Archive for the ‘Linn County’ Category

Deer Creek Road Awash in Gold

There weren’t as many butterflies as I would have expected on a warm, sunny day, but then most of the blooming flowers like monkey flowers weren’t good for nectaring butterflies. I did watch this California tortoiseshell visiting a number of the abundant rustyhair saxifrage (Micranthes rufidula). This surprised me because I rarely see tortioseshells nectaring at all, and I can’t remember seeing any butterflies on the saxifrage even though it seems like a good plant for a butterfly with lots of easily accessed small flowers.

On April 19, I spent a relaxing day looking at early blooming, low-elevation flowers along Deer Creek Road 2654 off the McKenzie Highway. The mile or two west of Fritz Creek is a wonderful place to see moisture-loving plants along the road as long as there is still moisture. Sweeps of various shades of yellow covered the road banks, including gold stars (Crocidium multicaule), seep monkeyflower (which used to be Mimulus guttatus but I’m pretty sure is now Erythranthe microphylla as E. guttata was kept for the larger perennial), chickweed monkeyflower (E. alsinoides), and Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii). I didn’t check out the hidden meadows above the road, which peak a little later in spring—plus I was feeling too lazy for the steep climb.

I had heard that last year’s Lookout Fire had burned across Deer Creek, so I was concerned about possible damage along the road and up in the hidden meadows on the north side of Deer Creek. There was some evidence of burning on the ridge above the side south of Deer Creek as well as a little on the drive in, but I was relieved to see the north side—at least the low elevations—got spared. The fire probably jumped the creek higher up.

Here are some photographic highlights.

The first bank I came to was covered with gold stars. My timing was perfect as they were mostly in full bloom, but there were enough going to seed for me to collect plenty for my property. They’re still not really getting established at home, so I have to add more seed every year if I want to see their cheery flowers at home in early spring.

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Exploring Parish Lake and Nearby Wetlands

The sundews are so thick in the bog at the west end of Parish Lake that you can see the red—in the upper right here—in an aerial image.

Rannock-rush has distinctive olive-colored infructescences. I’ve always planned to get out early enough to see its meager flowers, but I still haven’t managed it. I was at Gold Lake Bog just after the snow melted this year, but in that case, I was too early. Here this unusual species is growing with the red-leaved great sundew and the glaucous-leaved marsh cinquefoil.

With the smoke from the Bedrock Fire inundating eastern Lane County, on July 28, I headed north to Parish Lake in Linn County. I hadn’t been there since 2016 (see Wildlife and Wildflowers at Parish Lake) when I went several times, including leading a trip for the Native Plant Society Annual Meeting. Parish Lake is at only 3300′ of elevation, so I knew it would be late in the season for the area, but there is always plenty to see.

I poked around the amazing floating bog at Parish Lake for a couple of hours. There weren’t too many butterflies, but there were many bees enjoying the maroon swamp cinquefoil (Comarum palustre) flowers and the pink inflorescences of Douglas’ spiraea (Spiraea douglasii). There were also a number of dragonflies and damselflies, and a family of wood ducks swam around the lake trying to stay on the far side from me. It was very peaceful. The water looked beautiful and deep enough in places to tempt me to go for a swim, but it doesn’t seem like a great idea to go swimming alone, so I’ll save that for another trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Return to Tidbits

My first pika of the year! As soon as we reached the talus, I stopped to look for pikas. My husband spotted this one right away. It actually appeared to be running toward us, but I’m guessing it was just looking for its own safe spot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a clear view before it disappeared under the rocks.

On July 11, My husband, Jim, and I were joined by our friend Peter Gallagher on a trip to Tidbits Mountain. It had been 5 years since I’d been there, but Jim hadn’t been for 20 years, and it had been quite a while for Peter as well.

On our way back to the car, we passed this wasp with an impressive ovipositor (not a stinger!). Apparently, it is a Norton’s giant ichneumonid wasp (Megarhyssa nortoni). According to Wikipedia, they live in the forest, where their larvae are parasitoids of the larvae of horntail wasps.

