Exploring near Patterson Mountain

After all my exploring, I didn't have much time left for Patterson, so I only went as far as the Lone Wolf Shelter meadow, where there were dozens of reblooming alpine laurel (Kalmia microphylla) flowers.

After all my exploring, I didn’t have much time left for Patterson, so I only went as far as the Lone Wolf Shelter meadow, where there were dozens of reblooming alpine laurel (Kalmia microphylla) flowers.

With so few flowers left to see, in late summer and fall I shift my focus over to exploring new sites. Earlier this summer when I was contemplating a trip to Patterson Mountain, I looked at the area on Google Earth and noticed an intriguing south-facing opening right by the road and a small wetland a bit farther east. Neither of these are visible from the road, and I’d never realized they were there. I didn’t manage to get up there at the time, but a couple of weeks ago (August 27), I set out to check these two sites out.

The first spot turned out to be even easier to access than I could have imagined. I parked at a wide spot along Road 1714 just a tenth of a mile past the old quarry. In only about 2 minutes, I popped out through the rhodendron-filled woods on the south side of the road into a steep, rocky meadow. I immediately spotted the almost white, dried leaves of silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons) as well as those of hotrock penstemon (Penstemon deustus)—this was certainly a promising sign! Although it’s not a very large meadow, I managed to spend a couple of hours taxing my brain trying to identify all the golden and dessicated remains of the now-ended blooming season.

A nice clump of mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii)

A nice clump of mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii) grows on some rocks on the lower edge of the south-facing meadow. The still-green seep can be seen beyond the shrubs.

One of the things that had piqued my interest about the Google Earth image, which was taken June 6, 2014, was several green stripes in an otherwise brownish landscape—evidence of some large seeps staying green after the other areas had dried out. Sure enough, there were several areas filled with the remains of monkeyflowers (now Erythranthe spp.) and rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta). There also appeared to be quite a number of bulbs—probably Triteleia hyacinthina and Dichelostemma congesta, but I couldn’t remember how to tell all the seed capsules apart. One of the seepy areas was still quite green and must be much wetter as there were also sedges (Carex spp.) and rushes (Juncus spp.). At the very top of this stretch, there was a damp spot that looked like the source of much of the water, so apparently this was all spring fed. Surprisingly, there was one thing still displaying some blossoms: showy tarweed (Madia elegans). There was quite a bit of it all dried up (must have been a glorious show!), but along the lower edge where it was more shaded, there were some fresh flowers among the empty dry seed heads. Perhaps a smattering of rain had given them some new life.

After walking all the way across the opening, I thought I could see another open area through the woods. Sure enough, there was a small rocky opening with some lovely madrones (Arbutus menziesii). I had a feeling I might be near the quarry now, so I headed up through the woods a short ways, and there it was. This is going to be so easy to find and so pretty next spring. It’s hard to believe I’ve driven past this area at least a couple of dozen times and never knew it was only 100′ away! While I tried to imagine what it would look like in bloom, I can’t wait to check it next year and see it for real. At around 3800′ and facing south, it should be blooming well in May—if it is a more “normal” year.

Prairie Camp

Looking north across Prairie Camp (at least I assume that is what this wetland is called).

When I was satisfied I’d seen everything there, I drove on past intersection of Road 5847 and the turnoff to the Patterson/Lone Wolf trailhead and continued on Road 5847 where it heads east for about 0.3 mile to an obvious pulloff on the right. A path led me right into the wetland. There was an old fallen down shelter at the edge of the woods. According to the map, this was the Prairie Camp Shelter. Some great northern asters (Canadanthus modestus) and kneeling angelica (Angelica genuflexa) were still in bloom. Along one edge was a thicket of willows and ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus). There’s obviously a lot of the oversized Howell’s clover (Trifolium howellii). While I didn’t notice anything particularly showy, I think it might be worth checking out next spring when the skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) is in bloom.

A pair of rough-skinned newts

A pair of rough-skinned newts hanging out in water-starwort (Callitriche sp.) in a small pond at the south end of the wetland.

What's left of the Prairie Camp Shelter

What’s left of the Prairie Camp Shelter

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