Archive for the ‘Douglas County’ Category

Autumn at Hills Peak

The fall color was outstanding in the wetland east of Hills Peak, mostly from the vast stretches of bog huckleberries.

A Cascades frog floating in one of the many channels near the lake.

On October 5th, John Koenig and I headed up to Hills Peak at the east end of the Calapooya Mountains. We both wanted to get in one more trip to the Calapooyas before winter, and we were looking for an easy trip—especially after John had injured his knee on our last trip out together (see Butterflying on Coal Creek Road). There are many places of interest around Hills Peak, so we can never see them all. On this trip, we made three stops: a wetland, the top of the peak, and the talus at the north end.

It was a gorgeous fall day. The clear blue sky was heavenly after months of smoke. We headed first to the large wetland east of the peak off of Road 2154, where there is a shallow lake and bog. While there was little left in bloom, the fall color was outstanding. The backlit huckleberries made the area look like it was on fire—but in a good way. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Balm Mountain’s Slippery Slopes

The slope right below the lookout site is extremely steep and slippery. I didn’t even attempt going down there, although someday I think I might get to the bottom by following the trees down along the north edge. The tallest points in the distance are Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey.

Great arctics have a two-year life cycle, so the adults tend to be abundant every other year. This year is an “off year,” but I’ve seen several this summer.

Balm Mountain, the highest point in the Calapooyas, has been one of my favorite places ever since I discovered it in 2010 (see First Exploration of Balm Mountain). Several times I’ve walked the trailless ridge between the old lookout at the north end and the high point at the south end, starting at both the north and south ends. What I’d never had time or energy to do was to head down the steep, gravelly slopes on the east side at the north end of the ridge. On July 18, I was on my own, so it seemed like a good time to see how much of this was traversable. Most of my friends either can’t or wouldn’t want to negotiate such a steep and unstable habitat, and I’d never ask them to. I also wanted to spend some time watching butterflies, which are particularly abundant in rocky areas of the Calapooyas when the mountain coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima) is in bloom; it had just been starting at Potter Mountain when I was there a couple of weeks earlier (see Finally Back to Potter Mountain). Read the rest of this entry »

Butterflying on Coal Creek Road

We couldn’t go up Coal Creek Road without checking out the amazing spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) patch just past the 4-way intersection at the top of the crest (43.3998°N, -122.4561°W). We delighted in the abundance of butterflies and the intoxicating fragrance of the flowers. While most of the visitors were checkerspots, we also saw some fritillaries, parnassians, coppers, and all three of our “ladies,” including this American lady.

Julia’s orangetips rarely sit still long enough to photograph them, so I was really pleased to capture this lovely male who was making the rounds of the tall bluebells (Mertensia paniculata) growing in the roadside ditches.

Coal Creek Road 2133 which leads up to the west end of the Calapooyas is one of my favorite places to do roadside botanizing and butterflying. It’s also one of John Koenig’s, so on July 13, we drove up there for an easy day as John was still recovering from some foot issues and wasn’t up to a real hike. It was warm, but there was still enough moisture in the many seeps and creeks along the road to nourish the flowers, which in turn attracted lots of butterflies. Here are some photographic highlights.

We scared up a family of grouse along the road. The cute babies all flew up into the trees.

Read the rest of this entry »

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. 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 »

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 »

Great Day for Butterflies at Bristow Prairie

With the number of times I’ve been to Bristow Prairie (this was my 26th time), I don’t remember ever seeing the prairie so pink with fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium). Molly said the Forest Service had done a controlled burn on the prairie not so long ago, so that would explain it.

