Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Watching Fires from Coffin Mountain Lookout

I hadn’t been aware of the Milli Fire, which had started the day before, so it was quite a shock to see this impressive plume of smoke just north of the Three Sisters. There’s quite a variety of conifers on the summit, all kept unusually short by wind, snow, and rocky conditions. (Left) the normally ground-hugging common juniper (Juniperus communis), (center) a very squat subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), and (right) a shrubby Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia).

A young harrier was among several soaring high above the sloping meadows. I’m used to seeing them alone, flying very low just over the ground, so I didn’t recognize them at first, in spite of their distinctive white rump patches.

I’m finally attempting to catch up on everything that I fell behind on over the last few months. I wanted to post some photos from a trip to Coffin Mountain I took on August 16 but didn’t get around to. Somehow I just couldn’t get to writing about the late summer trips, even though I was stuck inside most of the time, avoiding the smoke for much of August and September. It’s a little odd writing about those awful hot, dry, and smoky months while I listen to the steady rain outside. At the time, I couldn’t wait for rainy season to come and put out the fires and clear the air. It was hard to imagine the drought and fires would ever end. And now the rain is here—and I’m already dreaming about next year’s sunny summer days!

Earlier in the year, an old friend of mine, Charles, who had been living in Germany for a number of years, contacted me and said he and his daughter Lucia would be vacationing in the Pacific Northwest and were planning to stay at Breitenbush for a while in August. I hadn’t been to Coffin Mountain in several years, and as it is near Breitenbush and one of the best trails I know in the Western Cascades anyway, I suggested we could meet up there for a hike.

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Late Season Visit to Monarch Meadow

Purple milkweed going to seed stands conspicuously in the otherwise dried out meadow.

As July ended, super hot weather was predicted for the first week of August. I figured I’d better get out one more time before getting stuck inside for a week (or most of the month, as it turned out). So on July 31, I headed back to what I call Monarch Meadow, southeast of Oakridge, to look for ripe purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) seeds and any sign of monarchs. It was in the low 90’s by afternoon, so I wasn’t up for anything taxing, but a stiff breeze kept me surprisingly comfortable. Read the rest of this entry »

Unusual Sightings at Grasshopper Meadows

Lovely lilies, lupines, and lovage—a nice alliteration and a good view toward the southeast and Diamond Peak from the top of Grasshopper Meadows! 

On July 21, I went for a hike at Grasshopper Meadows. I figured there would still be some meadow flowers in bloom and plenty of butterflies. My first surprise was seeing another car as I arrived at the trailhead and finding it was fellow Native Plant Society of Oregon member and friend Rob Castleberry and his wife Joyce and their dog Wiley, who had arrived just minutes before me. We were able to walk together across the meadow to edge of the cliffs. On the way, we were surprised by a family of grouse bursting out of the grass in front of us. Joyce wasn’t up to the bushwhack down through the woods to the bottom of the cliff, but Rob joined me. It’s always a pleasure to share one of my favorite off-trail spots. It was too bad Joyce couldn’t come down, but I was happy she didn’t mind being left on her own for a little while. Read the rest of this entry »

Quick Trip to Pyramid Rock

Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) was abundant and at its peak bloom.

Last week I went down to the North Umpqua for a few days of exploring. The Native Plant Society of Oregon Annual Meeting is this coming weekend in the North Umpqua, so I wanted to check out what trails might have melted out at this early date and to prepare for leading a hike during the meeting. 

Menzies larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii), and frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) added lots of color to the scene.

After several days waiting for the weather to cooperate fully, I decided to go down on Thursday, June 1, even though it was still quite foggy and miserable at my house. I stalled until the road cameras indicated the sun was breaking through far better down in the Roseburg area. Unfortunately, all my dilly-dallying in the morning meant that I didn’t get on the road to Pyramid Rock until mid-afternoon. I wasn’t at all sure I could even get there, so my motivation was somewhat lacking. Indeed, I hit snow right at the trailhead for Bullpup Lake, where the road turns to face north briefly. I calculated I had a mile and a half of easy road walking and enough daylight to spend an hour on the rock, so I headed down the road on foot. There were a few small trees down, so it was just as well that I couldn’t drive any farther. The only problematic thing was finding the access to bushwhack out to Pyramid Rock. You can’t see it from the road, so I always clock the mileage to find the correct curve in the road. On foot, I wasn’t sure of my exact mileage, and there were several very similar curved spots in the road. But eventually I found the right spot and was able to climb down through the woods (across a rock pile with peeping pikas hiding below!) and out to the rock. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring the Meadows by Hills Creek Dam

A couple of weeks ago, Sabine Dutoit and I spent a little while along Kitson Springs Road 23, just east of the dam on Hills Creek Reservoir (see Late Start to a New Year of Botanizing). I hadn’t ever been to several meadows hidden from the road, so I decided that would be a good trip to do May 8 after getting a late start getting out in the morning—no gravel driving and relatively close to home.

