Exploring Two New Meadows

Looking east across the Saddleblanket Bald meadow, you can see the alder thicket following the water as it drains from the wetland uphill.

While planning a trip to collect seeds at Elk Camp and Nevergo Meadow, I was showing my husband where I was going on Google Earth and happened to notice what looked like a small natural meadow less than a mile west of Elk Camp. It wasn’t far from a road that once led to an old trailhead for Saddleblanket Mountain. I remembered it being gated the last time I drove by, but it was only a half-mile or so to walk if it was still closed. Intrigued, I decided I should add it to my trip. The following day, August 15, I headed up to Nevergo Meadow by my usual route, south from Big Fall Creek Road 18. After a short stop at Nevergo Meadow, I drove south on Road 142 past the trailhead that hooks into the Alpine Trail near the Elk Camp Shelter. It’s only another 1/3 mile to Road 143, which deadends after 0.6 miles. The gate was actually open, and the road was clear and in good shape. I found out later it had been opened and brushed to use as a fire break. Thankfully last year’s Gales Fire never made it over to this area, though I passed burned trees on the drive up farther north. Read the rest of this entry »

Rare Plant Discovery at Middle Pyramid

Although we were far from any of the major fires, it was still pretty hazy, making the impressive cliffs surrounding the wetland look farther away than usual.

My husband, Jim, and I celebrated our anniversary on August 12 by hiking up the Pyramids Trail. My last trip there had been in 2016 (see Gorgeous Day on Middle Pyramid), and my husband had only been once, way back in 2004. We couldn’t hike much of anywhere in eastern Lane County because of the smoke from the Cedar Creek fire near Oakridge, so we wanted to head north. I also really wanted to see some blooming explorer’s gentians (Gentiana calycosa), which I was hoping would have at least started blooming below the summit cliff, so it seemed like the perfect destination. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Butterfly Day at Spring Prairie

There’s quite a contrast between the Boisduval’s blue caterpillars almost motionlessly eating lupine pods and the frenetic activity of the ants running up and down stems and back and forth across the caterpillars. Most of the caterpillars we found were tended by these large red-and-black ants.

After the wonderful trip to the rock garden on the way to Spring Prairie in July (see Beautiful Spots on the Road to Spring Prairie), I was anxious to return to the area and check out the other spot I hadn’t been to in many years. Spring Meadow is a wetland in the drainage of Mule Creek between the rock garden and Spring Prairie. On August 3rd, Sheila Klest and I headed up Road 733. We saw lots of butterflies along the road, including quite a few at a patch of spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) I hadn’t known about. I definitely wanted to check it out but decided we should drive all the way to Spring Prairie first and work our way back slowly.

A few of the caterpillars had smaller ants. Although the caterpillars ranged from green to this paler pinkish color, they all had a reddish purple stripe down their back.

Read the rest of this entry »

Unusual Insect and Plant Sightings at Hemlock Lake

After a long, hot day, I couldn’t face driving all the way up to the campground at Hemlock Lake, so I stayed at Cool Water Campground on Little River Road. Although it was getting late, I went down to cool my feet in the river and came upon two crayfish. One stayed tucked away between some rocks, but the other seemed really annoyed that I was trying to photograph it. It even chased me at one point, putting its claws up as though to challenge me to a fight. They were still there in the morning. What a wonderful find at a pretty but fairly unexceptional spot.

The chatterbox orchid, also known as stream orchid, is found in wet places, often by creeks. It is mostly found at lower elevations, so I rarely see it. The plants strange and colorful “faces” are always a treat. 

