than the ones in my garden, which wouldn’t even bloom this year. Three-fingered Jack is in the background, looking east.

After all the super hot weather we’ve been having, it was a glorious weekend, and I was thrilled to get back into the Western Cascades on June 12 with four friends: Nancy Bray, Ginny McVickar, Sheila Klest, and her friend Sherry. I’m going to be leading a short trip to Park Creek during the upcoming NPSO Annual Meeting, which our Emerald Chapter is hosting next month, so I had wanted to take a look at how things were shaping up in the area. I realized I hadn’t been to the Pyramids since 2010 (see Yellow Cliff Paintbrush Still at Middle Pyramid), so, since Park Creek is on the way to the Pyramids trailhead, I figured I could do both. None of my companions had been to the Pyramids Trail before, making it a special trip for them as well.

We really couldn’t have picked a better day. There were few clouds in the sky until late afternoon, and the temperature wasn’t too hot or too cool. As Goldilocks would have said, it was “just right.” The air was much clearer than it had been during the high humidity of the recent heat wave, giving us awesome views at the summit. The foliage was quite lush, and the flowers were also fabulous, with a great many things in their prime.

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Spring at Heckletooth Mountain

Silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons) is outstanding on the steep, rocky, south-facing slope below the summit.

Silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons) is outstanding on the steep, rocky, south-facing slope below the summit.

The paintbrushes on the summit are hard to pin down as they are in many spots in southeastern Lane County. They may be a mix of Castilleja hispida and C. pruinosa. But whatever they are, they are gorgeous!

The paintbrushes on the summit are hard to pin down to species just like they are in many spots in southeastern Lane County. They may be a mix of Castilleja hispida and C. pruinosa. Whatever they are, they are gorgeous!

Spring is a busy season, and I’m already running behind. So I’m just going to post some pretty photos of a lovely trip to Heckletooth Mountain that Sabine and I took a week ago on May 28th. After going there at least once almost every year since 2006, I hadn’t been since 2013, so it was good to get back to this steep but lovely trail. There were still plenty of things just starting, including the grand show of showy tarweed (Madia elegans) and white-flowered threadleaf phacelia (Phacelia linearis). The weather was gorgeous. Everything was really quite perfect except for one major problem. The gravel road to get there is only 1.8 miles, but since my last trip, it had really gone downhill (pun intended—it’s pretty steep!). Some major downpours must have caused the many gullies in the road. Usually those kinds of gullies only last for short distances, but these must have gone on for a mile. And once I started up, I couldn’t turn around or back up over them. No fun! I hadn’t felt like dealing with gravel roads—one of the reasons I decided to go to Heckletooth—so it was quite an unfortunate surprise, and one that will keep me from returning to see the next wave of flowers.  Read the rest of this entry »

From the Minute to the Majestic

In late August last year, I discovered a new rocky meadow just southwest of Patterson Mountain (see Exploring near Patterson Mountain). I wrote that I expected it to be blooming in May. Well, May is here, so it was time to see what it looked like in bloom. On Monday, May 9, John Koenig and I went up Road 1714 off of Patterson Mountain Road 5840. We parked at the quarry on the bend in the road and walked down the road for about a tenth of a mile. A very short walk through the woods brought us to the top of the east end of the steep meadow in a couple of minutes.

It can be hard to come up with a good name for a place so one doesn't have to refer to it as "that rocky meadow off Road 1714". The masses of Indian dream fern gave us the idea to name the meadow after it. The spring phacelia was perched on the rocky shelves above the ferns.

It can be hard to come up with a good name for a place, but we didn’t want to have to refer to this area as “that rocky meadow off Road 1714”. The masses of Indian dream fern gave us the idea to name the meadow after it.

Naked broomrape growing out of spring gold. Without digging the plants up to look for the attached haustorium, it is only a guess that they are parasitizing the spring gold.

Naked broomrape growing out of spring gold. Without digging the plants up to look for the attached haustorium, it is only a guess that they are parasitizing the spring gold.

I was thrilled to see so many brightly colored flowers after last year’s trip when most everything was dried out and brown. There were lots of purple larkspur (Delphinium menziesii) in full bloom as well as two slightly different shades of yellow lomatiums—both spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) and the deeper yellow Hall’s lomatium (L. hallii) were abundant. Bright red paintbrushes were coming into bloom. They were quite variable. Some plants had the lobed leaves and wide, fluffy flower heads of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), while others had the unlobed leaves and narrow flower heads characteristic of frosted paintbrush (C. pruinosa). With the handlens I was able to find a few forked hairs on some of the plants, indicating at least some frosted paintbrush in their lineage. I’ve seen these mixed populations in many places in the area, so I wasn’t surprised. I assume the two species are hybridizing, but it would take DNA work to confirm my lay theory.

