More Meadows Near Sawtooth Rock

Sawtooth Rock is on the east (right) end of the largest meadow near the ridge. On this trip, I explored the highest openings on the right side of this photo, taken several years ago from nearby Mt. June.

From Mount June, you can look east across to nearby Sawtooth Rock sitting in a giant sloping meadow. It can be reached from the same trailhead as Mount June, taking a left at the first intersection you come to. You can also see a number of other, much smaller meadows in the area that are not crossed by the trail. These have tantalized me for many years. So Saturday (June 4), I decided to go check some of them out. While it was supposed to be a warm, sunny day (finally!), by the time I belatedly left the house, it was completely overcast. Oh well, still no butterflies, but at least it didn’t rain.

California toothwort (Cardamine californica) has three-parted basal leaves and much larger cauline leaves than leaves than C. nuttallii.

With things as late as they are this year, the very early blooming goldthread (Coptis laciniata) was still blooming in the woods, and many parts of the forest were carpeted with the pretty purple flowers of snow queen (Synthyris reniformis). Although it is common at lower elevations, and I have much of it on my property, it seems to grow especially thick at middle elevations. It is less common as you get even higher up in the mountains. The California toothwort (Cardamine californica) was at peak bloom on the up-and-down stretch of trail that follows the ridge to the meadows. It is a bit showier than the far more common C. nuttallii, which also grows in the area.

The main Sawtooth Rock Meadow was just beginning to bloom. Touches of yellow predominated with Lomatium hallii on the rocks that are exposed in many places across the meadow, Lomatium utriculatum in the deeper soil, and Mimulus alsinoides and M. guttatus where it is wetter. The manzanitas Arctostaphylos columbiana and A. nevadensis were in bloom, but the Garrya fremontii was more or less finished. It’s hard to get out early enough to see this shrub bloom except in dry years when it is more closely in tune with the other early flowering herbaceous plants that must wait for the snow to melt first. With the wet spring, I was hoping to find more Romanzoffia thompsonii, theWestern Cascade endemic seep-loving annual. I had found it here before but only a small amount when the seeps were relatively dry. I discovered much more on the seepy west side of Mt. June last year (see Spring Phacelia at Mount June), so I figured there might be more in the area.

Sculptural outcrops in one of the hidden meadows

Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii) looks like stars twinkling down the seepy slope. Mount June can be seen beyond.

Happily, it was quite easy to get to the uppermost openings past the main meadow. The trail heads into the woods just beyond Sawtooth Rock. I walked no more than 1/10 of a mile to where the trail starts to head down off the north side of the ridge. A couple of the smaller openings were just over on the south side of the ridge through the open woods. There were seeps here as well with nice Romanzoffia, but not a lot else in bloom yet, though there was the promise of much more to come. I headed downhill and to the west to where I could see a larger opening. This was a much more interesting section, with large rocks at both ends. Both ends looked too steep to traverse, but I found a spot where I could sneak down the middle fairly easily. It was clear the animals did this as well. I found four piles of bear scat in these small meadows! The sun finally came out for a while and I was able to enjoy the sparkling white flowers of both the Romanzoffia and some Micranthes (Saxifraga) rufidula in the wet rocks. Later there will be Phacelia verna, another Western Cascade endemic, Penstemon rupicola, and plenty of other pretty wildflowers.

Western springbeauty (Claytonia lanceolata), my favorite “snowmelt” species

Farther down the slope, I caught glimpses of an even larger meadow, but my late start prevented me from further exploration. That will have to wait until the next trip when there should be much more in bloom. I decided to head back up to the trail keeping to the west. Heading up into the woods I came upon the first fawn lilies (Erythronium oregonum) just opening and a number of fairy slippers (Calypso bulbosa), but then I ran into some thick rhododendrons and ended up backtracking to the upper openings and retracing my steps back to the trail. On the way back, I followed the ridge along the top of the main meadow. There is just a little north-facing slope between the ridge and the trees. This is the last place the snow melts and the only place over here to find glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) and western springbeauty (Claytonia lanceolata) (There are also glacier lilies in the first opening on Mt. June). The snow was actually fairly deep still and there were no glacier lilies yet. But some lovely Claytonia were blooming just above the snow. These last two are only found in the Cascades where there is reliable snow. Now I know my mountain season has begun!

One Response to “More Meadows Near Sawtooth Rock”

  • Eleanor Ryan:

    Dear Tanya,
    Lovely photo of the Western Spring beauty. I had not seen it clearly before. It is quite beautiful. When flowers are few each one’s individuality becomes precious. Warmly–Ellie

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