I haven’t done much camping over the last few years. Partly that’s a result of a busier work schedule, but it’s also due to more wildfires and heat waves. My van becoming too old (25 years!) and untrustworthy for gravel roads also played a big part. I was determined to get in a camping trip this summer and finally decided on a quick overnight down to Hemlock Lake in Douglas County. I hadn’t been there in 5 years, and that trip was cut short due to inclement weather (see Weather Woes at Hemlock Lake). My first day (July 21st) started out a bit rough as I decided to go the back way from Cottage Grove—a route I hadn’t done in many years. It is backcountry but all paved, and I figured it would save a lot of miles and keep me within my electric car’s range. Big mistake. It may have been shorter, but it took a really long time, and I made a wrong turn at an unmarked intersection coming down to Highway 138 in Idylyld Park rather than farther east near Steamboat since I had planned to look for purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) seed at Medicine Creek Road east of there. It was also way hotter than the forecast for the area had led me to believe. The worst of it, however, was the last 10 miles down Rock Creek Road. The last few years have not been kind to the North Umpqua. So many wildfires have hit the area. I drove through mile after mile of dead forest and empty hills. By the time I got to Hwy 138, I was in tears. The loss of wildlife habitat was devastating. I had planned to head up to Hemlock Lake via Road 4714 south of Steamboat, but I had been warned by the Forest Service that part of it had burned, and there was a lot of logging and road work going on in the area. Not wanting to face any more depressing burned forest, after a somewhat disappointing trip to Medicine Creek (too early for milkweed seeds, too late for most everything else, but at least I saw some flat-spurred piperia (Platanthera [Piperiatransversa) in bloom), I drove all the way back to Glide and headed out Little River Road. Thank goodness, rainy season has finally begun as I write this in late October, and the North Umpqua survived this year without any wildfires! Read the rest of this entry »

Wonderful Day at Groundhog Mountain and Logger Butte

The rock formations of Logger Butte are quite stunning, and the many colorful wildflowers growing in the rocks make it even more special.

Dave admiring the cliff on the south side of Logger Butte.

Groundhog Mountain in southeastern Lane County has been one of my favorite botanizing sites for almost 20 years (over 40 trips so far!). Unfortunately, despite many roads leading up to the numerous wetlands and rocky spots, it has been getting more difficult to get up there, so my visits have been getting less frequent. From any direction, it’s 10 miles or more of gravel roads that have been deteriorating over time, and with no trails and no real logging of late, there has been no upkeep on the roads. So I was thrilled to get invited by Dave Predeek to go up there with him and Alan Butler, who also loves the area. Both are fellow members of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. Alan has a hefty truck and doesn’t mind driving—my kind of a guy! On July 15, Alan drove us up the northern route to Groundhog via Road 2309, the road I took for many years until I finally gave up on it when a deep gully developed in the middle of the road. I was really happy to see the gully seemed to have filled in on its own, and the road wasn’t as bad as the last time I’d driven. Not to say I would take my smaller car up that way yet, but it was passable for a sturdy, high-clearance vehicle. Read the rest of this entry »

Saxifrages and Toads near Loletta Lakes

The photographic highlight of the day had to be this cluster of trilliums visited by a pale swallowtail. The butterfly was as enthralled as we were and stayed for at least 10 minutes, allowing me to get over 40 photos from every angle.

For months, I’ve been working on and off to finish editing and doing the layout for the Saxifragaceae treatment for Volume 3 of the Flora of Oregon (I finally finished it so I felt I could take a break to write this report, however late). I had enough space to add a couple of illustrations and wanted to do two of the more interesting species, rusty saxifrage (Micranthes ferruginea) and Merten’s saxifrage (Saxifraga mertensiana). Our lead artist, John Myers, does most of the illustrations, but he has so many to do right now that I’m contributing a few of the species I’m familiar with.

Both these species are unusual in that they are able to produce asexually by vegetative offsets. Rusty saxifrage has tiny plantlets in the inflorescences that replace most of the flowers except the terminal ones. These drop to the ground and form colonies of clones beneath the mother plant. Mertens’ saxifrage often produces clusters of red bulblets in the inflorescences. Like the rusty saxifrage, these replace the lower flowers. From what I’ve read, it produces these bulblets in most of its range. In the Western Cascades, however, I’ve only seen them in a few populations. One of these is along Coal Creek Road 2133 on the way up to Loletta Lakes. Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful Spots on the Road to Spring Prairie

The river of large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) washing down the hillside was punctuated by the bright red of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida).

