Posts Tagged ‘Hills Peak’

Buggy Day at Hills Peak

The darling little flowers of Primrose monkeyflower (Erythranthe [Mimulus] primuloides) all seem to face the sun.

The darling little flowers of Primrose monkeyflower all seem to face the sun.

Suksdorf's paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii) was still quite eyecatching.

Suksdorf’s paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii) was still quite eyecatching.

After a much-needed rest following the NPSO Annual Meeting, (see Field Trip Highlights from NPSO Annual Meeting), I did manage to get out a couple of times last week. On Wednesday, July 20, Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, Ginny McVickar, and I headed out to Hills Peak for a leisurely day to see what we could find. There were still lots of flowers out, and we stopped to admire rhodies (Rhododendron macrophyllum) and penstemons (Penstemon cardwellii and P. rupicola) blooming well along the roads on the way to the marshy lake east of Hills Peak, our first stop. Unfortunately, there were lots of mosquitoes, but we still managed to spend a few hours exploring the area. Primrose monkeyflower (Erythranthe [Mimulus] primuloides) was gorgeous, very small hooded ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana) were starting to flower, and the first one-flowered gentian (Gentianopsis simplex) was out. Bistort (Bistorta bistortoides) was in full bloom, but oddly, it wasn’t attracting many butterflies. We did see a number of dragonflies, and Ginny and I spotted a huge bug I’d never seen before. It was around 2″ long with nasty looking pincer-like fore arms. It was hanging out in the shallow water in the boggy area north of the lake. Read the rest of this entry »

More Wonderful Wildlife Sightings at Hills Peak

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

As I had done on my most recent late season trip to Hills Peak (see Another Great Wildlife Day) in 2012, I stopped at a bridge over the Middle Fork of the Willamette where it is still a small stream to see the salmon. There must have been 50 of them swimming in place together, packed like sardines, you might say.

Having finally seen my first pika of the year on my trip to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, I was reminded that I had never gotten to Hills Peak last year—my favorite pika-viewing site. With the flowers fading, I decided that would be a good destination on July 23, 2015. I’d also been wanting to try climbing up to the base of the cliffs on the left side of the talus slope for several years, but I’d had friends with me on my previous trips and didn’t want to drag anyone else up such a steep slope or make them wait for me, although hanging out on the lower rocks, watching for pikas is an enjoyable way to pass the day. And in fact that’s what I did for most of the day after I finished checking out the cliffs, where most things were finished except the Scotch harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). I also checked out the small bog and lake to the west, but there were only a few things left in bloom, so I went back to visit some more with the pikas. Since I’m so far behind on my reports, I’ll just share some photos of the wonderful wildlife I saw.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

A pika rearranging some thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) leaves in its cache.

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Searching for Willows and More

Dodecatheon jeffreyi

A moment of sun at Blair Lake lights up a display of mountain shooting star but is not enough to dry them (or me!) off.

After seeing the lovely blooming willows at Elk Camp Shelter (see previous post), I got “willow fever”, and decided I had to go back to some of the places I’d seen large populations of the lower-growing species of Salix to see if I could finally learn to identify some of the more difficult ones. On Thursday (June 20), I headed up to Blair Lake. There was only supposed to be a 3-day break in the otherwise damp week, and I wanted to go out twice before being stuck inside again from the rain, so I took a gamble that Thursday’s forecast for a 30% chance of rain wouldn’t amount to much. On Monday, I had been up to Parish Lake Bog following a similar forecast, and the weather was gorgeous. Not so at Blair. It was tempting to turn around and leave after it started to rain within minutes of my arrival, but after 9 miles of gravel, I couldn’t be such a wimp.Thankfully, I came prepared with rain coat and rain pants, but bushwhacking through sopping wet foliage proved worse than the actual rain and eventually proved too much for my raingear. Hey, at least the sun came out for a few minutes! And I got to look at the willows that have long confused me there. I’m still not 100% sure, but I believe they are actually the same two species I saw at Elk Camp Shelter: Salix eastwoodiae and S. boothii. The former is somewhat hairy and has a slightly bluish cast from a distance, while the latter has very shiny leaves and looks much greener overall. I was surprised that at the higher elevation of Blair, the flowers were so far along, but I could still see the fuzzy capsules of Eastwood’s willow and the glabrous ones of Booth’s. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Great Wildlife Day

I haven’t been posting much lately. Partly, that is due to my winding down my botanizing as the flowers are also finishing their season. The other reason is that I’ve been exploring some High Cascade wetlands. In the last few weeks I’ve visited Gold Lake Bog, Blue Lake, Hand and Scott lakes, and some interesting unnamed bogs near Little Cultus Lake, an area I’d never investigated before. On Friday (September 14), however, I went back to one of my favorite haunts, and the last one I posted about: Hills Peak. I’ve been wanting to show Molly Juillerat (Middle Fork District botanist) the wonderful lake on the east side of the peak because it is home to lesser bladderwort, one of the rare species the Forest Service monitors (see the previous post). Molly was finally free after fires near Oakridge pulled her away from her other duties, and Nancy was also able to join us.

