Posts Tagged ‘Calapooya Mountains’

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 »

Butterflying with an Expert at Bristow Prairie

Neil Bjorklund at the rock garden all geared up for a day of butterfly photography.

One of the odd cat’s ears (Calochortus sp.) I’ve seen so often at Bristow Prairie. Not only does it have two extra petals, it’s not clear which species it is.

It had been almost 20 years since I’d had the opportunity to go out in the field with butterfly expert Neil Bjorklund. Neil’s website Butterflies of Oregon is the resource for the butterflies of our state, and he was a co-founder of our local chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA). On June 28, we headed up to Bristow Prairie, one of my all-time favorite spots. Neil had been to Bristow Prairie a number of times, but he hadn’t been to the small wetlands that—as far as we know at present—are the northernmost outposts of Sierra Nevada blues. He also wasn’t aware of the south-facing bald I call “the rock garden” or “Lewisia Point,” two other excellent places to see butterflies. Our trip was mutually beneficial—I showed him my favorite spots, and he taught me a lot more about identifying butterflies. 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 »

Changing Waves of Flowers on Two Trips to Bristow Prairie

I was impressed that the whole group was willing to climb down the rocky ridge I call “Lewisia Point” to see one of the few populations of Columbia lewisia south of the Columbia River Gorge area. The lewisia is growing in the rocks by some low-growing serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia). Click on the photo to blow it up to see the lewisia’s delicate pink flowers.

A tiny bee enjoys the very small flowers of Thompson’s mistmaiden, a Western Cascade endemic.

For years, I have been planning to lead a trip up to Bristow Prairie for the Emerald Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. I always ended up having other commitments or others were leading trips around the same time. But, at long last, there were no conflicts, and on Saturday, June 25, Jenny Moore, Middle Fork district botanist, and I brought a group up to Bristow Prairie. It was a very hot day in the valley, and I was surprised at how hot it was even at over 5000′, but I’d already planned a fairly tame exploration of some of the highlights of the diverse area, so I thought it was doable in the 80° heat. We followed the same route I’d taken for a prehike on Monday, June 20, the first day of nice weather after I’d heard from Chad Sageser that the snow had melted and that he’d cleared the last of the trees off the road (thanks again, Chad!). The plan was to go to “Lewisia Point” first to see the rare Columbia lewisia (Lewisia columbiana) and the nearby shaley area, which has a number of annuals that like the moisture that remains there after the snow melts. Then back to the meadow to make a loop over to the rock garden, across the meadow to the lake and surrounding wetland, and then back to the road. Read the rest of this entry »

Monitoring Siskiyou Fritillary at Bearbones Mountain

Jenny taking notes about the Siskiyou fritillary population on the south ridge. The downslope gravel was awash with spring phacelia, Olympic onion, and Menzies’ larkspur.

The old growth forest is quite impressive along the trail. The trail itself is so little used as to be hard to follow if you haven’t been on it before. We had to cross over a number of large logs and small branches (I moved what I could to make the trail easier to follow), but it is worth it to see all the interesting species and beautiful flowers as well as the view from the top.

Middle Fork District botanist Jenny Moore had never been to Bearbones Mountain and had mentioned to me earlier in the year that she’d like to go check it out. After getting an e-mail last week from Chad Sageser that he’d cleared the roads (2127 & 5850) to Bearbones (thank you Chad!!), I suggested we head up there on Wednesday, June 15, the one day of the week that was supposed to have some sun. Luckily, both Jenny and Sheila Klest were able to make time to go out hiking that day. After all the rain we’ve had (yay!), and a trip to the Ochocos the week before, I was really looking forward to getting back to the Western Cascades. This was also my first trip to higher elevations (Bearbones tops out at 4910′).

After missing the trailhead last year (see Return to Bearbones Mountain), I made sure to have the map on my phone ready. Chad had warned me that Road 5850, which leads to the trailhead, had been prepped as a firebreak when there were so many fires in the area last year. The edge of the road was logged, making it even harder to spot the trailhead, and forcing us to start our hike by climbing over a large pile of branches. The blooming dogwoods at the beginning of trail also helped me recognize the spot, and someone (Chad?) had left some red flagging across the road, but if you want to try the trail, having a map and GPS are a must, as there is no longer any trail sign. Jenny was interested in seeing the firebreak as one of the projects of the Forest Service is to figure out how to heal the roadsides after the disturbance and hopefully to replant with natives that are less flammable and lower growing. We all wondered why the downed trees and branches are left to dry out. It doesn’t seem to make any sense to create a firebreak and then leave all the flammable material in place. Maybe I’m missing something. 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 »

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