Archive for the ‘Rock and Cliffs’ Category

Searching for Butterflies at Bristow Prairie

A gorgeous clodius parnassian. Note the transparent wing tips.

An elegant clodius parnassian. Note the transparent wing tips.

On Monday, June 20, I was invited by wildlife biologist Joe Doerr to join a group of wildlife biologists and botanists from the Willamette National Forest on a trip to Bristow Prairie. The goals were generally to familiarize everyone with butterfly species in our area and specifically to search for the Sierra Nevada blue, also called gray blue or arrowhead arctic blue (Agriades or Plebejus podarce—so many names!). Last year I discovered it at Reynolds Ridge (see A Day Full of Surprises) a year after it was first discovered there by Forest Service biologists surveying for it in southern Oregon. I mentioned it to Lori Humphreys who promptly went out and discovered it for the first time in Lane County in the little wetland off of the High Divide trail just north of Bristow Prairie. I saw it the same spot a few days later (see NARGS Campout Day 1: Bristow Prairie). This being the northernmost site so far, it seemed like the nearest place to take everyone to see it. Along with the forest service employees, our group included Lori, Dana Ross, Gary Pearson, and Rick Ahrens, expert naturalists and also non-agency “volunteers”. Read the rest of this entry »

Finally a Look at a Hidden Meadow at Tire Mountain

There's a great view of the mountains beyond Oakridge, including Diamond Peak on the right and Fuji Mountain on the left, both still snowy. You can also make out the two west-facing meadows of Heckletooth Mountain.

From the hidden lower meadow, there’s a distant view of the mountains beyond Oakridge, including Diamond Peak on the right and Fuji Mountain in the center, both still snowy. You can also make out the two west-facing meadows of Heckletooth Mountain near Oakridge, to the left and below Diamond Peak.

Last month I went to Tire Mountain to check out a hidden meadow below the trail near the beginning of the Tire Mountain trail (see Off the Beaten Path at Tire Mountain). I wasn’t paying attention, however, and went up the wrong meadow. Having first explored it in the fall of 2012, I still needed to get back and check it out while it was still in bloom. I had also wanted to return to see the yampah (Perideridia sp.) in bloom and hopefully collect some seeds of early blooming flowers. My schedule has been pretty full, so I figured I’d better jump on the first decent day before it was too late. So on Sunday, June 19, I headed up to Tire Mountain hoping to accomplish at least some of my goals. 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 »

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 »

Off the Beaten Path at Tire Mountain

Harsh paintbrush in bloom, looking south across the large east-facing meadow near the beginning of the trail.

Harsh paintbrush in bloom, looking south across the large east-facing meadow near the beginning of the trail.

This yampah has highly divided and irregular lower leaves as described for Periderida bolanderi, but the upper leaf has only a few lobes, and looks much more like one would expect for P. oregana.

This yampah has highly divided and irregular lower leaves as described for Periderida bolanderi, but the upper leaf has only a few lobes, and looks much more like one would expect for P. oregana.

Tire Mountain is one of my favorite spots and one of the premier wildflower destinations in Lane County and in the Western Cascades. Yet I have very few reports on my blog. That is because I had already been to Tire Mountain so many times before I started my blog that I haven’t been very often in the last few years, and it had been 5 years since I’d been during flowering season—far too long! I never had gotten back to check out the lower meadows that I explored in fall of 2012 (see Forensic Botany at Tire Mountain), and I also needed to go back to look at the suspicious yampah that might be Perideridia bolanderi. I was on my own for the day, so it seemed a good opportunity to do some more exploring, and there’s so much to see at Tire Mountain, both on and off the trail. 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.

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!

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