Relaxing NPSO Trip to Echo Basin

Bistort (Bistorta bistortoides) and Cooley’s hedgenettle (Stachys cooleyae) blooming in the wet meadows

Our field trip participants admiring the magnificent Alaska yellow cedars along the trail.

On July 29, my husband Jim and I drove north to Echo Basin to meet some members of the High Desert Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon, who arrived from Bend. At the NPSO Annual Meeting in Roseburg in June, Lynn Putnam, a participant on the field trip I led (see Weather Woes at Hemlock Lake), asked me if I would be willing to lead a trip for her chapter. Getting to go to a beautiful place and talk about plants with a group of flower lovers without having to do any organizing made it easy to agree.

We had a lovely, clear, sunny day (before August brought with it all the heat and smoke we’re experiencing right now). There were ten of us—just the right number. Only a few had been to this beautiful trail. While the main attraction for me is getting up to the open wetland at the top of the loop, the east-side folks were most excited about being in lush woodland. I guess I take for granted all the pretty ferns and forest wildflowers since they are so ubiquitous on the west side. It was great to look at all these plants through the lens of someone from the other, drier side of the Cascades.

While Jim and I waited for the Bend folks to show up, I was thrilled to see masses of California tortoiseshells gathering on the rocks in Echo Creek by the road. We had run into (literally, unfortunately) hordes of torties flying across the McKenzie Highway from about Sahalie Falls to the north. Their population is booming again after a number of bust years.

These two California tortoiseshells are so fresh that their scales are still iridescent, the normally black borders reflecting purple and turquoise.

Suksdorf’s paintbrush is an uncommon wetland species with green and yellow at the base of the otherwise brilliant scarlet flower bracts.

I probably should have had us walk clockwise around the loop part of the trail because it is closer to the wetland, and we were all hungry for lunch. The meadow areas on the righthand fork of the trail had grown head-high with all the winter and spring moisture (where is the rain now!!), so there was no place to stop and sit until we got to the boardwalks in the wetland. While eating lunch, we enjoyed the plentiful flowers and butterflies and chatting with new friends. I had to “sneak off” and take photos of the beautiful Suksdorf’s paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii) and pink monkeyflower (Erythranthe [Mimulus] lewisii). While I was preoccupied, almost everyone went on without me back into the shade of the forest. I guess that really was what interested everyone else the most, so I quickly caught up to the group.

Since we didn’t dawdle very long in the wetland area, we got back to the cars sooner than I expected. It was still only about 3 pm, so, after everyone else headed back to Bend, Jim and I went exploring. On Google Earth, you can see that Road 055, the short gravel road that leads to the trailhead, continues around for about a half mile beyond the pulloff parking area and bends to the west, going past a south-facing, rocky meadow area (click here for aerial view). Lori Humphreys had brought it to my attention a while back, and this seemed like an opportune time to see if it would be worth checking out in the spring—rock plants having mostly gone to seed at this time.

The road beyond the trail is slowly returning to nature as it washes away in parts and gets taken back by plants elsewhere.

While the road appeared driveable for a bit, it quickly became apparent that it was abandoned beyond the trailhead. Large snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinous) had grown up here and there, and other parts of the road had disappeared entirely. We could tell that we weren’t the only ones to come out here as there was a path of sorts winding around the shrubs and gullies. The rocks looked quite interesting, and there were patches of meadow above them. There had evidently been a good show of rock plants, including northern and barestem buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum and E. nudum), bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum). Spreading stonecrop (Sedum divergens) was still blooming on the interesting outcrops. I’m excited about getting back to Echo Basin next spring to see this new area in bloom as well as the wonderful early flowers along the trail itself.

3 Responses to “Relaxing NPSO Trip to Echo Basin”

  • Carol Moorehead:

    Thank you, Tanya. I look forward to reading other blog posts from you and to visiting Echo Basin again next year.

  • Lynn Putnam:

    Nice photos and write-up. Brings back nice memories of clean air and pretty moderate temps. What a gorgeous place. Thanks so much for leading our trip. Any time you’re coming this way, let us know if you want some company:)

  • Cindy Brougher Zalunardo:

    Thank you so much Tanya! I enjoyed your passion for the flora!

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