The sphagnum moss on the mounds by the lake takes on a gorgeous copper color as the summer fades.

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A Minor Thrill at Hills Peak

On Thursday (August 23), John Koenig and I spent a lovely day in the area by Hills Peak. I had been looking forward to showing John one of my favorite areas in the Calapooyas, a part of the Western Cascades that is special to him as well. He “adopted” the Dome Rock wilderness area for Oregon Wild (then ONRC) back in the late ’90s when they were trying to assess all the small unprotected wilderness areas in the state. The day was absolutely gorgeous with none of the heat of the previous week or so and no sign of smoke from any of the small fires in the area.

The shallow lake has many pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) and is surrounded by bog-loving sedges.

We started out the day by walking down the old road to the shallow lake to the east of Hills Peak. I didn’t have time to check it out on my earlier trip this year (see Hills Creek to Hills Peak). Although the majority of flowers were finished, there was still plenty to see. Poking around a small wet meadow beside this old road, we found dozens of one-flowered gentians (Gentianopsis simplex), including a few plants whose petals were twice the normal length. There were also a great many starry ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes stellata). I’ve seen these both here before, but one of these days I’ll come back earlier enough to see what must be a lovely display of mountain shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi). Read the rest of this entry »

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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Hills Peak’s Wetlands and Wildlife

This western pond turtle wasn't happy to be "rescued" from the dangerous road.

Another great day for wildlife began before we even got to Hills Peak on Tuesday (August 23). As we drove out Road 21 around Hills Creek Reservoir, both Sabine and I took a double-take at an object on the edge of the road. I backed up when I realized it was a western pond turtle… intent on crossing the road! Picking him up wasn’t as easy as I expected. He squirmed and scratched much the way my cat does when I want to move her somewhere she doesn’t want to go. We were right near where Stony Creek meets the lake, so we brought him down to the water’s edge where he headed straight into the water. Hopefully if he gets the urge to go to the lake again, he can find a way under the road. I’ve never seen a pond turtle out that way, so it was great to see him, especially still alive and not squished on the road. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has posted a Western Pond Turtle fact sheet if you’re interested in learning more about these uncommon turtles in Oregon. Read the rest of this entry »

Hunting for Plants at Hills Peak

Pine white sipping from the tiny tubular flowers of Ageratina occidentalis

Hunting season is one of my least favorite times of year. I really resent being told it is unsafe for me to be up in the mountains. So I ignore that and go about my business, my only accommodation being that I wear brightly colored clothes. In many years of botanizing in last summer and fall, I’ve never run into a hunter actually hunting. Usually I see them driving around, and I’ve had conversations with some who are camping or heading back to their cars. Well, there’s a first for everything.

I headed back up to Hills Peak yesterday (September 11), to check out the spots I’d missed on my two previous trips (click here to see previous posts) and to visit with the pikas one last time. Seeing a truck parked by the entrance to the pika slope, I started the day by parking just a bit farther up the road. From here, I walked through the woods to the wetland just south of Road 2153. I checked many of the numerous patches of the larger form of Mimulus primuloides to see if there were any stolons like there were on the small ones at the nearby wetlands and earlier in the week at Echo Basin (see Late Bloomers at Echo Basin & Ikenick Creek). I couldn’t find a single one. There were obvious runners in several patches of the small, hairy form on the south edge of the wetland. I don’t know what it means, but it is interesting, and I’ll keep paying attention to that feature in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Pikas, and a Coyote, and Monkeyflowers, Oh My!

On my First Trip to Hills Peak in northeastern Douglas County (click here for aerial photo), I took a look at the top of the peak and three nearby wetlands. But there were several interesting looking spots that I did not have time for, so I decided it deserved a return trip. Boy, was I right! What a wonderful day I had Thursday (August 26), with great weather, interesting and unusual plants (even though most flowers were finished), and some great wildlife experiences, including a terrific hour spent hanging out with pikas.

Pika checking out its hay cache

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First Trip to Hills Peak

Hills Peak looms large above the wetland to the west.

Back in the fall of 2007, I checked out Big Swamp, a large wetland just south of the line between Lane and Douglas counties. This is before the Western Cascades were available in high resolution on Google Earth, so I wasn’t really sure where the good (boggy) part of the swamp was. After my hike, I drove up Big Swamp Road 2153, hoping to get a good look down on the swamp (I did). I continued on to see what was up the road and found a large wetland right next to the road. Above it loomed the rocky face of Hills Peak. I had no time to check it out that day but decided it was a place I had to get to. I had planned to do it late last summer, but the raging Tumblebug fire just to the west cancelled those plans. Read the rest of this entry »

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