A lovely grouping of naked broomrape (now Aphyllon purpurea) parasitizing rustyhair saxifrage (Micranthes rufidula).

After spending time in the Spring Prairie area of eastern Lane County last year (see Exciting Day at Spring Prairie), I was anxious to get back there and do some more exploring. Way back in September of 2007, Sabine Dutoit and I had climbed up a big rocky slope just above Road 730 that leads to Spring Prairie (see Spring Meadow above Blair Lake). But it was late in the season, and all I remembered was seeing the dwarf lupine (Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii) that I associate more with the High Cascades—it is fairly common along the road near Santiam and Willamette passes. I had vowed I would return the following year when it was in bloom. But I didn’t. Now it is 15 years later, so I was long overdue to check it out during peak blooming season. How had it fallen off my to-do list for so long? I guess there are just too many interesting places to go. Read the rest of this entry »

Relaxing Day at Elk Camp Shelter

It was peak season for the common camas (Camassia quamash) at Elk Camp.

Gina especially loved the old-growth forest near the Elk Camp Shelter. As we walked along the trail past the shelter, we were surprised to see someone just waking up after having arrived there on his bike very late at night. I don’t think he was expecting to see us either. The trail past the shelter is part of the much longer Alpine Trail that passes through Tire Mountain and is very popular with mountain bikers.

I’d much rather see flowers than fireworks on the 4th of July, so my neighbor Gina and I went up to see wetlands up at Elk Camp Shelter, Nevergo Meadow, and Saddleblanket Mountain, all no more than 15 miles away as the crow flies from where we live in Fall Creek. It was a pleasantly cool day, but the clouds mostly disappeared as the day went on. Although we did see several hikers and bicyclists—a first for me in that area—it was quiet and peaceful. That’s just the way I like my holidays!

One of the plants I had hoped to see in the Elk Camp meadow was Nevada lewisia (Lewisia nevadensis). Sabine Dutoit had discovered it there a number of years ago when I led a trip for the Native Plant Society (see NPSO Trip to Nevergo Meadow and Elk Camp). Luckily, I timed it right, and some of them were in bloom. I saw several between the trail and large willow thicket, where Sabine originally spotted them, and several more as I wrapped around the edge of the wetland to the bit of meadow that is hidden from the trail. Though there aren’t very many (although there could be more than I think as they are very hard to spot out of bloom), that’s where I had seen the largest number of them in the past. That’s also where most of the population of the rare endemic Umpqua frasera (Frasera umpquaensis), but there were no signs of buds or flowers on them. I”m not sure if they will bloom at all this year as they bloom only periodically. The Nevada lewisia and its frequent companion threeleaf lewisia (L. triphylla) seem to prefer more or less bare ground in moist meadows. I headed farther south along the edge of the wetland to look for more bare ground. I was rewarded with another patch of Nevada lewisia. The odd thing was that these had much smaller flowers—about the size of the threeleaf lewisia near them. I had never noticed this before, but then I rarely see open flowers because they seem to close up on warm afternoons (as does the threeleaf lewisia). With the partly cloudy day, some were still open. Read the rest of this entry »

Gorgeous Day at Grizzly Peak

Siskiyou onion (Allium siskiyouense) was one of the standout wildflowers of the day. Its bright pink flowers lit up every rocky open area.

The variety of Camassia quamash here, var. breviflora, looked very different to me than what I have at home and usually see in the Cascades. Common camas I’m familiar with can be distinguished from great camas (C. leichtlinii) by its bilaterally symmetric flowers. But these were radially symmetric, and the inflorescences were tighter. They were in bloom in several seepy areas along the trail.

