Exploring Two New Meadows

The trip to the Saddleblanket Bald reignited my desire to explore, so on August 20, I headed out to check out another meadow in the area. Unlike the first one, which I hadn’t known about until the night before, this one had been on my to-do list for many years. From the small, hidden ridge on the north side of Tire Mountain’s main meadow, I had often looked east at a large steep meadow on the west flank of Sourgrass Mountain. It’s only 1.5 miles as the crow flies, and with binoculars, I had seen yellow washes in the spring of what was most likely monkeyflower, a sure sign of lots of moisture. I had also noticed it stayed green pretty late in the summer. Somehow, I had never gotten around to checking it out.

Seen from Tire Mountain on July 5, 2010, the West Sourgrass Meadow is very green. It’s hard to see at this size (click on it for a somewhat larger view), but the rocky area on the upper left is awash in pink—rosy plectritis, no doubt.

I drove up Road 1912 from Westfir—the route to Tire Mountain. I figured if I couldn’t reach my destination for some reason, or if it turned out to be uninteresting, it would be easy to head over to Tire Mountain. And I did in fact go for a quick trip to Tire Mountain at the end of the day to collect a bit more seed. But it turned out to be clear sailing north on roads 1912 and 140 to where I parked (click here for the location on Google Maps). Like the Saddleblanket meadow, this one was at around 4300′ of elevation and was hidden from the road but no more than 500 feet away. Unlike the other meadow, this was far steeper—it was over 400 feet down from the road to the bottom of the meadow, which I never quite reached. It was also twice the size and with a good view.

Looking northwest across the West Sourgrass Meadow, you can see a little fog left in the valley.

From the road, I walked through a small wetland in the woods. And despite the steep slope, the middle of the meadow was actually filled with many wetland plants, including Cooley’ hedgenettle, monkshood (Aconitum columbianum), great northern aster (Canadanthus modestus), and mountain boykinia (Boykinia major). No wonder it stayed so green. There were also lots of shrubs, including a lot of the native Douglas’ hawthorn (Crataegus gaylussacia). I passed through a large amount of slender cinquefoil (Potentilla gracilis)—something I don’t see very often in the Cascades, some Douglas’ mugwort still in bud (Artemisia douglasiana), and narrowleaf mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolium).

While they don’t look like much all dried out in August (and in this substandard photo), in the spring, Nuttall’s saxifrage (with the white stems and round capsules) and Thompson’s mistmaiden (darker stems and flattened capsules) will both cover these rocks in a froth of tiny white flowers.

I made my way slowly to my left, to the southeast end of the meadow, recording all the plants I saw using the voice recorder on my phone. What a godsend that is since I can’t remember so many different plants on my first trip to a new spot. When I reached the partly shaded upper edge, I was thrilled to find not only Thompson’s mistmaiden, but what looked to be a nice population of beautiful shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum) in seed. Both, not surprisingly, also grow in seepy areas on Tire Mountain. Also found on Tire Mountain and not particularly common were cup clover (Trifolium cyathiferum) and oval-leaved viburnum (Viburnum ellipticum). Growing alongside the mistmaiden was Nuttall’s saxifrage (Cascadia nuttallii). While the two species are easily confused at first glance and even like the exact same type of seepy habitat, I’ve only seen them growing together in one other spot: at Cloverpatch Butte, just west of Tire Mountain, so not so far away. The saxifrage usually grows at lower elevations than the mistmaiden.

The view looking southeast from the top of the meadow shows the much greener wet area down the center.

The wide, flattish involucres of cup clover are quite distinctive. Its flowers are creamy when fresh, but they turn brown very quickly, making this species rather inconspicuous.

After checking out the south end, I headed across the middle to the higher northwest end. I had foolishly left my lunch in the car, so I was too hungry to do a thorough look and figured there would be much more to see in the spring. I reached the rockier habitat at the top and was surprised to find not only the common fragile fern (Cystopteris fragilis) but maidenhair fern (Adiantum aleuticum) out in the full sun. It must be very wet here in the spring for it to survive that. There was evidence of rosy plectritis and monkeyflower like I’d seen from afar along with northern buckwheat, paintbrush (Castilleja sp.), and other rock-loving species. I ducked into the woods above and very quickly ran into what was left of an old road that I had seen on the map but not noticed from the road. It was still easy to follow and quickly led me back to the car. Another easily accessed, interesting botanical site and successful exploration!

A handsome beetle on pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)

While I didn’t do it this time, had I continued north on Road 140, I would have come to the intersection of Road 142 in just 2 miles and been less than a mile from Elk Camp and the Saddleblanket Bald. Next year, I should be able to do both meadows on the same day. I can hardly wait to see what I missed in both meadows by waiting until August. They should both be at peak sometime in June. Something to look forward to to get me through the long and cold winter nights!

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2 Responses to “Exploring Two New Meadows”

  • Leigh Blake:

    Another great hike….do you contribute seed to NARGS?? I just got my order in…This was the first year that I had contributed…my meager finds…Much fun!! Love your little “Mountain Beavers”!! Ant tending Eriogonum caterpillar…very cool!!! Your plant knowledge is outstanding..I’m working on mine…so much to learn…


  • Grace Peterson:

    Happy New Year, Tanya. Here’s to a happy, healthy Mother Earth in 2023.

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