Deception Butte again and a early look at Patterson Mountain

Heading back up to Deception Butte yesterday (May 29), I came upon a gorgeous bear on Rd 5847. This was probably about where Sabine and I saw a bear several weeks ago. Could it be the same bear? I imagine their territories are fairly large, but perhaps it is a related bear. It is always exciting to see a bear but especially exciting to see bears (or the same bear!) twice in one month. The flowers at Deception Butte are a little farther along than my last trip (see Dodecatheon at Deception Butte) but not as far as I expected. While the Dodecatheon pulchellum is finished, the Lomatium utriculatum still looks beautiful. Some little Hemizonella minima has started, and there are beautiful flowering plants of Cerastium arvense down low on the far west end of the meadow.

circumhorizon arc

A circumhorizon arc above Deception Rock

Normally, my eyes tend to be fixed on the ground, looking for plants and stepping carefully across steep rocky areas such as this. Luckily, I looked up in time to see a surprising show of color in the sky. Two prisms of light were hanging along the same line. This really confounded me. It certainly wasn’t the arc of a rainbow, and I’d seen sundogs—they are vertical on either side of the sun. An internet search indicated this was most likely a circumhorizon arc, something I’d never heard of before. It’s part of a very large halo around the sun. It is only seen at certain times of year when the sun is very high. I was in fact looking due south right around when the sun was highest in the sky. I had seen a light halo around the sun as I drove east of Hwy 58 in the morning, so evidently the atmospheric conditions were right for some wonderful optic phenomena. For some amazing photos of circumhorizon arcs and other colorful atmospheric displays, check out Atmospheric Optics.

The sunny skies didn’t last very long, and it had already started to sprinkle lightly when I returned to the car around 2:30pm. It is only 5 miles by gravel road over to the trailhead for Patterson Mountain, so I decided to give it a go anyway, just to see if the gorgeous early show of Ranunculus populago had started. A record for me, I managed to get down to the Lone Wolf shelter, do a quick survey of the wet meadow, and return to the car in 80 minutes. The rain and lateness of the day pushed me far faster than my normal botanizing pace.

Lone Wolf Meadow

The flowering season has just barely begun at Lone Wolf Meadow

The season really is just beginning there. I had traversed worse snow than this before and had been up there as early as mid-May, but I don’t think I’d ever seen the meadow before a single flower of alpine laurel (Kalmia microphylla) had opened. The alders hadn’t begun either. The buttercups had started but are nowhere near their peak when they blanket the wet meadow with yellow. There were some willows in bloom, only a few glacier lilies (hidden on the far side of the meadow from the trail), and the very first adorable Viola macloskeyi. A number of Anemone lyallii were in bloom and a few Cardamine californica had started. Along the trail, snow queen (Synthyris reniformis) was blooming well, along with Viola sempervirens. I was also able to point out the wispy flowers of goldthread (Coptis laciniata) to another hiker heading back at the same time. You have to get out super early to see those in bloom.

3 Responses to “Deception Butte again and a early look at Patterson Mountain”

  • Keith and Barbro McCree:

    We saw a similar halo on June 8, 1997 on Huckleberry Mountain near Oakridge. Barbro wrote in her diary ‘Just below the tower and before the road made a sharp turn up towards it, we slowed down to watch an incredible optical sight ahead of us that looked like part of a broad rainbow. It was a very exciting moment, and Keith took several pictures of the spectacular sight. After consulting various dictionaries at home we decided we saw a part of a secondary halo. The sun light traveling through some thin streaky clouds on the practically clear sky caused the prism effect as it met with ice crystals. There was a regular narrow halo around the sun, and the exciting arc we saw followed the outline of the first halo at some distance, and was hardly curved. The brightest arc was close to the center and bent slightly upwards to the left. There was also a faint “rainbow” further to the right starting to bend upwards with a gap between the two sections’

  • Daniel:

    Hi there,

    I’m going to hike this trail soon, and I was curious about parking for this hike. Sullivan states that you park on the shoulder of highway 58 in front of a trailer park, and backtrack 50 yards to the trailhead. Is there a parking lot for this hike, or is Sullivan correct?

    Thank you!!


  • Hi Daniel,

    I would rather spend time with the flowers than do serious hiking, so I haven’t done the trail to the bottom. My directions ( are for the much shorter upper trailhead.

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