It was interesting to see how the combination of above-normal winter snowpack and early summer drought manifested in the bloom period. The spring flowers were long gone in most places. As I expected, the gravelly areas west of the summit were completely toasted with only a few species still in bloom. 2012 was also a high snowpack year but followed by a “normal” spring. My trip that year on July 9 (see Off the Beaten Track at Tidbits) was completely different with gorgeous flowers covering the south-facing gravelly slope of what I call “the wall.”

I was surprised, however, that not only were there fresh spring flowers on the north-facing talus slope, there were several patches of snow remaining along the edges of the bottom slope. The trail was also in worse shape than I’ve ever seen it. We had to negotiate many fallen trees. The last section of road wasn’t in great shape either, and we wished we had parked at the bottom and walked after almost getting stuck going up. Still, we enjoyed our hike. No matter the season, the rock formations are always gorgeous. Here are some photographic highlights. 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 »

A Seepy Spring at Deer Creek

About the only thing blooming well in the large middle meadow was the gold stars sprinkled across the rocks. Snow can be seen on Carpenter Mountain not so far away.

One of the numerous places water cascades down the road banks between the 3 and 4 mile markers on Deer Creek Road.

I’m thrilled that the last month or so has been so cold and damp. It’s been much less stressful than last year’s hot and dry spring. But it has meant that I haven’t gone out botanizing much. Deer Creek Road off the McKenzie Highway is a wonderful place to go when all the small creeks and seeps are flowing off the road banks. And above the road banks, there are a number of rocky meadows above the road west of Fritz Creek. So when we had a break in the rain last Wednesday, May 4, I decided to go check it out.

I had planned to stop at Cougar Reservoir first, to see what was blooming on the cliffs along the reservoir, but the road was closed well before the cliffs. That section north of the reservoir burned in the Holiday Farm Fire two years ago, so they were undoubtedly logging the dead trees along the road. That meant I had a lot more time to spend at Deer Creek Road, so instead of a relaxing walk along the road, it seemed like a good time to climb up to the big meadows above the road, something I hadn’t done since 2017 (see A Return Look at Deer Creek Meadows). Read the rest of this entry »

A Rainbow of Colors at Cone Peak and Iron Mountain

The Cone Peak meadows at peak bloom. What else can you say but “Wow!”?

The ivesia (Ivesia gordonii) was in perfect bloom on the side ridge of Cone Peak. It’s also on the top of the peak, but there are no records of it anywhere else on the west side of the Cascades.

Sabine Dutoit had a hankering to go to Cone Peak and Iron Mountain, so last Thursday, June 13, Sheila Klest and I joined her for an excellent day out in the Cascades. It was a gorgeous day, and the flowers were outstanding. We walked the 6.6-mile loop trail up through the Cone Peak meadows, over to Iron Mountain (passing just a few last patches of snow on the north side), and up to the Iron Mountain summit before returning to the road. It was great to be out with good friends, enjoying the flowers and views, and not working too hard. And there weren’t the usual crowds at Iron Mountain—undoubtedly the most popular wildflower site in the Western Cascades. Although that’s much longer than I usually hike, it seemed so relaxing not studying, surveying, or collecting seeds, and not bushwhacking. I’ll have to try that more often! It was hard to choose just a few photos to post. You’ll just have to imagine the rest—or go yourself! Read the rest of this entry »

Relaxing NPSO Trip to Echo Basin

Bistort (Bistorta bistortoides) and Cooley’s hedgenettle (Stachys cooleyae) blooming in the wet meadows

Our field trip participants admiring the magnificent Alaska yellow cedars along the trail.

On July 29, my husband Jim and I drove north to Echo Basin to meet some members of the High Desert Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon, who arrived from Bend. At the NPSO Annual Meeting in Roseburg in June, Lynn Putnam, a participant on the field trip I led (see Weather Woes at Hemlock Lake), asked me if I would be willing to lead a trip for her chapter. Getting to go to a beautiful place and talk about plants with a group of flower lovers without having to do any organizing made it easy to agree.

