Archive for the ‘Rock and Cliffs’ Category

Fabulous Loop Trip Around Balm Mountain

Classic frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) has narrow leaves that are often quite purple-tinged. Mount Bailey is the snowy mountain to the left. To its right, the rim of Crater Lake can be seen even farther southeast.

On my very last hike in the mountains last year, John Koenig and I found a great way to bushwhack up the south side of Balm Mountain, the highest point in the Calapooyas and one of the coolest places in the Western Cascades (see Another Way Up To Balm Mountain’s South End). We talked about coming back this year and doing a loop by climbing up that way, walking the entire ridge to the north, and returning via a road that leads to the north side. It was high up on both of our priority lists, so for our first trip together to the Calapooyas this year, on July 3rd, we decided to give it a try.

After a number of trips up here, this was the first time I was able to see the deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) in good bloom at the far south end of the mountain. Some monkeyflower and large-flowered blue-eyed Mary indicates this area is somewhat seepy.

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Meandering About Moon Point

From the rocky viewpoint at the end of the trail, we had a great view to the south of the east-west-oriented Calapooya Mountains, including Bristow Prairie where we were the day before and Balm Mountain where I went 10 days later. The coppery-colored shrub to the right is actually a very dwarf Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia), while some snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus) is blooming to the left.

I believe this is the caterpillar of the police car moth. Its host food plants are in Boraginaceae like this blue stickseed (Hackelia micrantha). He’s clearly been eating both the leaves and the inflorescence.

After our Bristow Prairie trip (see previous post), Betsy Becker decided to stay in the area another day, so on Sunday, June 23, I brought her up to the Moon Point trail. We had a mostly relaxing day (Betsy was not so relaxed when I persuaded her to sit on top of the cliff at the end of the otherwise easy walk!). It was a beautiful day, and the flowers were still fresh. We saw some more plants she wasn’t familiar with, including the rare green-flowered wild ginger (Asarum wagneri). We also made a loop through the lower meadows to pretty Moon Lake. Here are some photos. Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen’s Rare Plant Watch at Bristow Prairie

Kris checking the Lewisia key on her tablet while Betsy continues to count plants.

Betsy spotted this pair of three-leaved plants trying to trick a trio of botanists. The Columbia windflower (Anemone deltoidea) flower is trying on the western trillium (Trillium ovatum) leaves, perhaps disappointed that its similar leaves (hiding above) are much smaller.

Citizen’s Rare Plant Watch is a citizen science program that was started by the Native Plant Society of Oregon in 2012 and is now run by the Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank and Plant Conservation Program at Portland State University. Volunteers, led by Kris Freitag, travel around the state gathering information on rare plants and trying to relocate plants that have not been seen in the state in many years.

Kris contacted me a while back about monitoring the Columbia lewisia (Lewisia columbiana) John Koenig and I found last year (see Yet Another Exciting Discovery at Bristow Prairie). I suggested I join her and give her the “tour” of one of my favorite places. After several volunteers had to cancel, only Betsy Becker was able to make it all the way down from the Portland area. As it happened, Walama Restoration was hosting a campout at Sacandaga Campground that weekend, so Kris and Betsy and I joined them there on Friday night and headed up to Bristow Prairie on Saturday morning, June 22nd.

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A Rainbow of Colors at Cone Peak and Iron Mountain

The Cone Peak meadows at peak bloom. What else can you say but “Wow!”?

The ivesia (Ivesia gordonii) was in perfect bloom on the side ridge of Cone Peak. It’s also on the top of the peak, but there are no records of it anywhere else on the west side of the Cascades.

Sabine Dutoit had a hankering to go to Cone Peak and Iron Mountain, so last Thursday, June 13, Sheila Klest and I joined her for an excellent day out in the Cascades. It was a gorgeous day, and the flowers were outstanding. We walked the 6.6-mile loop trail up through the Cone Peak meadows, over to Iron Mountain (passing just a few last patches of snow on the north side), and up to Iron Mountain before returning to the road. It was great to be out with good friends, enjoying the flowers and views, and not working too hard. And there weren’t the usual crowds at Iron Mountain—undoubtedly the most popular wildflower site in the Western Cascades. Although that’s much longer than I usually hike, it seemed so relaxing not studying, surveying, or collecting seeds, and not bushwhacking. I’ll have to try that more often! It was hard to choose just a few photos to post. You’ll just have to imagine the rest—or go yourself! Read the rest of this entry »

First Trip of the Year to Bristow Prairie

An unusual “pink-eyed Mary” (Collinsia grandiflora)!

So far, my botany season has been spent checking out lower elevation meadows in the Cascades. But finally, on June 4, it seemed like it was time to head up to the higher elevation sites. The Middle Fork District office told me that the day before they’d gotten a truck through Road 5850, which rides the ridge near Bristow Prairie, although there was a little bit of snow still along the side of the road. They weren’t sure about the upper part of Road 2125 where it comes into 5850, but I figured if the rest was clear, that part would be too. Thankfully it was, as I really wanted to see the early flowers at Bristow Prairie.

