Groundhog Mountain Reconnoiter

The roadbanks along Road 451 were painted blue with large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) and Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii). There were also large clumps of early blue violet (Viola adunca) to complete the color scheme.

After crossing the rough road, we parked to admire the view near Logger Butte and decide where we wanted to go first. I was thrilled to find some butterfly eggs on the rockcress (Boechera sp., maybe acutina) along with an adult Julia orangetip (sorry, ours aren’t Sara orangetips anymore!), possibly the mom of the eggs.

With the Burke Herbarium Collecting Foray only a week away, but with a lot of work to do and taking time off for the foray, we decided it was our last chance to scope out potential sites, so we should split up. So on June 17, Jenny Moore, Middle Fork District botanist, and John Koenig headed up Coal Creek Road, while Jenny Lippert, Willamette National Forest botanist, and I went up to the Groundhog Mountain area. With many of our previous routes to Groundhog becoming less drivable, we decided to try the relatively short (~10 miles of gravel) and direct route from Road 21 up Road 2135. I’d never done this, but I knew members of the North American Butterfly Association were going up that way. Since we were in the big Forest Service vehicle, this was a good opportunity for me to check out the road without testing myself or my smaller vehicle. I used to drive up any road to check it out, but after all the flats I got, and with the loss of money for upkeep and the subsequent degradation of Forest Service roads, those days seem to be long gone.

Going through the private timber land, the road was actually fine and the forest quite pretty. I was surprised because I had seen very large clearcuts in the Seneca land from last year’s trip to Groundhog; they must have been off of some side roads. When we hit the National Forest land, the road condition worsened, but it was still okay. Then we reached the part I’d seen on Google Earth where there is no protective forest, just rocks on one side and a big dropoff on the other. Since I wasn’t driving (thank you Jenny!), I didn’t get too anxious, but we decided we shouldn’t send the herbarium folks that way, and after visiting several spots at Groundhog, we headed back the long way (~15 miles of gravel) past the Warner Lookout.

While the display of paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) was lovely and the view impressive, this section of Road 2135 (heavily logged by the timber company) is the kind that gives me the willies—both the rough road surface and the precipitous dropoff. Not that I looked over the edge, but in aerials (click here for Google Maps), one can see a large gash running down the side of the mountain off this corner, dropping over 600′. We stopped briefly so I could move some rocks out of the road and pick up the littered can.

We had a relatively short day since we had to return the vehicle to the Forest Service office before closing, but we managed to stop at a number of places over the course of the day, both wetlands and rocky roadcuts. It was quite fresh and beautiful with some remaining snowbanks and a number of early blooming plants. Both Jenny and I were very happy with all we saw. Here are some photographic highlights.

The wetland at the end of Road 462 was gorgeous with spring flowers, including sweeps of alpine laurel (Kalmia microphylla). Snow remains on Diamond Peak to the east.

I relocated the Nevada lewisia (Lewisia nevadensis) by the Road 462 wetland.

A very small bee enjoying the beautiful western spring beauty (Claytonia lanceolata), still blooming well near some remaining snow.

I was thrilled to see thousands of tadpoles in Waterdog Lake. Unfortunately, on two subsequent visits (one during the foray on June 25 and one on July 22), there was no evidence of tadpoles or adult toads or frogs anywhere in the area. I hope they somehow survived the heat.

An adorable Pacific chorus frog near Waterdog Lake

Acres of mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi) filled the large wetland at the corner of Road 2309 and Road 452. The marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala) was also still blooming.


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