An Edith’s copper nectaring on mountain boykinia (Boykinia major) in the small wetland

On July 18, Molly Juillerat (and Loki) and Nancy Bray joined me for a day at Bristow Prairie. We decided to skip the trail to make sure we had time for the lake, so we parked by the edge of the main prairie. Our first destination was the rock garden since we knew it would be hotter on the rocks later in the day. June and early July’s heat and drought had dried it out earlier than usual, but I was able to collect some seed. From there, we headed over to the lake and surrounding wetland. Going through what is by late July really tall foliage is tricky because you can’t see the ground and any possible mountain beaver holes. But we took our time and enjoyed looking for butterflies and other insects on the way down. Naturally, the area was much moister than and still had many flowers in bloom, but it was dry enough to walk around the wetland without rubber boots. I don’t get down to the lake often enough, so I’m glad we were able to spend some time there. Read the rest of this entry »

Butterflying in the Calapooyas

A serene image of yellow pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) at Bradley Lake

A female Sierra Nevada blue nectaring on sticky tofieldia. This common wetland plant turns out to be very interesting. Scientists have recently discovered that the tiny insects that get stuck in the sticky glands on the stems are actually absorbed by the plant—it’s partly carnivorous! Thankfully, it’s incapable of catching large insects like butterflies. I wish I’d read this before I was up there so I could have looked for insects on the plants.

I was so happy to have gotten back to the Calapooyas (see Return to Loletta Peak) that when Alison Center contacted me to see if I could tell her where to find Sierra Nevada blues or join her for a trip up to where I’ve seen them, I jumped at the chance to go with her. Alison is not only the president of our local North American Butterfly Association chapter, she’s now the wildlife biologist for the Middle Fork District of the Forest Service. And she’d never been up Coal Creek Road to Loletta Lakes or Bradley Lake, so this was actually “work” for her!

So on July 8, we headed up Coal Creek Road 2133 to the wetland east of Loletta Lakes where Molly and I had just seen the Sierra Nevada blues. As it was only five days later, I was pretty sure they’d still be there—and indeed they were, still flitting about and drinking from sticky tofieldia (Triantha occidentalis). There were other butterflies and bees, so we enjoyed watching all the insects. Read the rest of this entry »

Return to Loletta Peak

The gash down the side of Loletta Peak is quite impressive. Amazingly, many plants occupy the steep rocky slope. In the near view is Balm Mountain (you can spot it by the logged triangle from quite a ways), while pointy Mt. Thielsen can be seen much farther to the southeast.

This large vole gave me just long enough to take its photo before disappearing into its hole below in the rocky area at the east end of the Loletta Lakes plateau. Does anyone know what species it is?

While I haven’t gotten out as much as usual this summer (work, drought, heat, now smoke as I write this), I did have some goals that I’ve been working through. After not being able to go up to most places in the Calapooyas last year because of all the treefall, and having missed out on the recent trips up Coal Creek Road for the Burke Herbarium Foray, what I was most anxious to do was to go up Coal Creek Road 2133. And since I hadn’t been up on Loletta Peak since 2015 (see Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas), that was really my top priority. Happily, on July 3, Molly Juillerat was free, and, having never been to Loletta Peak, she was looking forward to seeing someplace new. As the ranger for the Middle Fork District of the Willamette National Forest, she’s been telling the Forest Service folks to go out and explore and get to know their district, something we both love to do. The boundary between the Middle Fork District and the Diamond Lake District of the Umpqua National Forest goes right across the top of Loletta Peak, making this is the southern edge of the district. Read the rest of this entry »

Collecting Foray at Hills Peak

The folks from the herbarium collecting specimens in the wetland near the lake

Suksdorf’s paintbrush can be recognized by the yellow and green below the red on the bracts and its prediliction for wetlands.

At long last—after a year’s delay because of the pandemic—it was time for the Burke Herbarium’s 25th annual collecting foray. On June 24th, I headed down Road 21 to Sacandaga Campground to meet the participants, including Dick Olmstead and David Giblin who organize the forays every year, several volunteers, and five UW students. Also there were John Koenig and James Mickley, the new head of the OSU Herbarium. None of the Washington folks, nor James, had ever been to the Calapooyas, so John and I were really looking forward to introducing them to our favorite spots.

On Friday morning (June 25th), we split into three groups. John went up to Bristow Prairie, David and James took a group to Potter Mountain, and I went with Dick Olmstead and his wife Sheila and dog Lolly, Scott, a volunteer, and Ava, a student, to Hills Peak. We were also joined for the day by Gail Baker, a friend and fellow local NPSO member. Read the rest of this entry »

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