Posts Tagged ‘Loletta Peak’

Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas

It had been three years since I’d been up on Loletta Peak, and I’d been hankering to see the Siskiyou fritillary (Fritillaria glauca) in bloom up there since I first discovered it on my first trip back in 2009—I didn’t write about it because, at the time, it was considered rare, and its locations were withheld. The road is on the north side of the Calapooya crest and is normally blocked with snow when these very early bloomers are peaking, so the lack of snow made this year seem like the perfect chance to give it a shot. On March 29, I was joined by John Koenig, who loves the Calapooya area as much as I do.

Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) are abundant on the summit slope of Loletta Peak.

Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) is abundant on the gravelly summit slope of Loletta Peak.

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First Exploration of Balm Mountain

While exploring the part of the Western Cascades called the Calapooya Mountains over the last few years, I have repeatedly been drawn by the seemingly bleached open slopes of Balm Mountain (see map). After finding so many unusual plants at the next peak to the NNW, what I’ve dubbed Loletta Peak (see previous posts on Loletta Peak), I’ve become even more obsessed with finding out what treasures await on Balm Mountain. Yesterday (August 23), I finally indulged my curiosity. I decided to approach this mountain from my usual route up Coal Creek Road 2133. I’d never driven to the end of Road 3810, which goes just below the south sides of Loletta Peak and Balm Mountain and can be accessed from the north only by Road 5851, which is most quickly reached via Coal Creek Road. When I investigated the Skipper Lakes trail last year (see Some Oddities at Skipper Lakes), just below the southeast side of Balm Mountain, I headed in from the north side, which was a shorter drive. Unfortunately the spur road was bad and the trailhead non-existent. I eventually found the trail and discovered a real trailhead at the south end, right where road 3810 deadends.

Amazing weathered rock formations along the ridge south of the lookout site (seen at the top)

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Third Trip to Loletta Peak

The interesting rock formations just north of Loletta Lakes and "Loletta Peak" are home to Heuchera merriamii and Penstemon rupicola.

Saturday (August 7), I returned to Loletta Peak, primarily to look for female plants of the dieocious Galium grayanum I had discovered three weeks ago (see More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas). There was still plenty blooming along the roadside. The masses of pale yellow Epilobium luteum were almost at peak as was the nice stretch of Artemisia douglasiana. For the first time, I saw the two look-alikes, Stellaria crispa and S. obtusa growing side by side in the damp ditch. At a glance, it was easy to spot the difference between the tight, almost prostrate stems of S. obtusa and the lax but more upright stems of S. crispa with widely spread out leaves. There seemed to be lots of trucks driving around the normally empty roads. Hunting season is coming up, and, alas, this is a popular place for hunting. I met one nice young man out scouting with his daughter. He quickly figured out that I “probably didn’t like that sort of thing.” I replied that I enjoy seeing animals alive in the wild, but we had a pleasant conversation about the road conditions and nearby wet meadows. He was obviously very familiar with the area, too, but looked at it from a different viewpoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Mystery Bedstraw Blooming in Calapooyas

Is this California bedstraw (Galium californicum) this far north of its normal range? No, it's Gray's bedstraw (G. grayanum), still quite rare in Oregon.

When John Koenig said he had a day free to head up to the Calapooyas with me, I was excited about showing him the wonderful spot I’d explored a couple of weeks ago and seeing if my mystery plant was in bloom yet (see More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas). So Wednesday (July 28), John and I headed back up Coal Creek Road. We couldn’t help but stop a number of times along the roadside because there was so much in bloom. The butterflies seemed to be everywhere, enjoying the flowers as much as we were. One of the plants that had drawn us both to this area many times is the rare Epilobium luteum. It was just starting to bloom. Also in the creeks and wet ditch that drain Balm Mountain were perfect Mitella caulescens, Veronica americana, masses of Senecio triangularis, and some gorgeous Epilobium glaberrimum. It may have small flowers, but they are a lovely shade of rose and are set off by attractive glaucous foliage. Glaucous foliage turned out to be the theme of the day. Farther up the road, there was a long stretch of Agastache urticifolia in full bloom. This is a real favorite of hummingbirds and large butterflies, but neither that nor flowering Castilleja miniata and pruinosa seemed to be attracting hummers. Read the rest of this entry »

More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas

Ceanothus velutinous covers the lower slope of the ridge before giving way to slippery gravel. The ridge ends on the left in a protected, north-facing cliff.

Yesterday (July 19), I returned to the Calapooyas to explore an interesting spot I discovered last fall. It’s an unnamed high point along the ridge just south of Loletta Lakes, so I’m going to dub it Loletta Peak. Much of it is steep, open gravel, and I had wondered for years what might be up there. Only last October, after the first dusting of snow had landed, did I finally manage to climb up there. I was thrilled to discover Castilleja rupicola on the north-facing cliffs (see More Castilleja rupicola in Douglas County). This is the most southern point I’d ever seen it. I was anxious to see it there in bloom as well as to see what other treasures the area might hold. Read the rest of this entry »

More Castilleja rupicola in Douglas County

Castilleja rupicola

Castilleja rupicola

I found a new population of Castilleja rupicola yesterday. This one is a half mile farther south (and 1 mile east) of my previous southernmost population. That makes 2 populations in Douglas County now. I’ve been doing a lot of exploring along the Calapooya crest this summer, especially the last couple of months. I also found Castilleja rupicola at Pyramid Rock near the southern border of Lane County. This newest site was line-of-sight to my other sites at Youngs Rock and Moon Point (~10 miles north) and from Pyramid Rock there was a clear view of Bearbones (~6 miles north), another of my sites.

This last one was up on a ridge on a north-facing cliff hidden in the woods, although there are some plants along the west side of the ridge as well. I checked another nearby set of cliffs with binoculars but only saw 2 plants that might have been it. Way too far away to know and unlikely there would be so few in such good habitat. I’m sure there’s still more on the north side of the Calapooya crest, but most of the other cliffs in the area are also inaccessible (darn, where’s the jetpack I ordered?!). The plants on these 3 sites were touchable, so I trust my ID although they were well past bloom. I did recheck the other Douglas County site earlier in the year while they were in bloom, and they were indeed Castilleja rupicola. There was a dusting of snow above 5000′, and the days are getting shorter and colder, so that’s probably my last exploratory trip of the year. Sigh.

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