Archive for the ‘Rock and Cliffs’ 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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More Botanizing Near Hills Creek Reservoir

The gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) were even more outstanding than the previous trip. They can continue to bloom for a long time as long as it stays moist.

We went to Many Creeks Meadow, as I was hoping to see the numerous Pacific hound’s tongue (Adelinia grandis, formerly Cynoglossum grande) that grow there. I’ve been having great luck seeding them around my property, and this is one of the best sites I know for seed (technically nutlets).

After days of weeding on my own property during another sunny stretch, I was ready to go out botanizing again before the rain returned. It’s still quite early, so on April 2 (4/2/24 for those like me who like numbers!), I headed back to the reservoir to see how things were progressing. It’s undoubtedly the best place I know in early spring as it tends to be warmer in the southeastern corner than in the rest of Lane County. Nancy Bray joined me again. After a half hour trying to weed the offending patch of shining geranium (Geranium lucidum) along the cliffs (I’d remembered a bag this time!), we spent a lovely, relaxing day enjoying the flowers and butterflies and the perfect sunny, 70° weather. We made a number of stops and hiked up the steep rocky meadow of Many Creeks Meadow off of Road 2129. We also spent a while watching birds in the reservoir. A number of mergansers, mallards, and a few buffleheads and Canada geese were foraging in the shallow waters of the southeast corner, while violet-green swallows had returned to the cliffs. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

First Botanizing Trip of 2024

While looking at the flowers on the cliffs, Lauren spotted a bald eagle sitting in a dead tree above us!

Sadly, the population of shining geranium (Geranium lucidum) at the base of the cliffs near milepost 7 is starting to spread up onto the rocks despite attempts to remove it. Here you can see how similar the geranium leaves (bottom) are to the lovely native California mistmaiden (Romanzoffia californica, top) that grows abundantly there. I tried to at least pull out the ones on the cliff so no one else would accidentally pull the mistmaiden. We looked carefully at the leaves and noted good distinguishing marks are the small tips on the lobes of the glabrous mistmaiden leaves vs. rounded lobes on the slightly hairy leaves of the geranium.

As is my tradition, my first botanizing of the year was to Hills Creek Reservoir south of Oakridge on March 17th. It’s such a relaxing way to start the year. I was joined by fellow Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO) members Nancy Bray and Lauren Meyer. We made a number of stops along Road 21 as far as Big Pine Opening across from the bridge that leads to Coal Creek and Staley Creek roads. It didn’t seem worth going any farther as there were still patches of snow in the ditches. Lots of snow up higher as well. It was a lovely warm day, however, and we enjoyed the beautiful gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) and other early flowers. And while not abundant, we did see four species of butterflies: California tortoiseshells, unidentified blues, an anglewing, and a mourning cloak. Seeing butterflies always starts my spring fever. Here are some photos of our (mostly) pleasant day. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Last Day of Summer at Lopez Lake

Lopez Lake has a lot of interesting and uncommon aquatic plants. Near the inlet of the lake, you can see the large, spreading leaves of alpine pondweed (Potamogeton alpinus), the narrow, upright leaves of small bur-reed (Sparganium natans), and the delicate, feathery, trailing stems of lesser bladderwort (Utricularia minor). Earlier in the season, the surface of the wider part of the lake is decorated with the showy white flowers of arumleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria cuneata).

The pretty pool of pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) at Zen Meadow was almost completely dried out. The large fruits were ripening. I’d never looked closely at the capsules or seeds before.

On September 22, I accompanied Alan Butler and Dave Predeek for a trip to the Lopez Lake area, southeast of Oakridge. Neither of them had been there before, so I wanted to show them the lake and some of the other interesting sites along Road 5884. It was officially the last day of summer, but it seemed like a beautiful fall day to me. It was only my fifth trip to Lopez Lake over the course of 11 years, and it was the latest in the year I’d been there. Things were much drier than on my past trips—not surprising considering how long it had been since we’d had real rain, and there were very few flowers left, but it was an interesting trip nonetheless. We headed all the way up the road to the talus slope first, and then stopped at the small hidden wetland John Koenig and I named “Zen Meadow” before walking down to Lopez Lake. On our way back, we checked out another hidden wetland and—new for me—a hidden lake. Here are some photographic highlights of our terrific trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Dodder at Patterson Mountain

The meadow by the Lone Wolf Shelter was quite pretty with lots of scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) and celery-leaved lovage (Ligusticum apiifolium), but the smoke was unpleasant, so I didn’t stay long. Weeks later, this little smoke would have seemed like a good day!

A tangle of mountain dodder in the rocky meadow at Patterson Mountain

On Sunday, July 23, I left the house planning to head back up to “Mistmaiden Meadow” for my fifth every-other-week-or-so survey. As I headed toward Lowell, something looked terribly wrong. I could see an ominous bank of gray smoke to the east. I stopped to call my husband to see if he could find out where it was coming from—I don’t have a data plan on my phone, so I couldn’t check that way. It turns out the Bedrock Fire had started the afternoon before by the Bedrock Campground along Big Fall Creek Road 18. Obviously, I didn’t want to go anywhere near the fire, so Mistmaiden Meadow was out of the question. I had no idea in which direction and how far the smoke was going to move, but I also didn’t want to bail on going on an outing. I made a quick decision to go to Patterson Mountain. It was one of the closest trails to Lowell, slightly west of the fire, and south of Highway 58—the fire being over 10 miles north of the highway. I figured the smoke would mostly blow to the east, and if I was wrong and had to come home early, at least I wouldn’t have driven too far. 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.

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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 »

Fourth Trip of the Year to Mistmaiden Meadow

There were at least five large areas of narrowleaf mule’s ears in the lower half of Mistmaiden Meadow.

I was surprised to see three different blooming clumps of Oregon iris (Iris tenax) along Road 140. While very common at low elevations, this is only the second area I’ve ever found them above 3500′. In eastern Lane County, they usually give way to slender-tubed iris (I. chrysophylla) at about 1500′.

On July 7, I headed back up to the meadow on the west side of Sourgrass Mountain that I’m calling “Mistmaiden Meadow.” My first stop was the roadside along the east end of Road 140 with beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) and other goodies because it had been an interesting spot on the previous trips. As I mentioned in the report on my last trip (see “Mistmaiden Meadow” Still Outstanding), there were a number of butterflies there, so I wanted to see what was flying about at this point. Once again, I saw several pretty bramble green hairstreaks. Also present were silver-spotted skippers and persius duskywings. What do these three butterflies have in common? They all use big deervetch (Hosackia crassifolia, formerly Lotus crassifolius) as a host food plant for their caterpillars. This species likes disturbed areas and is abundant along the road here. It appeared to be attracting a lot of other insects as well. Bumblebees were busy flying from one flower to the next. I found several caterpillars that did not look like butterflies munching through the leaves. New for me were some tiny and strange-looking lace bugs (Corythucha sp.), but they were so small my photos didn’t come out well enough to include. I wouldn’t have thought about planting something as large as big deervetch—and I’ve never seen it advertised by a nursery—but it seems this species is very popular with insects, and it isn’t unattractive, with its reddish flowers and glaucous leaves. Maybe I’ll collect some seeds on one of my return trips. Read the rest of this entry »

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