NARGS Annual Campout Hike to Grizzly Peak

For this year’s annual camping trip, my friend Kelley Leonard, of the Siskiyou Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, planned a great trip in their neck of the woods, near Ashland. We had perfect weather, no mosquitos, and, in spite of the severe drought they are having down south, there were lots of beautiful wildflowers. Since I was up in Portland earlier in the week (speaking to the Columbia-Willamette chapter of NARGS and hiking at Table Rock Wilderness—a trip unfortunately severely curtailed by another flat tire), I wasn’t able to join everyone until Friday afternoon. They got back from Hobart Bluff just as I was arriving, but I was steered toward some meadows just down the road from our campground at Hyatt Lake and had a lovely few hours (being antisocial!) chasing butterflies with my camera and admiring unfamiliar plants, including California stickseed (Hackelia californica), toothed owl-clover (Orthocarpus cuspidatus ssp. cuspidatus), and gorgeous Roezli’s penstemon (Penstemon roezlii), along with lots of buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.).

Toothed owl-clover, Roezl's penstemon, and sulphur buckwheat on near the east side of Hyatt Lake.

Toothed owl-clover, Roezl’s penstemon, and sulphur buckwheat near the east side of Hyatt Lake.

On Saturday, June 21, the whole group headed up to Grizzly Peak. I was looking forward to this trip, not only for the chance to spend the day with good friends, but because it was a period in the bloom sequence I hadn’t yet experienced there. I had never managed to get down to Grizzly Peak in July, and since most flowers seemed to be at least 3 weeks ahead of normal, this gave me a great look at what normally blooms in July. As at Hyatt Lake, it was buckwheat season here. Sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) was plentiful. Barestem buckwheat (E. nudum) was also in full bloom. I hadn’t realized the plants here were the pretty yellow-flowered form because I had only seen leaves on past trips. The much less common rock buckwheat (Eriogonum sphaerocephalum) was still only in bud, but I had seen lots in bloom near the campground, which is a few hundred feet lower in elevation.

Eaton’s daisy

Eaton’s daisy blanketing a rocky area in the central meadow

Peck's phacelia seems to like vernally wet areas and was spotted in several low spots during the trip.

Peck’s phacelia seems to like vernally wet areas and was seen in several low spots during the trip.

In a rocky area of the large central meadow, we found a fabulous display of Eaton’s daisy (Erigeron eatonii var. plantagineus). I was quite distracted by a copper butterfly who was equally entranced by the thousands of white daisy-like flowers. There were also a few patches of the unusual Peck’s phacelia (Phacelia peckii), a lovely purple annual species that grows only in a small area of southwestern Oregon. I had hoped to see this in bloom, so I was very pleased it wasn’t finished yet. The rock garden area with the fabulous view south to Mt. Shasta was past peak, but there were flowering alpine alumroot (Heuchera cylindrica var. alpina) in the more vertical rocks along the edges and, although fading a bit, the Siskiyou onion (Allium siskiyouense) and dwarf lupine (Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii) were still quite colorful. The rayless Bloomer’s daisy (Erigeron bloomeri) had its cute, yellow, button-like flowers on display here as well.

Great Arctic (Oeneis nevadensis)

The great arctic (Oeneis nevadensis) has cryptic coloring and is hard to spot unless his wings are opened enough to show the large eyespot on the underside of the forewing.

There were lots of butterflies along the trail. I can’t remember them all, but there were lots of some pale yellow sulphur that eluded my camera all day, many much easier to photograph clodius parnassians, oodles of fritillaries—both the small meadow fritillary and several larger species, anise swallowtails, at least a couple of species of checkerspots, duskywings, whites, an acmon blue and some azures, an arctic skipper and several other assorted skippers. The bees were outstanding as well. It was especially interesting watching some very large bumblebees—perhaps an inch long—nectaring on flowers. Most of the flowers bent severely under their weight, but the majority of the giant bees seemed to be hanging out in an area of narrowleaf mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia), one of the few flowers that could support them easily.

Narrow-leaved mule's ears, Oregon geranium, and rosy plectritis

A beautiful display of narrow-leaved mule’s ears, Oregon geranium, and rosy plectritis

This super-sized bumble bee was enjoying the rosy plectritis as well as the mule's ears.

This super-sized bumble bee was enjoying the rosy plectritis as well as the mule’s ears.

This particular area along the west side of the loop is quite damp in the spring, and it must still have had plenty of moisture under the dry surface of the ground. I was surprised at how floriferous this area was. Acting as a foil to the bright yellow of the abundant mule’s ears were bright pink Oregon geranium (Geranium oreganum) and large sweeps of paler pink rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta). There were a great many hyacinth cluster-lilies (Triteleia hyacinthina) and even a few remaining camas (Camassia quamash). Drier areas were filled with Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), but these were var. achilleoides, with much frillier leaves than var. leucophyllum I’m used to farther north. They were set off well by the pretty little balls of bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), which also looked lovely near some bright yellow-orange wallflowers (Erysimum capitatum) I’d never managed to spot here before. That’s why it is always worth returning to the same site at many different times. In spite of the very sore knees of three of our group, I think we all enjoyed the hike, the camaraderie, and the flowers. A special thanks goes to Kelley for organizing this year’s get together!



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