From the meadows above Road 23, there’s a wonderful view to the south of a very full (!) Hills Creek Reservoir. 

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Late Start to a New Year of Botanizing

Wasp enjoying the flowers of Hooker’s fairybells (Prosartes hookeri)

With the rainy, cold winter transitioning into a rainy, cold spring, I’ve barely done any botanizing off my property this year. What few fair weather days we’ve had, I decided to stay home and protect my own wildflowers by removing blackberries—addictively satisfying work. My one break from the rain was heading down to the California desert for a few days in March (95° almost every day!) to see the “super bloom” at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Joshua Tree National Park (click on those links for my Flickr photo albums).

Enough wildflowers are popping up now that Sabine and I decided it was finally time to head to our favorite place to start the botanizing season. On Friday, April 28, we drove down to Hills Creek Reservoir and followed Road 21 as far as Mutton Meadow before heading back. It was a lovely day though crisp until the morning clouds eventually burned off. It’s still quite early, with almost nothing in bloom in Mutton Meadow, but we found plenty to see and enjoy.

This rocky oak-covered meadow area is just north of the reservoir. More meadows are hidden behind the ones along the road.

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Late Summer Colors at Echo Basin

Alaska cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis)

Giant Alaska cedars (Callitropsis nootkatensis) are one of the highlights of this trail. This ancient tree is at least 5′ in diameter!

On August 17, Sabine Dutoit and John Koenig joined me for a trip to Echo Basin. I hadn’t been there in 6 years (see Late Bloomers at Echo Basin & Ikenick Creek), and it was another site that John had never been to. It’s a great late summer destination as there are lots of late-blooming flowers, and it stays cool and damp later than many other areas, especially those to the south in Lane County where I spend the majority of my time. It was also nice to take a break from all the bushwhacking and walk on a trail for once, although, on the way back, Sabine commented that all the downed trees across the trail in one area made it only slightly easier than a bushwhack. Since it is a relatively short hike, we took our time getting there, stopping to look at rock ferns (Asplenium trichomanes, Woodsia scopulina, Cheilanthes gracillima, and Cryptogramma acrostichoides) growing in the lava areas along Hwy 126, and to Fish Lake to eat lunch and check out some sedges and asters that John and I had seen as the sun was setting on our way home from Pigeon Prairie the previous week.

Fish Lake

On our way to Echo Basin, we stopped at Fish Lake to admire a show of western asters in the now dried out lake bed. While I didn’t recognize it at the time, the view in the distance is of Echo Peak and the ridge just above Echo Basin.

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Pigeon Prairie Painted with Purple

A stunning spread of gentians in a secluded portion of Pigeon Prairie I hadn't seen before

A stunning spread of gentians in a secluded portion of Pigeon Prairie I hadn’t seen before

I spent some time attempting to photograph bees as they pushed their way into the gentian flowers. You have to be really quick!

I spent some time attempting to photograph bees as they pushed their way into the gentian flowers. You have to be really quick!

It had only been two years since my last trip to Pigeon Prairie and Little Pigeon Prairie (see Gentian Season at Pigeon Prairies), but John Koenig had never been there, and after seeing the gorgeous explorers gentian (Gentiana calycosa) on our trip to Bradley Lake the previous week (see Another Look at Aspen Meadow and Bradley Lake), I was anxious to see more gentians. There’s a great show of king’s gentian (Gentiana sceptrum) at both prairies, so on August 10, we made the long drive north to Marion County to spend a lovely day exploring Pigeon Prairie with a short stop at Parish Lake Bog on the way home since John hadn’t been there either. Nothing much new to report except that we saw lots of rough-winged swallows and more cedar waxwings chowing down on a huge gathering of some kind of insect (cranefly?) bouncing around above the surface of Parish Lake. Still, I thought people might enjoy some photos of the gorgeous gentians at Pigeon Prairie. Even non-flower lovers would probably take pause at these statuesque purple beauties! Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Hidden Lake(s)

The sphagnum bog alongside Hidden Lake

The cool sphagnum bog alongside Hidden Lake

Just 4 miles due south of Terwilliger Hot Springs, Hidden Lake has become a popular destination in the Cougar Reservoir area. During the recent NPSO Annual Meeting last month, there were two trips offered to botanize at Hidden Lake. Since I was leading hikes elsewhere (see Field Trip Highlights from NPSO Annual Meeting), I didn’t go on either of those, but I hadn’t been there for years, so I thought it was about time to go back. And after noticing some other wetlands not too far from the lake, I was even more intrigued and headed out there on August 7. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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