I saw a sawfly (sounds like a nursery rhyme or riddle: “I thought I saw a sawfly fly”) for the first time on Eagles Rock a few weeks ago (photo on right) and found another on this trip in the rock garden area (left). Actually, they are not flies (order Diptera) but are in the same order (Hymenoptera) as bees and wasps, and they fly with their legs hanging down the way wasps do. This one looks like the genus Trichiosoma. Although they are large and look rather intimidating, they don’t sting.

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A Day of Uncommon Ferns and Sedges

Larkspur covered the mossy rocks of Sacandaga Bluff.

On May 3, John Koenig and I went back to Rigdon to check out what I now call Sacandaga Bluff, a wonderful rocky area hidden away between the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and Sacandaga Campground. Last year, Ed Alverson had told us he found a population there of Sierra cliffbrake (Pellaea brachyptera), an unusual fern found more commonly to the south. It is one of my favorite ferns, and I’ve written about finding new spots for it in Lane County several times. I went to this spot a couple of times later year, and once earlier this year (see last report), but I still wanted to see it in its high spring bloom. Read the rest of this entry »

Early Trips to Rigdon

It’s been a busy winter and spring with a lot of unexpected setbacks—snowstorm and broken wrist among the worst. The snow’s long gone, and the wrist is healing, but I’m still not caught up on everything I had hoped to do in the last few months. While I haven’t been out as much as usual, I did make it out to Rigdon several times, so I’ll share some photos from those early spring trips.

March 17

My friend Karl hadn’t seen the big show of gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) along Hills Creek Reservoir, so we headed out there on March 17. We only made it out as far as Big Pine Opening because of all the downed trees and remnants of snow on the road, but the show along the reservoir was beautiful.

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Another Way Up To Balm Mountain’s South End

On the way up, we stopped for lunch at the top of the quarry. John’s proximity to the edge of the cliff gave me the willies, so I sat farther back.

On October 16, it was a beautiful clear day, and John Koenig and I headed up into the Calapooyas for one last chance to visit this wonderful area before winter set in. We headed down Road 3810 that runs along the west side of Balm Mountain. In the past, John and I had planned a trip to find a way to hike up to the south end of Balm Mountain (which is really a long ridge) through some meadows we could see on the aerial images. All my previous trips were approached from the north end of the mountain. We tried several times to get down to the end of the road in the past, but trees blocked it well ahead of where we needed to start (see Another Look at Aspen Meadow and Bradley Lake). On a previous visit to what we call Aspen Meadow, a wetland along Road 3810, we had driven down the road and discovered the trees were finally cleared, but there was a huge washout—one that I can’t see ever being fixed—about a half mile from where it used to dead end.

The fabulous rock formations near the top of the south end of Balm Mountain

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Further Rigdon Area Meadow Exploration

I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to keep up with the blog. I went out another 16 times since my last report in July, but I just didn’t seem to have the time to post. So—now that the year is just about over—I thought I’d try to at least post some photos from the most interesting of those trips—many were just seed-collecting trips to familiar places for the restoration work on my own property.

Looking for more purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) sites in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County was still one of my top priorities for the year. While I wasn’t able to find milkweed in most of them, I did find some interesting spots.
 

July 6

Purple milkweed dying back at the quarry meadow.

Crystal Shepherd, who worked as a botanist in the Middle Fork district last year, told me about a site where she found “one lonely Asclepius” last year. It was a very small opening above an old quarry along Youngs Creek Road 2129. I decided I’d better check it out it myself. I had looked at the meadow alongside the quarry many years ago in early spring but had never been back, even though it is just above the road that I’ve driven up countless times. I was thrilled to discover there was actually milkweed in the quarry meadow itself. I only spotted 10 plants, but some were already largely collapsed on the ground, so there may well be more than I saw. Before the quarry tore into the meadow, there might have been a much larger population. There were also a lot of other nice wildflowers in this meadow, including tons of tall bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) going to seed (but not ripe yet—darn!) and quite a bit of blooming western rayless fleabane (Erigeron inornatus), what I’ve come to feel is a regular associate of purple milkweed. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Monarchs at Grassy Glade

On June 27, John Koenig and I went to Grassy Glade with Jenny Lippert, Willamette National Forest botanist, to see if there was any more monarch activity. Jenny hadn’t been there for a number of years, so I was quite interested to find out if she thought the population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was expanding or contracting. We’ve had a number of discussions about whether this species is moving northward—possibly due to climate change—or if it was formerly more common back when Native Americans kept the area more open by burning and is now decreasing. The answer to this question would be of great help in deciding how best to encourage more milkweed in the Rigdon area. She seemed certain there was more milkweed in the main area by the road and that she hadn’t seen it before closer to the large, open meadow. While anecdotal, this was great to hear.

John walking along Rabbitbrush Ridge. Mosaic Rock and Steeple Rock can be seen in the distance. The light gray-green foliage is rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa).

We found a few eggs but not as many as I was hoping to see. As on my previous trip, a swallowtail and some smaller butterflies were enjoying the lovely milkweed blossoms. Soon, we were joined by a monarch! It was a male, and I wondered if it was the same one I had spotted a couple of weeks before. Where was the female who had laid the eggs? Read the rest of this entry »

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