Posts Tagged ‘Rogue-Umpqua Divide’

Fabulous Day at Grasshopper Mountain

Highrock Mountain and Grasshopper Meadow

Near the summit of Grasshopper Mountain, there is a fabulous view of nearby Highrock Mountain. I had been very disapointed the day before that I couldn’t see Highrock even though I was walking right below it. Grasshopper Meadow can be seen below.

The awesome cliffs of Grasshopper Mountain in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide looked even better up close from Cliff and Buckeye Lakes (see Exploring the West Side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide) than they had from a distance the year before from near Hemlock Lake. On Wednesday, July 15, I finally went to walk to the top of them. It was forecast to be the clearest day of my three-day trip, and the weatherpersons were correct. After the clouds of the previous two days, it was a relief and a joy to have totally clear blue skies all day. Instead of doing the long loop from the lakes, I found a shorter route to the summit of Grasshopper Mountain from the Acker Divide trail, just a little northwest of where I had been the day before. I left the campground and headed east on Jackson Creek Road 29, which soon becomes gravel. After about 10 miles of well-maintained gravel, a sign points to the trailhead a mile down deadend Road 550. It’s all pretty easy, and since Road 29 loops around and goes back to the South Umpqua Road, you can get to the trailhead just as easily from the north end of the South Umpqua Road, depending on where you’re camping. Read the rest of this entry »

Cripple Camp Shelter and Beyond

An incredibly beautiful form of marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) at the Camp Comfort campground along the  South Umpqua.

An incredibly beautiful form of marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) at the Camp Comfort campground along the South Umpqua. These are as beautiful as any cyclamen one can buy for the garden.

Having gotten such a late start the day before (see previous post, Exploring the West Side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide), I’d also gotten into the Camp Comfort campground quite late and had only had enough time to see there was a lot of marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) under the big trees in this pretty spot. No one else was staying in the campground, so in the morning (July 14) I walked all around it. I couldn’t believe how many plants and how many gorgeous forms of marbled ginger there were. Alas, this uncommon woodland perennial doesn’t grow in Lane County or anywhere north of Douglas County, so it is always a treat to see. The white coloration varies quite a bit from plant to plant. Some are barely distinguishable from the common long-tailed ginger (Asarum caudatum), others have a pale triangle in the center, while the best forms have a white center and white veining. In this area, I even found some that were frosted white all around the edges, not just on the veins. Needless to say, I got a later start leaving for my hike than I had intended, but since I came to see plants, it really didn’t matter if they were on the trail or right by my campsite! Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring the West Side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide

Last summer, while I was hiking around the Yellow Jacket Loop at Hemlock Lake (Searching for Erythronium at Hemlock Lake), I saw something in the distance that always gets my heart racing—a big cliff. It was a ways off to the southeast, presumably in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide. Checking it out later on Google Earth, it turned out the cliff was on the north side of Grasshopper Mountain in Douglas County (not to be confused with the one I usually go to in Lane County). I was thrilled to discover there is a trail right to the summit where an old lookout once stood, as well as a number of other trails in the area. While I had been to the east side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide a number of times—and it is one of my favorite areas in the Western Cascades—I’d never done much exploring on the west side. Twice I’d driven through Tiller to go up to Abbott Butte and Donegan Prairie, but my only real stop had been to the World’s Tallest Sugar Pine, just off of Jackson Creek Road 29. I was determined to do a trip there as soon as possible, but somehow I never made it. Every time I had a block of time when I could spend a few days camping, there was a heat wave, expectations of thunderstorms, smoke, or some other deterrent. Since it is more than a 3-hour drive to get there, I didn’t want to spend that much time or energy if the conditions weren’t optimal.

From Buckeye Lake, there is a great view of the imposing 800' cliffs of Grasshopper Mountain.

From Buckeye Lake, there is a great view of the imposing cliffs of Grasshopper Mountain.

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Big Surprises at Fish Creek Valley

I’d been looking forward to going to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide all year, but I just couldn’t seem to squeeze a camping trip down there into my schedule earlier in the summer. Then, in late July, the Whiskey Complex fire erupted east of Tiller, just 9 miles west of Donegan Prairie, one of my planned destinations. So much for that. But last week I was lying awake in the middle of the night, my mind wandering all over the place as it often does in the wee hours, and I thought, to hell with worrying about the smoke, I’ll just go to the north end of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide. Fish Creek Valley is one of my favorite places, and there are lots of late-blooming flowers to make a trip in August worthwhile. Unlike many ideas born in the middle of the night, this one still seemed realistic in the morning, so a couple of days later, I packed up my van and headed south.

