A Soggy Day on Tire Mountain

Great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) and harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) were a beautiful combination in the large dike meadow.

Chocolate lilies (Fritillaria affinis) were one of the highlights of the day. They were hard to spot at first, but once the sun came out, they weren’t so inconspicuous.

Last weekend, May 22, I was invited to join Molly Juillerat and her dog Loki again, this time with some of her vaccinated friends: Michelle, Annie, Judy, and Julie. Three of them had never been to Tire Mountain but had heard how great the flowers are. It was a damp and cloudy day—not the kind I normally venture out in—but it was great to meet some new plant-loving women, now that we can start to return to normal activities (at least outdoors). We were pretty chilled for most of the day, but it was hard to be too upset about how wet everything was after I’ve spent almost every day of the last couple of incredibly dry months wishing it would rain.

It was still early, so the sweeps of colorful annuals hadn’t started yet—although the rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) was in bud and was probably the most asked-about species all day. Brightly colored harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) and barestem lomatium (Lomatium nudicaule) were like bright lights in the gloom. The other lomatiums (L. utriculatum, L. hallii, and L. dissectum) were also flowering. The fawn-lilies (Erythronium oregonum) were at peak bloom but rather droopy from the rain. And, probably the most iconic flower on the mountain, the deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) was also coming into bloom. Definitely worth coming out, even on a damp and gray day!

Beautiful shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum) grows in the seepiest part of one of the meadows, so the moisture was especially beneficial. On the way back, once the mist had lifted, I could see the pink drifts of a huge number of them blooming at the top of the slope. If I’d been alone—and it hadn’t been so wet—I would have been tempted to climb up there (as I’ve done several times before) to get a closer look at them.

We all thought the way the tendrils of the wild cucumber (Marah oreganus) were winding through the balsamroot foliage around the chocolate lilies would make a beautiful subject for a painting.

We were surprised at how many bikers were also out in the damp and cold conditions and couldn’t help noticing how muddy most of them were. We also met quite a few dogs. Weekends at Tire Mountain are no longer quiet! Molly and I were also happily surprised at how good everything looked. The plants did not seem as drought-stricken as at Bearbones the previous weekend (see Return to Bearbones Mountain) with many things blooming already or in bud. Of course, they’d just gotten a wonderful drink of water that week, but they were also bigger and healthier looking than I expected after so little rain while they were growing. There should still be a good bloom, even if it ends up finishing earlier than normal.

One mystery was why the foliage of these stream violets (Viola glabella) and a number of other woodland plants were covered with spots. We speculated about late frost, drought stress, or hail (the latter would have torn the leaves as well), but we didn’t come up with any really good theories. Any ideas?

The mist made the freshly leafed out and moss-covered bigleaf maples (Acer macrophyllum) look especially beautiful.

We headed over to the north viewpoint hidden beyond the dike meadow to have lunch. The spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) was outstanding.

Finally, as we were finishing lunch, the clouds began to lift, the sun came out, and so did the smiles!

4 Responses to “A Soggy Day on Tire Mountain”

  • Kate Shapiro:

    Hello Tanya! This is funny: I was at Tire on 5/28 with Obsidians. Flowers definitely came along in a week: Fantastic bloom, we were all dazzled. In addition to what you cite–& more I could list–lots of Delphinium menziesii in several areas, Lathryus, Sedums opening, Collinsias, Synthris in the woods to mix the seasons. Lots of V. glabella, & I do not recall seeing any with the spots you recorded. Were these in one area? Perhaps they were from rain, although that seems odd. My botany cohort & I puzzled over stunted, twisted trees just starting to leaf-out. A last-year leaf showed them to be White Oak which amazed us. Weather was perfect: sunny, temps. upper-60s. Bikers, yes, but all were extremely, cheerfully courteous. Kate

  • Thanks for the update, Kate! So glad there was so much in bloom for you. We were all tempted to come back soon to see the next wave, but there are so many other places to go as well. I’ll be back for seed season for sure though.

    The spotty leaves for all along the trail between the first large view meadow and the intersection of the Alpine and Tire Mountain trails. I didn’t notice them elsewhere, but they might have been in other areas as well.

  • Barb:

    We were there on the same day! I think we started a little later than you — the sun was coming out by the time we reached the first meadow. So many mt bikers and also two dirt bikers. All courteous. I was surprised at the diversity for it being kind of early — may have to go back again this week after all this warm weather. Did you go all the way to the summit of Tire Mt? We were turned back by all the downed trees.

  • Hi Barb,

    We might have passed you at some point! I haven’t been to the top of Tire Mountain in years. There’s no view and no plants you can’t see lower down. I have, however, been to all the off-trail meadows, of which there are many. It’s definitely worth going again later. Even after the grass is all dried out in July, there’s another big show of color from the farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena): see July Blooms at Tire Mountain.

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