Blooming Begins at Eagles Rest

A male Garrya fremontii blooms with Mount June in the background

At only 3000′, early spring flowers are already decorating Eagles Rest near Dexter. This rocky knob is only a 15-mile drive from my house, so I don’t know why I haven’t spent more time there. I only had a few hours yesterday afternoon (March 31st) to get out and enjoy the warm weather, so Eagles Rest seemed like a good destination. While hikers looking for exercise take the long route up from Goodman Creek or farther up where the trail crosses Road 5833, I wasn’t looking for a long walk (and my leg is sore), so I took the easy path up from Eagles Rest Road.

snow queen and evergreen violet are among the first flowers of the year

This short route climbs through woods with a thick cover of salal and low Oregon grape. Lots of snow queen (Synthyris reniformis) and evergreen violet (Viola sempervirens) were if perfect bloom. With their complementary colors of purple and yellow, they seem to know how good they look together. No sign of trillium or fawn lily leaves yet, but there’s quite a bit of pink pyrola (Pyrola asarifolia) right near the trailhead and I spotted some fairy slipper leaves farther up, so there will be more flowers to look forward to after this very first wave is done.

The trail switchbacks to the top in only 0.7 miles, so it is a quick hike—even for me! At the top, the first thing I spied was the Garrya fremontii. This interesting shrub is a really early bloomer. It’s dangling catkins are wind-pollinated and not particularly showy, though still a welcome sight. Male and female flowers are on separate plants. One thing I always notice is how ratty the evergreen leaves are when the flowers are in bloom. It’s hard to get a photograph of an attractive plant with flowers since the leaves detract so much from the overall look. Growing and flowering right next to them, hairy manzanita (Arctostaphylos columbiana), has no such problem. Its evergreen leaves look just fine this time of year. A few bees were buzzing around the numerous patches, a clear reminder that manzanita’s little urn-shaped blossom are insect-pollinated even though they are very early bloomers.

A colorful patch of lichen brightens a section of the steep cliff

I wandered around the impressive, south-facing rocky area for a while searching for emerging plants. Several fritillaries (F. affinis) were poking through the ground, while lots of Allium crenulatum filled gravelly spots. Many other onion-like leaves were also emerging. No doubt some of these are Dichelostemma congestum and Triteleia hyacinthina. A few Castilleja leaves had also appeared. Looking at photos from my last trip 7 years ago, it appears these may be some of the same odd ones (possibly hybrids of C. hispida and C. pruinosa) that can be seen on nearby Mt. June, along Hills Creek Reservoir, and elsewhere in southern Lane County.

There were lots of cute mounds of the hairy, dissected leaves of cut-leaf daisy (Erigeron compositus). It won’t bloom until May. This is not a common plant in western Oregon, and it has long puzzled me why it is so abundant here while there’s not a bit of it on the same habitat at Mount June, a mere 4 miles away as the crow flies and with a clear line of sight. Perhaps it is because the prevailing winds blow in the other direction. Who knows how plants end up where they do? Another unusual plant up here is rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa). It is one of the latest bloomers of any of our wildflowers, so it is in no hurry to get started and is showing no signs of life yet. It’s also missing from Mount June.

View east to Bunchgrass Ridge and Fuji Mountain in southeastern Lane County. Handsome manzanita grow in the foreground.

Mount June is so close—Eagles Rest is probably the best place to get a look at its meadows that can’t be seen from the trail (see Unexpected Finds at Mount June and Spring Phacelia at Mount June for more about these wonderful off-trail openings). The warm weather is melting the snow quickly, but it still covered the top of Mount June and appeared to be remaining on the roads up there as well. I was rather frustrated that the entire time I was on Eagles Rest, it was sunny on Mount June, but I only got about 5 minutes of sun as I was leaving. It was mostly cloudy to the west and mostly sunny to the east, with a view from Cloverpatch all the way to snowy Fuji Mountain and Mt. David Douglas farther out Hwy. 58. Somehow I was right at the edge of this rather abrupt change in the weather. But it was just great to be out and enjoying a warm day after such a cold, damp March.


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