Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 2, Illahee Rock

The old lookout still stands on the summit of Illahee Rock. Piles of wood at the base indicate plans for repairs. Frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) can be seen bloooming in the foreground.

After I left the beautiful roadside meadow (see Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 1, Illahee Meadow), I went to check on a meadow and rock area I’d never seen before. Just a half mile farther up Illahee Road 4760, there’s a sharp corner. A berm hides an old road, now merely a path, that heads south along Eagle Ridge. I reached a meadow I’d seen on Google Earth in an easy half mile. It was quite disappointing, however. Although there were still cat’s ears (Calochortus tolmiei) and spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) in bloom along the edges, the majority of the meadow was already completely dried out. A few paltry bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) were attempting to bloom but were clearly parched. I’m not sure why the meadow I’d been exploring below was in much better shape. I checked out a rocky area beyond the meadow, but it was way too steep to explore, and other than a few pretty bloom cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), there wasn’t much to see.

One interesting plant I found on Eagle Ridge was a variegated fairy bells (Prosartes hookeri). It’s unusual to find any variegated plants, but to find two different species (both in the lily family) two days in a row is really quite a long shot!

The Illahee Rock trail is known for its abundance of Oregon fawn-lilies.

There’s a lot of red-flowering currant at the beginning of the Illahee Rock trailhead. There’s a good view of Wild Rose Point whose south trailhead is just a little ways down the road.

When I returned to my van, it was only about 2:30pm, too early in the day to quit. As mentioned in the previous post, I finally convinced myself to drive the rest of the 4 or so miles up the road to Illahee Rock. Once I’d arrived safely at the trailhead, I felt much more relaxed, figuring it would be easier going back (hah!), so I had several hours to enjoy the short trail up to the lookout and fabulous viewpoint at the top of Illahee Rock. The western edge of Illahee Rock burned in the 1996 Spring Fire, but the Rattle Fire of 2008, while reburning nearby Wild Rose Point, missed Illahee Rock. Two plants that seem to benefit from fires are mountain arnica (Arnica latifolia) and red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum). Both were abundant along the beginning of the trail. Another plant I’ve seen responding well to being burned is Oregon fawn-lily (Erythronium oregonum), and it was in its full glory in the forest and on the rocks.



Three shy flowers of marbled ginger hide beneath the much showier leaves. The long tails of the flowers look much like the surrounding pine needles.

I was really hoping to spot the marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) I’d seen in the past, and was pleased to find it in several places in the rocks where the trail switchbacks repeatedly up the south side. On the way back, I also found some in a stretch of woods off trail that I hadn’t checked on previous trips. I spent quite a while trying to get decent photographs of the flowers and looking at how the flowers attach to the stem as I’m trying to finish up a drawing of the species, and only one of the plants I have in my garden had a flower this spring. Most get slugged regularly. There must be some chemical protection in the common long-tailed ginger (Asarum marmoratum), which was also blooming near the trailhead, because it never seems to be chewed on the way the marbled ginger is.

Looking south from the summit, snow can be seen directly ahead on Twin Lakes Mountain and farther east at Crater Lake. In the near view, the nasty road I drove up can be seen winding through the burned area.

Sitka mistmaiden generally has larger leaves and flatter flowers than California mistmaiden (Romanzoffia californica).

On one of my previous trips, I’d been surprised to discover a small population of Sitka mistmaiden (Romanzoffia sitchensis). It is normally found in cool areas in Oregon and is more common to the north. Here it is growing on the north-facing side of a boulder, part way up the ridge. Happily it was in full bloom for me, but when I went to take photos on the way back, the wind had picked up quite a bit, and the little flowers were dancing about on their delicate stems.

When I returned back to my car, a couple of California tortoiseshells were waiting for me. It seemed like a nice end to a very long day. If only…. After my flat tire fiasco a short time later had thoroughly ruined my mood, I stopped at the Colliding Rivers rest area in Glide to eat my dinner and call my husband. A bald eagle flew right overhead along with what I think were lots of swifts (too tired to pull out the binoculars!) and a stunning sunset developed. I felt much better after that and realized that all in all, it was really a pretty good day.

One Response to “Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 2, Illahee Rock”

  • Leigh Blake:

    Another great article!!! Thanks!!!!

    I’m growing Asarum marmoratum in my garden, too…I love this plant!! We’re designing a new area in our garden…using many natives and other alpines and rock plants….

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