Rattlesnake Mountain looms right above Fish Creek Valley. The smoke in the air makes it seem much farther away.

Rattlesnake Mountain looms right above Fish Creek Valley. The smoke in the air makes it seem much farther away.

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Life Among the Ruins

The devastation left by the Rainbow Creek fire of September, 2009. Black Rock in the distance is right across from the trailhead.

On Tuesday (August 30), I left the Hemlock Lake campground and drove the 18 miles or so east along the ridge to the Whitehorse Meadows trailhead at the northern end of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide. I wondered what might still be in bloom at the relatively high trail at about 5700′. Just a mile or so before the trailhead, I stopped at a favorite spot, a lovely roadside wet slope. It was filled with Parnassia cirrata, Kyhosia bolanderi, Erigeron aliceae, and there were also some lovely leopard lilies (Lilium pardalinum). It looked like things would be great along the trail. Then I noticed some burned trees above the wetland. Hmm. It wasn’t until I came around the corner and saw Black Rock, the prominent feature in this area, completely surrounded by dead trees, that I realized what had happened. What a shock! One of my favorite trails utterly devastated. The trail meanders slowly downhill over 3 miles to the large Whitehorse Meadows. Until just before the Whitehorse Meadows, almost no trees had survived this fire except a few in the many small patches of meadows, outcrops, and wetlands along the way. How did I not know this area had burned? It wasn’t until I got home and called the Diamond Lake Ranger District office of the Umpqua National Forest that I found out it burned in the fall of 2009, just a couple of months after my last visit here. The fire was named after Rainbow Creek, a tributary of Black Creek that starts nearby. It burned over 6,000 acres. It occurred around the same time as the Tumblebug Fire, which was much closer to me and kept me away from southern Oregon entirely. For a dramatic aerial photo of the fires, see Earth Snapshot. Read the rest of this entry »

Abbott Butte in Glorious Bloom

Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) lights up the meadow below the lookout.

My van was packed for an overnight camping trip, but I literally didn’t decide where I was going until breakfast. There are so many places I want to go, and so little time every summer, and it can be hard to hit the bloom just when I want it. This year’s deep snowpack has further complicated decision making, something I’m not good at anyway. But I’m so glad I opted to go to Abbott Butte, one of my favorite hikes in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide—or anywhere, for that matter. I got the confirmation from the Forest Service that I could get to the trailhead, but there might be patchy snow. That was just what I wanted because my goal was to see the snowmelt species up there. The late-melting heavy snow actually is a boon in some ways. While there were patches of snow scattered along the trail, parts of the area were quite far along. In a drier year, I might have had to go twice, several weeks apart, to see all the different plants I saw in bloom. Read the rest of this entry »

Cirsium scariosum on Rattlesnake Mountain

Cirsium scariosum

Elk thistle (Cirsium scariosum) with a view of the Crater Lake Rim

I went back to Rattlesnake Mountain several days ago. I was too early for the bright yellow Orobanche, but I found a single O. fasciculata a few inches from Eriophyllum lanatum. I had no luck relocating that little Draba that might have been lonchocarpa, but I did hit it perfectly for the Cirsium scariosum. I was quite surprised to find 2 blooming plants right on the summit. There certainly were no blooming plants up there in the past, although I might have missed seedlings. I did what I had contemplated for a while and climbed down the rocky south-facing side. It was relatively easy (and safe) along the step-like south ridge. The west side is sheer cliffs. I passed a budding Orobanche pinorum right near an old dead stalk in the same spot I saw one on my last trip in 2007. The Hieracium greenei was also in bud. There are several old whitebark pines on the top, one with some cones (Rattlesnake Mtn is one of the highest points in the Western Cascades). Farther down, I was happy to see what looked like young trees, with no old dead branches.

As you go down the slope, it becomes more gravelly and almost plateaus before another cliff. This is where I have to go down the east slope to reconnect with the trail. That’s where the Cirsium scariosum I’d seen in the past was. I looked all around this area and found 4 large blooming plants and approximately 50 young plants. I was guessing they were monocarpic because there were no small blooming plants and I found one dead one with dried flower heads and tiny seedlings next to it. I just confirmed that on the FNA website. I couldn’t bear to harm the beautiful blooming plants, but I did press one youngster for the Herbarium. I hope it is useful. The population seems quite healthy. I wonder if it is expanding, or I just didn’t look hard enough on my other trip to this spot. I will have to check it again in a few years and see how it has changed.

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