Finally Back to Potter Mountain

On the east side of the ridge, the gravel is filled with marumleaf buckwheat (Eriogonum marifolium). This attracted a lot of pollinators.

A spring white caterpillar has just shed its skin to allow it to grow a bit more. I checked most of the rockcress (Boechera sp.) I saw. I found this caterpillar and another smaller one as soon as we hit the rocky area. I only spotted one egg. In the phlox area, I chased a fast-moving adult white who never let me get close enough for an ID, but it might also have been a spring white.

Several years ago, my husband Jim and I tried to get up to Potter Mountain, but the winter storms had left so many branches on the road that we gave up in frustration. I really wanted him to see the beautiful rocks up there, so I had again planned to go up last year, but then a fire broke out right next to the summit—the Potter Mountain fire. Thwarted again. The third time’s a charm, they say, and we did finally make it up there on July 2. It was a beautiful day—though a bit warm—so we had a great view of the surrounding mountains. We bushwhacked north on the ridge as far as the helicopter landing spot—only about 6/10 of a mile from the road. We’d missed most of the early-season flowers, but there were still plenty of things in bloom and enough butterflies to keep me happy. And since we accessed Potter Mountain via Staley Creek Road 2134 (in good shape, by the way), we were able to cool off at the end of the day with a short stop at the wonderful Staley Creek Gorge. Here are some photographic highlights of our day.

It’s a bit of a scramble getting up the slippery slope from the west to get up to the ridge, but it is worth it to see the wildflowers and views. There were still a few pink cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola) in bloom, but buckwheats were at peak bloom.

Among those enjoying the marumleaf buckwheat flowers were a thread-waisted wasp and a Sheridan’s green hairstreak. Apparently, the wasps capture caterpillars and place them in a nest for their larvae to consume. So that’s where a lot of the caterpillars disappear to!

Jim admiring the rocky summit

The Potter Mountain rock outcrops are unusual in the Western Cascades for their very thin layers.

North of the craggy summit is a more level area covered with spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa). I was surprised it hadn’t finished blooming yet since the buckwheats usually bloom much later.

With its tubular flowers nicely laid out in a mat, spreading phlox is a favorite of butterflies like this anise swallowtail.

Last year’s Potter Mountain fire was just northeast of the summit ridge. It burned a bit over 600 acres in a somewhat spotty fashion. I’m glad they were able to prevent it from spreading further. Not much snow showing on the northwest side of Diamond Peak.

While Jim aired out his socks during a snack break, a California tortoiseshell enjoyed its own salty snack break. I’m glad someone finds the dirty sock odor attractive.

One Response to “Finally Back to Potter Mountain”

  • Leigh Blake:

    OH!! GOODY!! more wonderful photos!! What a great place to hike…and I took a picture of your “crevice” garden…sincde so many people are trying to emulate this wonderful natural -type rock garden…MOM NATURE always does it best!! Thank you for another wonderful trip!!…stay cool!!

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