On June 30th, the second day of our short trip to the southern edge of the Western Cascades, my husband, Jim, and I headed slightly north to Grizzly Peak. We unplugged our car, now thankfully fully charged, and left Green Springs Inn after a very quiet and pleasant stay. We headed up to the east side of the Shale City Road loop and drove this narrow but paved road to the intersection of BLM Rd 38-2E-9.2, where there is a sign for the trailhead. I’ll admit that I was nervous until we saw the sign as I usually came up from Ashland where there are lots of signs pointing the way to the trailhead, and this way there wasn’t any road sign on Shale City Road at all. Thankfully we had a map and were pretty sure we were on the right road.

The day was perfect—clear and sunny but not at all hot. There were a number of cars in the parking area of this popular trail, but we only occasionally passed a small party of hikers, so it seemed much quieter than one might imagine. There were lots of flowers in bloom, including many that I rarely see. There were also a decent number of pollinators though not as many butterflies as I have seen on other trips. Here are some photos from the day.

Buckwheats were already in bloom, and this sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) attracted a couple of cedar hairstreaks as well as several different beetles.

More of the same Peck’s phacelia (Phacelia peckii) that I’d seen the day before on Hobart Peak was in a number of open areas. It was a bit fresher and far more prevalent than I remember from past visits, probably from the above-normal moisture this spring. While looking at old lists, I noticed some confusion about whether the annual species here was Pringle’s (P. pringlei) or Peck’s phacelia. In a paper I found online (OregonFlora hasn’t completed the Phacelia treatment yet), the split in the key between the two similar species was that Peck’s has hairy filaments, which these did.

Eaton’s fleabane (Erigeron eatonii) is another species I rarely see. On Grizzly Peak, it seems to occur only in open areas in the large meadow in the center of the loop section of the trail. The Peck’s phacelia could be found alongside it there.

Bloomer’s fleabane (Erigeron bloomeri) is very cute with its button-like rayless flower heads. It grows in the rocky area just south of the loop trail. There’s now a pretty obvious path through the area that reconnects with the main trail.

This area was all new to Jim, so he spent quite a while enjoying the views. Happily, that gave me more time to photograph flowers! There is a good view of Mount Shasta from the off-trail area south of the main trail.

As we headed back, I was able to catch one quick photo of a large marble, a butterfly that only comes this far west near the California border. It was nectaring on bluedicks (now Dipterostemon capitatus).

The burned area at the south end of the trail is continuing to recover. It had been 8 years since I’d hiked this trail, so the young ponderosa pine and other conifers I had seen before were noticeably larger. Great polemonium (Polemonium carneum) was in full bloom in this area as well as just about everywhere along the trail.

There were more bees than I had seen anytime so far this year. Bumblebees were especially abundant, and seemed to be enjoying a wide variety of flowers. While I’m not sure of the bee species, clockwise from the upper left, the flowers are roundleaf alumroot (Heuchera cylindrica), Bloomer’s fleabane, Siskiyou onion, and candy flower (Claytonia sibirica). Note the pink pollen on the bee on the candy flower.

Late Afternoon at Hobart Bluff

Looking west-northwest from Hobart Peak toward Ashland, the yellow Bloomer’s fleabane, white ball-headed sandwort, and red paintbrush are beautifully backlit in the early evening light.

Although it is listed as having a range of 239 miles, our all-electric car (a Kia Niro EV) can go around 280 miles in the summer. That’s plenty for most day trips, but it is a bit limiting for adventures farther afield, and the vehicles I had been driving for the last 20 years are still chugging along but not reliable enough for driving in the mountains. Thankfully, more chargers are popping up all the time, so I’ve been checking the maps of where I can charge the car. I was surprised and pleased to find the Green Springs Inn in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument has its own charger, albeit a slow one. I hadn’t been down that way in a while, and my husband, Jim, had never been there, so we decided on a quick overnight trip and booked a room at the inn for June 29. Read the rest of this entry »

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