Archive for the ‘Roadside’ Category

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 »

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 »

Field Trip Highlights from NPSO Annual Meeting

Thousands of mountain cat's ears blooming among the bunch grasses on Lowder Mountain

Thousands of mountain cat’s ears were blooming among the bunch grasses on the flat summit of Lowder Mountain.

This year was Emerald Chapter’s turn to host the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s annual meeting, held this year in Rainbow in the McKenzie area. This is my chapter, based in Eugene, so I agreed to lead three field trips. We had perfect weather and great plants for all three days, and a great group of enthusiastic participants who were happy with whatever we came across. It was great having people with different interests and knowledge bases, and they spotted a number of additions to my list—something that always makes me happy. Below are a few highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

Butterfly Survey at Groundhog Mountain

Elephant head (Pedicularis groenlandica) blooming in a boggy section of the wetland at the end of Road 462.

Elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica) blooming in a boggy section of the wetland at the end of Road 462.

While the Sierra Nevada blues (Agriades [Plebejus] podarce) were out and about, Willamette National Forest Service wildlife biologist Joe Doerr organized one last group butterfly survey. Now that we knew they were definitely established in the Calapooya Mountains (see the previous post, More Butterfly Surveying in the Calapooyas), we wanted to know if they had moved north across the Middle Fork of the Willamette. The area around Groundhog Mountain has an extensive network of wetlands, most of which have abundant mountain shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi), its host food plant, as well as lots of bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), its favorite nectar plant. If they were going to populate anywhere to the north of the Calapooyas, I thought Groundhog would be the ideal spot, although I had no real expectations of finding them there since I’d been there over three dozen times and never spotted them. Still, it was worth checking. And any data is important. So on Monday, July 11, Joe, Cheron Ferland, Lori Humphreys, and I, along with 4 botanists from the Middle Fork district headed off to Groundhog. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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 »

First Flowers at Hobart Bluff

Yellow bells is the perfect name for this cutie.

Yellow bells is the perfect name for this cutie.

With a few more days of dry weather predicted before the return of showers, I made a last minute decision to head down to the Rogue Valley for the annual rock garden plant sale of NARGS member Kathy Allen on Wednesday, April 20th. While it is worth the 3-hour drive just to see her amazing garden and shop for rock garden treasures you can’t find anywhere else, I always try to get in some hiking, especially since the bloom season in southwestern Oregon is always ahead of ours in Lane County. After a delightful shopping trip and an afternoon hike on Medford’s Roxy Ann Peak at Prescott Park, I had a chance to attend a fun meeting of the local NARGS chapter and see a number of my friends from the group as well as the speaker, Malcolm McGregor, a British expert gardener and author of a terrific book on saxifrages. I had taken him out botanizing years ago on a previous trip to the US, so it was great to see him again. Read the rest of this entry »

First Taste of Spring

A beautiful mourning cloak basks in the warming sun at Campers Flat

A beautiful mourning cloak basks in the warming sun at Campers Flat

On Wednesday, February 24, Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, Ginny McVickar, and I took advantage of the dry weather to head out to Hills Creek Reservoir south of Oakridge to look for the first wildflowers of the season. This has become an annual ritual, as it is usually warmer and drier down there, and the flower season gets an earlier start than on my property. While most of the early plants are small-flowered and not particularly showy (though still exciting in February!), the highlight of the trip is always the sheets of yellow gold stars (Crocidium multicaule). I was pretty sure we’d see some in bloom but not so sure the sheets of yellow on the cliffs along the reservoir would have kicked in yet. While the other two have seen this a number of times, this was the first time Ginny had been with us, so we were really pleased that the grand display was starting in one spot. If the rains keep coming, it should be stunning in March and may last for another month or two if it doesn’t dry out. The first Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii) and Halls lomatium (Lomatium hallii) were just beginning. They ought to be quite beautiful in a few weeks, especially if we get more warm weather. Read the rest of this entry »

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!

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 »

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