We had a lovely, clear, sunny day (before August brought with it all the heat and smoke we’re experiencing right now). There were ten of us—just the right number. Only a few had been to this beautiful trail. While the main attraction for me is getting up to the open wetland at the top of the loop, the east-side folks were most excited about being in lush woodland. I guess I take for granted all the pretty ferns and forest wildflowers since they are so ubiquitous on the west side. It was great to look at all these plants through the lens of someone from the other, drier side of the Cascades. Read the rest of this entry »

A Return Look at Deer Creek Meadows

The upper meadow in its full glory of monkeyflower and rosy plectritis during a break in the clouds. Looking east where there was still lots of blue sky, we didn’t realize that rain was coming in.

The floriferous roadcuts start just after you pass picturesque Fritz Creek, which was still gushing with water most likely from higher elevation melting snow.

After my earlier trip to Deer Creek Road this season (see Golden-lined Banks of Deer Creek Road), I was anxious to return and see the next stage of bloom as well as to explore the upper meadows we hadn’t had energy to do on the first trip on a hot day. On May 25, 2017, just about 3 weeks after the first trip, John Koenig and I drove out to Deer Creek Road, on what turned out to be a cooler day than we expected but a good one for climbing up the steep meadows.

We started out enjoying the lovely sunny day by walking down the road to see what was in bloom. Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii) and naked broomrape (Orobanche uniflora) were finishing up; silverleaf phacelia (Phacelia hastata), Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), and prairie star (Lithophragma parviflorum) were at peak bloom; and the big show of large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) was just beginning. We also needed to figure out the best way to access the upper meadows. I hadn’t tackled the eastern meadow since 2010 (see Superb Floral Display Above Deer Creek), so I had forgotten where along the steep roadcut Sabine Dutoit and I had managed to climb up. It turns out we did find the same gap in the rocks, although I didn’t recognize it until I got home and looked at my old photos (for those interesting in checking it out, it’s about 1/4 mile past Fritz Creek but bring an aerial photo as you can’t see the meadow from below). Hopefully I’ll remember the spot the next time I go up there. Read the rest of this entry »

Golden-lined Banks of Deer Creek Road

Monkeyflowers painting the moist banks of Deer Creek Road

On Wednesday, May 3, Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, and I enjoyed the unusually hot (88° according to the thermometer at the McKenzie Ranger Station!) but gorgeous day roadside botanizing in the McKenzie area. Nancy had never been to the beautiful seepy roadbanks along Deer Creek Road 2654, and Sabine and I hadn’t been for 3 years (see Triple Treat up the McKenzie). With all the rain we’ve had, I figured the area would be at its best this year.  Read the rest of this entry »

Late Summer Colors at Echo Basin

Alaska cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis)

Giant Alaska cedars (Callitropsis nootkatensis) are one of the highlights of this trail. This ancient tree is at least 5′ in diameter!

On August 17, Sabine Dutoit and John Koenig joined me for a trip to Echo Basin. I hadn’t been there in 6 years (see Late Bloomers at Echo Basin & Ikenick Creek), and it was another site that John had never been to. It’s a great late summer destination as there are lots of late-blooming flowers, and it stays cool and damp later than many other areas, especially those to the south in Lane County where I spend the majority of my time. It was also nice to take a break from all the bushwhacking and walk on a trail for once, although, on the way back, Sabine commented that all the downed trees across the trail in one area made it only slightly easier than a bushwhack. Since it is a relatively short hike, we took our time getting there, stopping to look at rock ferns (Asplenium trichomanes, Woodsia scopulina, Cheilanthes gracillima, and Cryptogramma acrostichoides) growing in the lava areas along Hwy 126, and to Fish Lake to eat lunch and check out some sedges and asters that John and I had seen as the sun was setting on our way home from Pigeon Prairie the previous week.

Fish Lake

On our way to Echo Basin, we stopped at Fish Lake to admire a show of western asters in the now dried out lake bed. While I didn’t recognize it at the time, the view in the distance is of Echo Peak and the ridge just above Echo Basin.

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