We poked around the east end of the meadow and finally discovered a small patch of Thompson’s mistmaiden, something I thought I’d seen dried plants of last year. It is so small, however, that I didn’t trust identifying it from seed, so I was pleased to find it in flower. We were very happy to find quite a few very bright purple flowers of naked broomrape (Orobanche uniflora). Their flowers were larger than usual, and from a distance we had trouble picking them out among the larkspur. I was surprised that they weren’t parasitizing the nearby wholeleaf saxifrage (Micranthes integrifolia) where I frequently find them, but rather they were growing most often among the spring gold. Rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) was everywhere but just budding up, so there will be plenty of color later in the month. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Meadows Below Youngs Rock

Looking south from the lower meadow, there's a good view of Dome Rock and other areas of the Calapooyas, still with some snow.

Looking south across the lower meadow, there’s a good view of the Calapooyas, still with some snow. The bright green shrubs on the rocks are mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii).

The Youngs Rock Trail in southeastern Lane County follows a south-facing ridge up through a string small meadows and openings. It’s a favorite of mine for both flowers and scenery, and I’d already been on various parts of the trail 23 times. I’d done some exploring off trail, but there were more meadows I hadn’t been to yet. Since it’s still early in the season for most of the flowers in the lower mountains, I thought it would be a good time to do some exploring to see if these meadows would be worth a trip during peak season. No one could accompany me on Saturday, April 30, but that was just as well as I hate to drag my friends out bushwhacking until I know how hard it will be and if it will even be worth the extra effort.

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First Look at Symbol Rock and Hehe Mountain

columnar jointing near the top of Symbol Rock

Stunningly beautiful columnar jointing near the top of Symbol Rock

I really don’t know what I’d do without Google Earth. Recently, I was sitting at my computer searching for places I hadn’t been to. I was looking at the higher elevation areas in the Fall Creek drainage (just east of where I live) on Google Earth and came across a monolith called Symbol Rock that I’d never seen or heard of before. While I’ve been heading up to Elk Camp and Saddleblanket Mountain on the south side of Fall Creek and Road 18 quite a bit the last few years, it had been ages since I’d driven up any of the roads on the north side of the creek. Last week when Sabine Dutoit asked if I was going anywhere, exploring that area was the first thing to come to mind. So on Thursday, September 10, Sabine, Nancy Bray, and I headed out Big Fall Creek Road to look for Symbol Rock and anything else of interest. To get to the rock, we turned left onto Road 1832. There was a sign saying logging was going on, but although the area was obviously being thinned—and wasn’t terribly attractive—we didn’t run into any logging trucks or current activity.

Looking straight up at Symbol Rock from down on the road, the rock is quite imposing.

Looking straight up at Symbol Rock from the road below, the rock is quite imposing.

It was almost 9 miles of gravel before we arrived at the rock, but what a sight! It reminded me of a much smaller version of “Mosaic Rock.” At its highest point, it is about 150′ tall. It follows along the side of the road for almost 1000′, and there’s some more rock and a talus slope on the other side of the road. The columnar jointing is gorgeous. With binoculars, we scoured the long, straight cracks for plants. There wasn’t much growing in them except some ferns and cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), but there was enough of the latter to make it worth visiting during its bloom. The rock gets shorter to the east until it becomes a climbable rocky slope. We didn’t check it out on this trip, but it looks as though there are a number of attractive species occupying that area. There were a lot of shrubs along the road as well, including many Fremont’s silk tassel (Garrya fremontii) that had clearly bloomed well early in the season. This is definitely going on my to-visit list for next spring!

Looking west from Road 1832 on the way to Hehe Mountain, there is one brief view of the length of Symbol Rock.

Looking west from Road 1832 on the way to Hehe Mountain, there is one brief view of the length of Symbol Rock.

About a mile farther down the road, we came to Hehe Mountain. The map showed a trail to the summit, but having never heard of it and the trail being so short, I wasn’t sure if we’d find the trailhead or be able to follow the trail. Luckily, I was wrong on both counts. We came to a nameless trailhead marker on the left and decided to give it a shot. The first stretch of trail was quite easy to follow and headed straight through a very pleasant forest with an understory of salal (Gaultheria shallon) and rhododendrons (Rhododendron macrophyllum). Judging by the number of seed capsules, the rhodies must have been gorgeous a few months ago. We stopped for lunch in a small rocky clearing with a view to the northeast. Hehe Mountain is only a mile south of the boundary of the National Forest, and, sadly, this looks out onto an area south of the McKenzie that has been ravaged by private logging.

