Posts Tagged ‘Coffin Mountain’

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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The Search for Sisyrinchium sarmentosum

A fairly light-colored blue-eyed grass, but is it Sisyrinchium sarmentosum

A fairly light-colored blue-eyed grass, with rounded tepals, but is it Sisyrinchium sarmentosum? Note the winged stems and fairly narrow tepals.

According to the literature, Sisyrinchium sarmentosum (pale blue-eyed grass) is a rare species found only in a small area of the Cascades in southern Washington and northwestern Oregon near the Columbia Gorge. The Forest Service has been looking for more potential sites and has found several apparent populations farther south than the Columbia Gorge. Jenny Lippert, Willamette National Forest botanist, asked me to come along with her to a couple of these sites to take photographs, so on Wednesday, July 2, Sabine and I accompanied her to several moist meadow areas in Linn and Marion counties. Our first stop was Little Pigeon Prairie. It took us a little while to spot the blue-eyed grass because it was cloudy and before noon, and they don’t like to open up until the afternoon (I’m not much of a morning person myself!). As we headed to another nearby meadow just outside the large wetland of nearby Pigeon Prairie, suddenly the sun came out and so did the little blue stars of Sisyrinchium. It also went from cool to warm and humid very quickly—a fact that almost resulted in a major calamity for Sabine. While taking off her outer fleece, she had to take off her binoculars, which were on a harness. Before leaving the meadow, she realized the binoculars were missing but couldn’t remember where she’d taken them off and couldn’t find them anywhere. It was only after more or less giving up and heading out that she stumbled upon them again. What a relief! It’s a lesson for all us to mark all our equipment with brightly colored tape or paint—I have now put bright red tape on both my GPS and my oft-dropped lens cap. Read the rest of this entry »

NARGS Campout Day 2: Coffin Mountain

There have been a number of good beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) years lately, but this one is turning out to be outstanding by any measure.

There have been a number of good beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) years lately, but this one is turning out to be outstanding by any measure. Scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja miniata), as bright as it is, can’t compete with the beargrass in this scene. Bachelor Mountain, where we hiked the day before, can be seen in front of Mt. Jefferson.

On the second day of our NARGS camping trip, July 6, 11 of us headed up to Coffin Mountain. This is much more popular than Bachelor Mountain, and there were another dozen or more other hikers on the trail. The woman who mans (womans?) the lookout said there are more people are coming to Coffin Mountain than there used to be. I have to wonder if that’s in part because I keep telling everyone I know to go there! But it’s still a relatively quiet place with every bit as good a display of flowers as the much more well known Iron Mountain and Cone Peak, which can be seen to the south. In a great beargrass year, as this one is turning out to be, there aren’t too many places that can rival it for a outstanding show of flowers. Read the rest of this entry »

Gorgeous Day at Coffin and Bachelor

The show of beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) is once again outstanding on the open slope of Coffin Mountain. The Penstemon procerus and mountain sandwort (Eremogone capillaris) were also quite showy.

I’ve been trying to get back to Coffin and Bachelor mountains for several years, and, coincidentally, I finally made it back this past Wednesday, August 3, exactly three years to the day of my last trip. These two mountains have fairly short trails and are side by side, but it is still hard for me to do both in one day (without rushing too much) unless I camp nearby to give myself more time. Otherwise, I’d head up there at least once a year. They really are jewels for flowers and butterflies. I don’t know why more people don’t know about them. They deserve the popularity of Iron Mountain and Cone Peak, but I can’t complain too much about how much quieter they are.

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