Posts Tagged ‘Hills Creek Reservoir’

Hidden Meadow Reveals a Thrilling Secret

Purple milkweed is a gorgeous plant with glaucous leaves and garnet-colored flowers

In November of 2012, I went exploring down along Rigdon Road 21 southeast of Hills Creek Reservoir, an area I spend a lot of time visiting, as readers of this blog no doubt have noticed. There’s a small old quarry between Campers Flat campground and Big Pine Opening. I thought I’d see what was in the rocky area up top. The woods were fairly open so I continued up the ridge and popped out in a rocky meadow. While it was well past blooming season, I enjoy “forensic botany”—trying to identify species in various states of decay or at least past flowering. I saw some saxifrages rejuvenated by fall rains, a flower or two left on the late-blooming fall knotweed (Polygonum spergulariiforme), and evidence of bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata). But what really excited me was a few clumps of dried stalks with old capsules filled with silk-topped seeds—a milkweed! 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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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 Day of Spring!

First day of spring and first post of 2014! It sure didn’t feel like the first day of spring when I got up on Friday (March 21) to 29°, frost, and fog. The weather forecast said it was going to be sunny and warm later in the day, but I dressed in 3 layers of clothing just in case. John Koenig and I then headed off for my favorite early spring site: Hills Creek Reservoir and Road 21. I’ve written about this wonderful roadside route many times (see other posts here). It is always so nice to see old friends—I meant the flowers and locations, but that goes for John too!

Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii) in full bloom above the reservoir. It is abundant along the cliffs and rocky areas here.

Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii) in full bloom above the reservoir. It is abundant along the cliffs and rocky areas here.

As we hoped, we drove out of the fog into clear, sunny skies when we reached the reservoir. It was quite chilly, however, and neither of us took off our heavy coats until much later in the day. We made a number of stops along the cliffs on the west side of the reservoir and were surprised to see a Moss’s elfin butterfly on the wing. According to the thermometer in the car, it was only 48° outside and felt colder than that with the wind chill. Moss’s elfins are one of the earliest butterflies to emerge in the spring. Some other early fliers overwinter as adults, but these little elfins overwinter as chrysalises, so they must be well adapted to cold temperatures. I didn’t get close enough to take a good photo as I didn’t want to disturb it too much when it needed to sit still and warm up. Read the rest of this entry »

First Hints of Spring

The weather forecasters promised a sunny day on Friday (February 15), and, at least in Oakridge, they were right. Nancy Bray and I were looking forward to a break from the gloomy fog we’ve had so much of this winter. So off we headed to Road 21, south of Oakridge, my favorite early season destination and usually the warmest place in eastern Lane County.

What a joy it is to see gold stars (Crocidium multicaule), one of the very first flowers of the spring.

What a joy it is to see gold stars (Crocidium multicaule), one of the very first wildflowers every year.

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Hills Creek to Hills Peak

On Sunday (July 29), I drove down along Road 21 past Hills Creek Reservoir, yet again. I believe that’s the 13th time this season—and it won’t be the last. It is such a fascinating area botanically with a few good trails and a great deal of roadside interest. I was still tired from bushwhacking around Bearbones Mountain, so I wanted to avoid any real hiking and to instead check up on some good roadside spots and see as much of Hills Peak, way out past the end of 21, as I had time and energy for. My first stop was to Youngs Flat Picnic Area to see if the piperias were in bloom. What great luck, the white-flowered royal rein orchid (Piperia transversa) was in perfect bloom. Chaparral rein orchid (P. elongata) blooms a little later and was just starting, although I found several in good bloom. As far as I know, it is impossible to tell the various species apart from the leaves. So this was the time to check out some of the areas along the road where I’d seen the leaves but never the flowers. So my next stop was Mutton Meadow. In the woods across the road from the meadow were some scattered Piperia transversa, no elongata. The meadow itself was filled with elegant cluster-lily (Brodiaea elegans), some kind of birdbeak (Cordylanthus sp.)—a rare plant around here, and yampah (Perideridia spp.). I believe I saw both P. gairdneri and P. oregana, but until the seeds appear, I can’t be sure. That’s a tough genus to get a handle on.

Left and middle are Piperia transversa. It has mostly white flowers with long spurs that are perpendicular to the stem. On the  right is the mostly green Piperia elongata. Its spurs are even longer and point in any direction.

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Geraniums and Butterflies Along Road 21

Dan and Nancy enjoy the show of beautiful Oregon geraniums right by the main road.

Geranium oreganum has very large, very bright pink flowers. How could I have passed by this spot so many times and never seen these?!

Monday (June 11) was another day of leisurely roadside botanizing southeast of Oakridge for me, along with Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, and Dan Thomas. We stopped at many of our usual sites, including the cliffs by the reservoir, Youngs Flat Picnic Area, Mutton Meadow, Jim’s Oak Patch, Skunk Creek by Road 400, several unnamed meadows, and even briefly up to the amazing “Mosaic Rock” Sabine and I discovered last year (see Amazing Rock Feature Worthy of a Name). One of the most prominent plants of the day is one I rarely see, Oregon geranium (Geranium oreganum). There used to be a plant on my property, but I haven’t seen it for years. I probably drive down Road 21 at least a dozen times every year, year after year, yet I was totally surprised when we came upon a grassy spot along the road just past Secret Campground that was filled with blooming geraniums. The only thing that might explain how I’ve missed these is that perhaps they have a short season of bloom. We stopped to take a look and saw several butterflies among the pretty flowers, including a great arctic. I got what I thought was a nice photo of a female silvery blue that Nancy had spotted. Sadly, when I saw it blown up on my computer, it turns out she was in the death grip of a crab spider. Read the rest of this entry »

First Outing of the New Year

“Gateway Rock” at the top. Large patches of low-growing buckbrush are found to the right of “Uncle Pete” tree.

The first buds appearing on gold star (Crocidium multicaule)

In spite of the dry winter we’ve been having, I haven’t gotten out much. I’ve been focusing on getting back to doing artwork rather than on botany the last few months, so this is my first post for quite a while. But today was another sunny day—although rather chilly—so Sabine, Ingrid and her darling poodle Bogy, and I headed over to the Hills Creek Reservoir area, one of our favorites any time of year. As always, we stopped along the cliffs that line the west side of the reservoir. This is one of the earliest spots to find blooming Crocidium multicaule. We’ve seen an amazing show of it here the last couple of years as a result of the wet springs (see Hills Creek Reservoir,  take 2). While we didn’t really expect to find any blooming on the second week of January, we did manage to see some small plants of these little annuals. Those growing right by the pavement seemed to be farther along and even had a few buds. Their lovely yellow flowers may well start to show up here in February. Read the rest of this entry »

Knobcone Pines on Bear Mountain Meadows

Bear Mountain Meadows seen in the distance from near Hills Peak. We got as far as the one in the center of the photo.

A couple of weeks ago (see Uncommon Plants in Southeastern Lane County), snow kept me from checking out the series of large meadows on the lower slopes of Bear Mountain (the peak in extreme southeastern Lane County—apparently there are seven in Oregon, two others just in Lane County! As Sabine often points out, people aren’t very creative naming geographic features.) Despite the ominous date—Friday the 13th—this time we were very lucky finding a way up to this intriguing area. It turns out that Molly Juillerat, the Middle Fork botanist, was also hoping to see this area, as it was on a list of meadows to survey for possible restoration. She and Sabine and I were joined by another intrepid botanical explorer, John Koenig. Read the rest of this entry »

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