The trail switchbacks a number of times through some beautiful forest with a number of large Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and western red-cedar (Thuja plicata). We had to clamber over many fallen logs and branches, and as we got higher, we had to follow a number of pink ribbons to stay on the trail. As I suspected, it’s not a very well-used trail, but we were thankful someone had been here recently to mark the trail. According to some info on the web, volunteers reopened the trail in 1995. When we reached the ridge, I went off the trail a short ways to check out a large, open, rocky slope with a great view to the west. There were manzanitas (Arctostaphylos nevadensis and A. columbiana, and perhaps even some hybrids) and Cardwell’s penstemon (P. cardwellii), but everything else was too far gone to identify.

The view to the west from Hehe Mountain

The view to the west from the top of Hehe Mountain is largely National Forest land.

The view to the northeast of private timber company clearcuts

The view to the northeast shows a vast area of private timber company clearcuts.

The trail ends at an old lookout site. Apparently the lookout was removed in 1968. The bench mark gives the elevation at 4081′, but the maps says it is 4066’—close enough. The trees have grown up, and there’s not much of a view, but there is still an open rocky viewpoint just a little ways to the north. A few small oaks grace this opening and the previous one. Just before the summit, the remnants of a collapsed structure lay by the edge of the trail. We weren’t sure what it had been as it seemed too large for an outhouse and too small for a cabin. While we didn’t spot any rare or exciting plants, we definitely thought this short (mile-long?) trail was worth a return visit, especially when the rhodies are blooming.

Sabine and Nancy on the old lookout site at Hehe Mountain.

Sabine and Nancy on the old lookout site at Hehe Mountain.

I had some other areas farther east I want to check out at some point, but as we had been successful at finding the first two destinations, we only had enough time left for a refreshing swim in Fall Creek on this hot day. To get back, we continued on Road 1832 for 3 miles. Here it reconnects with Road 18 at its eastern end. In the future, I’ll probably use this more direct route to HeHe Mountain and Symbol Rock, although to go all the way to Symbol Rock, it’s about the same amount of gravel road via either route. If you’re looking for out of the way places to explore in Lane County, check these two out. If you’re elsewhere, use Google Earth—it’s a fabulous tool for adventurous botanists!

Fabulous Day at Grasshopper Mountain

Highrock Mountain and Grasshopper Meadow

Near the summit of Grasshopper Mountain, there is a fabulous view of nearby Highrock Mountain. I had been very disapointed the day before that I couldn’t see Highrock even though I was walking right below it. Grasshopper Meadow can be seen below.

The awesome cliffs of Grasshopper Mountain in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide looked even better up close from Cliff and Buckeye Lakes (see Exploring the West Side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide) than they had from a distance the year before from near Hemlock Lake. On Wednesday, July 15, I finally went to walk to the top of them. It was forecast to be the clearest day of my three-day trip, and the weatherpersons were correct. After the clouds of the previous two days, it was a relief and a joy to have totally clear blue skies all day. Instead of doing the long loop from the lakes, I found a shorter route to the summit of Grasshopper Mountain from the Acker Divide trail, just a little northwest of where I had been the day before. I left the campground and headed east on Jackson Creek Road 29, which soon becomes gravel. After about 10 miles of well-maintained gravel, a sign points to the trailhead a mile down deadend Road 550. It’s all pretty easy, and since Road 29 loops around and goes back to the South Umpqua Road, you can get to the trailhead just as easily from the north end of the South Umpqua Road, depending on where you’re camping. Read the rest of this entry »

Cripple Camp Shelter and Beyond

An incredibly beautiful form of marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) at the Camp Comfort campground along the  South Umpqua.

An incredibly beautiful form of marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) at the Camp Comfort campground along the South Umpqua. These are as beautiful as any cyclamen one can buy for the garden.

