Posts Tagged ‘grouse’

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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Singing the Blues at Tidbits

Explorer's gentian (Gentiana calycosa) growing out of a crack in the rock face at the base of the "east Tidbit". Seeing this same plant well over a decade ago was what first made me wonder if these rock-loving gentians were really the same species as those that grow in wetlands in the High Cascades and elsewhere in the West.

On Friday (September 23), Nancy Bray, Ingrid Ford and her adorable dog Bogy, and I headed up to Tidbits to see the gentians. I had planned to get up there early in the season to see the many great plants that grow on the massive rock formations, but there are just too many places to visit. But although it was actually the first day of fall, there are still a few things to see. Thank goodness for the gorgeous gentians. They are somewhat like dessert after a great meal, saving the best for last, the final sweet treat that lingers with you and tides you over until the next flower season. There are not very many species of Gentiana in the Cascades, and they are never terribly common. Tidbits is one of the few places in the Western Cascades with a good show of gentians, so it is always worth a late season trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Finally, a Visit to Upper Elk Meadows

Mama grouse with adorable baby grouselings seem to be everywhere along the mountain roads now.

A golden longhorn beetle enjoys the flowers of Umpqua frasera (Frasera umquaensis).

I’ve heard about Upper Elk Meadows, south of Cottage Grove, for years, but I’ve never managed to go check it out. But last Friday (July 8) was the perfect opportunity as I was heading south to the North Umpqua for our annual NARGS campout, which I’ve been organizing the last few years. There are several nice cutoffs over the mountains via Cottage Grove that are actually paved all the way to Hwy 138. One of these, south of Cottage Grove Lake and London, via Big River Road, goes right by Upper Elk Meadows—or almost right by. I had a whole bunch of maps with me, but I’d forgotten to make sure I knew where it was on the map, and I hadn’t bothered to get directions from anyone, since I was far more concerned with planning the weekend camping trip, which had to be changed twice due to the low snowline. Neither of my BLM maps had it marked, nor did either of the nearby Forest Service district maps. After I arrived at the intersection of Rock Creek Road and had obviously missed Upper Elk Meadows, I checked the last possible map I had with me that might cover the area: the Umpqua National Forest map. Thankfully it was marked on there, even though it is not in their jurisdiction—it is actually a BLM RNA (Research Natural Area). Once I knew about where it was, it wasn’t too hard to find, off a gated-off side road, and small paths made it obvious where people had gone in there before. Read the rest of this entry »

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