Exploring Near Grassy Glade

A lovely madrone (Arbutus menziesii) grows on the backside of the rocky ridge.

On my most recent trip (see Surveying Milkweed at Maple Creek Meadow), I had seen an intriguing rocky slope to the east. I realized it was one of the sites in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County that I had made a note to survey. It was just north of Grassy Glade, where there is a good population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia), so I decided for my next outing, on May 15, to check it out, as well as some other openings in that area.

The larger of the two hidden meadows above Road 468 and below Grassy Glade

I crossed the Staley Creek Bridge under clear, sunny skies. I headed toward Grassy Glade but turned onto Road 468. The road seemed to be decommissioned as there are numerous small berms across it. Others had driven across them, but I was already expecting to walk down the road, having seen the first berm on a previous trip. It was only a half mile to where I made a short bushwhack up through the woods to a pair of small meadows. Water in the potholes in the road had me encouraged that the area wouldn’t be too dry yet. The meadows were indeed fairly green and had some seepy spots but not much was really in bloom yet. I wandered around for a while, but it was clear there was no milkweed or anything else of particular interest.

Fresh purple milkweed at Grassy Glade

Rattan’s blue-eyed Mary should really be called “purple-eyed Mary”.

After returning to the car, I drove the rest of the way up to Grassy Glade. The milkweed was up and looking healthy. Road 262 that goes past Grassy Glade deadends at a turnaround where people have made campfire rings. There are good views on either side. I headed down the ridge on the left side, hoping it wouldn’t be too steep to get to the slope I’d seen. From the top, it looks like it might just drop off, but actually, it wasn’t too hard to follow the ridge down into the woods. There were a number of blooming plants on the rocks, including Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), Rattan’s and small-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia rattanii and C. parviflora), and Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii). I stopped among the flowers for lunch. By now, it was starting to cloud up.

Lower down the rocky slope was even steeper than near the top. Buckbrush was in full bloom.

Once in the woods, the slope went uphill for just a short way before opening onto a grand, rocky slope. I had been concerned it might just be a small open area above a large cliff, but, although quite steep, it was stepped enough to be somewhat traversable. The slope was covered with blooming buckbrush (Ceanothus cuneatus) and rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), the first more common in drier areas to the south and in the Valley, the latter more common to the east and south of here. I headed downhill carefully. Although the habitat here was much different than the gentle and sheltered grassy slopes at Grassy Glade, it was not that different from Maple Creek Meadow, so I was really hoping to find some milkweed here. Within 10 minutes of arriving, I found one small plant right by my feet! I started looking down the steep slope with my binoculars, not really wanting to climb all the way down and back up. It’s rather unnerving looking through binoculars or a camera when balancing on a steep slope, the magnification exaggerating any slight movement. I managed to locate one more well below me, but I decided it would be much easier to spot them when they were taller and in full, colorful bloom. The purplish tinge of the early leaves made it hard to pick them out among the rocks. It was evidently not a good-sized population, but I was still pleased to find some getting started here. Perhaps bringing some seeds over from nearby Grassy Glade would increase the population faster.

Looking west across the buckbrush-covered slope, the weather remained pleasant.

At this point, while it was still blue to the north and west, there was clearly a storm building up to the south. The forecast hadn’t mentioned any chance of thunderstorms, so this was unexpected, and I was rather bummed. I climbed back up to the top of the ridge and went to check out the far end. It was more leveled off and relaxing, and I could see the red of paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) on a rock wall that formed the end, but the first sound of rumbling sent me back up to the road. This is definitely a place I want to return to at a later date when I can take my time exploring the whole area.

Looking south, there was definitely a storm brewing over the Calapooyas. The rabbitbrush in the foreground will bloom much later in the season.

After a short look around at Grassy Glade, I drove back to the beautiful Staley Creek Gorge. I had planned to hang out there for a bit, but it started raining just as I pulled off the road. Oh well, that too could wait for another day. Not wanting to head home quite so early in the afternoon, I decided to make a stop at the meadows along the north side of the reservoir. It was sunny and pleasant again, and there was a lovely show of silvery lupine (Lupinus albifrons) and ookow (Dichelostemma congestum). There are so many wonderful spots in this area that I am always ready to adjust my plans.

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