Having gotten such a late start the day before (see previous post, Exploring the West Side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide), I’d also gotten into the Camp Comfort campground quite late and had only had enough time to see there was a lot of marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) under the big trees in this pretty spot. No one else was staying in the campground, so in the morning (July 14) I walked all around it. I couldn’t believe how many plants and how many gorgeous forms of marbled ginger there were. Alas, this uncommon woodland perennial doesn’t grow in Lane County or anywhere north of Douglas County, so it is always a treat to see. The white coloration varies quite a bit from plant to plant. Some are barely distinguishable from the common long-tailed ginger (Asarum caudatum), others have a pale triangle in the center, while the best forms have a white center and white veining. In this area, I even found some that were frosted white all around the edges, not just on the veins. Needless to say, I got a later start leaving for my hike than I had intended, but since I came to see plants, it really didn’t matter if they were on the trail or right by my campsite! Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring the West Side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide

Last summer, while I was hiking around the Yellow Jacket Loop at Hemlock Lake (Searching for Erythronium at Hemlock Lake), I saw something in the distance that always gets my heart racing—a big cliff. It was a ways off to the southeast, presumably in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide. Checking it out later on Google Earth, it turned out the cliff was on the north side of Grasshopper Mountain in Douglas County (not to be confused with the one I usually go to in Lane County). I was thrilled to discover there is a trail right to the summit where an old lookout once stood, as well as a number of other trails in the area. While I had been to the east side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide a number of times—and it is one of my favorite areas in the Western Cascades—I’d never done much exploring on the west side. Twice I’d driven through Tiller to go up to Abbott Butte and Donegan Prairie, but my only real stop had been to the World’s Tallest Sugar Pine, just off of Jackson Creek Road 29. I was determined to do a trip there as soon as possible, but somehow I never made it. Every time I had a block of time when I could spend a few days camping, there was a heat wave, expectations of thunderstorms, smoke, or some other deterrent. Since it is more than a 3-hour drive to get there, I didn’t want to spend that much time or energy if the conditions weren’t optimal.

From Buckeye Lake, there is a great view of the imposing 800' cliffs of Grasshopper Mountain.

From Buckeye Lake, there is a great view of the imposing cliffs of Grasshopper Mountain.

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NARGS Campout Day 1: Bristow Prairie

While John looks at plants, Jim and Peter are admiring the view from atop one of the smaller side rocks below the large pillar rock near the beginning of the trail.

While John looks at plants, Jim and Peter are admiring the view from atop one of the smaller side rocks below the large pillar rock near the beginning of the trail.

It was again my turn to organize the annual camping trip for a group of Oregon members of the North American Rock Garden Society, and while it would be an obvious choice for me to pick somewhere near me in the Western Cascades, it was actually the rest of last year’s group (see NARGS Annual Campout Hike to Grizzly Peak) that came up with the idea that we should go to the Calapooya Mountains. Apparently, I’d mentioned the area often enough to pique their interest (imagine that!). Scouting for this trip and the abnormally low snow pack were the two main reasons I’ve pretty much spent the entire last two months exploring the Calapooyas. In fact, the first time I made it as far north as Linn County was just a few days ago on a trip to Tidbits.

With the blooming season as far along as it has been, I planned the trip for June 18–21, and I’m so glad I did. If we had done it this weekend, we would have roasted in this heatwave. Instead, we had beautiful weather with very pleasant temperatures. For our first day, we went up to Bristow Prairie to do the north end of the High Divide trail as far as the beautiful rock garden—the highlight of the day, not surprisingly among a group of rock plant lovers. Since some of our normal attendees weren’t able to come this year, I invited some local NPSO friends to join us for day trips. On Friday, June 19th, in addition to Robin and her dog Austin, Kelley, Peter, Christine and her husband Yaghoub, and me, we were joined by my husband, Jim, and Dave Predeek and John Koenig. It was a really good group and far more men than usual! Here are some brief highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas: The Sequel

Sliver Rock

Sliver Rock is awesome pillar rock that protrudes from the slope below Road 3810 in the Boulder Creek Wilderness. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the name. The USGS quad map shows it as “Sliver Rock,” but their website lists it as “Silver Rock”. The Forest Service District maps that cover the area are also divided about the name. I’m going to keep calling it Sliver Rock because it really is like a thin sliver, and there’s nothing silvery about it. John and I contemplated how and whether we might be able to reach the rock. It looks challenging but too enticing not to give it a try…some day.

John Koenig and I had such a great day last week (see Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas) that we wanted to pick up where we left off, so, on Thursday, June 4, we headed back up Coal Creek Road 2133 to our usual parking spot east of Loletta Lakes. We hadn’t gotten this far last week until 6pm, so we wanted to spend more time here and see the area in the sun. When we arrived, the area was under a cloud that obscured the ridge just above us. John was confident it would burn off, and indeed, within just a few minutes, we were under blue skies. The rest of the day was gorgeous, sunny, and pleasantly cool. Read the rest of this entry »

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