Posts Tagged ‘conifer’

A “Berry” Surprising Day at Groundhog and Warner Mountains

The star plant of the day was probably western mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina) with its shiny red berries. It was abundant along the roadsides. The large meadow in back is on Little Groundhog Mountain, more or less the south end of Groundhog Mountain.

In late summer, the gorgeous berries of wax currant (Ribes cereum) ripen, and the leaves develop a waxy coating.

After hearing from my friend Doramay Keasbey that Road 2120 was actually in pretty good condition, I decided I really needed to get back to Groundhog Mountain sometime this year. I used to go multiple times a year as it is one of my favorite places and has so many different interesting botanical spots to check out. With the fire danger finally reduced and the smoke no longer affecting the area (unfortunately for Doramay, it was pretty bad for her and her friend Pat when they went in early August), I was finally able to return on September 13. I was accompanied by fellow Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO) member Angela Soto, who had never been to this terrific botanical area. Due to the smoke and fire danger, I didn’t get out much in August and went alone as I was never sure until morning what the air quality would be like. It was wonderful to get back to “business as usual” and to be able to take another plant lover with me. Read the rest of this entry »

Watching Fires from Coffin Mountain Lookout

I hadn’t been aware of the Milli Fire, which had started the day before, so it was quite a shock to see this impressive plume of smoke just north of the Three Sisters. There’s quite a variety of conifers on the summit, all kept unusually short by wind, snow, and rocky conditions. (Left) the normally ground-hugging common juniper (Juniperus communis), (center) a very squat subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), and (right) a shrubby Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia).

A young harrier was among several soaring high above the sloping meadows. I’m used to seeing them alone, flying very low just over the ground, so I didn’t recognize them at first, in spite of their distinctive white rump patches.

I’m finally attempting to catch up on everything that I fell behind on over the last few months. I wanted to post some photos from a trip to Coffin Mountain I took on August 16 but didn’t get around to. Somehow I just couldn’t get to writing about the late summer trips, even though I was stuck inside most of the time, avoiding the smoke for much of August and September. It’s a little odd writing about those awful hot, dry, and smoky months while I listen to the steady rain outside. At the time, I couldn’t wait for rainy season to come and put out the fires and clear the air. It was hard to imagine the drought and fires would ever end. And now the rain is here—and I’m already dreaming about next year’s sunny summer days!

Earlier in the year, an old friend of mine, Charles, who had been living in Germany for a number of years, contacted me and said he and his daughter Lucia would be vacationing in the Pacific Northwest and were planning to stay at Breitenbush for a while in August. I hadn’t been to Coffin Mountain in several years, and as it is near Breitenbush and one of the best trails I know in the Western Cascades anyway, I suggested we could meet up there for a hike.

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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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Further Exploration of the BVD Trail

On the second day (June 3) of my brief overnight trip to the North Umpqua area, I headed up to the Twin Lakes trailhead, but my destination for this trip was the former BVD trail, accessed from the same area. While I did spend a couple of hours over at Twin Lakes at the end of the day, I was really more interested in looking at rock plants, especially after my fabulous trip to Pyramid Rock the day before (see Peak Bloom at Pyramid Rock). I was not disappointed. There were a great many beautiful plants in bloom. And because I had been camping just a few miles from the bottom of the road, I was already out walking at 8:30am and had lots more time than usual to poke around. My goal was to explore beyond the main meadow I’d been to several times before. Looking at the Google Earth image, it is clear that there are a lot of openings, both large and small, along this steep, south-facing slope.

Perhaps the most outstanding display of the day was from the numerous silver lupines (Lupinus albifrons), which were all over the meadow and rocky areas.

Perhaps the most outstanding display of the day was from the numerous silver lupines (Lupinus albifrons), which were all over the meadow and rocky areas. I do love purple!

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Life Among the Ruins

The devastation left by the Rainbow Creek fire of September 2009. Black Rock in the distance is right across from the trailhead.

On Tuesday (August 30), I left the Hemlock Lake campground and drove the 18 miles or so east along the ridge to the Whitehorse Meadows trailhead at the northern end of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide. I wondered what might still be in bloom at the relatively high trail at about 5700′. Just a mile or so before the trailhead, I stopped at a favorite spot, a lovely roadside wet slope. It was filled with Parnassia cirrata, Kyhosia bolanderi, Erigeron aliceae, and there were also some lovely leopard lilies (Lilium pardalinum). It looked like things would be great along the trail. Then I noticed some burned trees above the wetland. Hmm. It wasn’t until I came around the corner and saw Black Rock, the prominent feature in this area, completely surrounded by dead trees, that I realized what had happened. What a shock! One of my favorite trails utterly devastated. The trail meanders slowly downhill over 3 miles to the large Whitehorse Meadows. Until just before the Whitehorse Meadows, almost no trees had survived this fire except a few in the many small patches of meadows, outcrops, and wetlands along the way. How did I not know this area had burned? It wasn’t until I got home and called the Diamond Lake Ranger District office of the Umpqua National Forest that I found out it burned in the fall of 2009, just a couple of months after my last visit here. The fire was named after Rainbow Creek, a tributary of Black Creek that starts nearby. It burned over 6,000 acres. It occurred around the same time as the Tumblebug Fire, which was much closer to me and kept me away from southern Oregon entirely. For a dramatic aerial photo of the fires, see Earth Snapshot. Read the rest of this entry »

Specialties of the North Umpqua

Kalmiopsis fragrans growing within sight of Bohemia Mountain in Lane County (still with some snow on top!)

I just went on my first overnight camping trip of the year (June 26, 27). While I can do some areas of the North Umpqua in Douglas County on a long day trip, it is tedious spending that much time driving, and there isn’t much time left for exploring when I get there. So, as often as I can stand it, I go on short one or two night trips to get farther afield. Any more than that and I can’t keep track of everything I’ve seen and it takes too much time going through my photos and plant lists when I return. For this trip, I wanted to explore the area near Steamboat and along the Lane and Douglas county borders. There are a number of wonderful plants in Douglas County that have rarely, if ever, been found just north in Lane County. It seems like a worthy challenge to discover some of these on “our” side of the county line.

The chief specialty of this area, and one of the rarest and most revered plants in Oregon, is kalmiopsis, named for its flowers’ resemblance to Kalmia (mountain and bog laurel, for example). Its name is used for the Native Plant Society of Oregon’s yearly journal. There are two species, both found nowhere outside of Oregon. The more famous is Kalmiopsis leachiana, namesake of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Siskiyous. The species found in Douglas County is now known as Kalmiopsis fragrans. Its leaves are indeed aromatic, the undersides being covered with small glands. This stunning, low-growing shrub clings to shaded outcroppings of a specific porous rock that has a distinctive purplish color—like it has had blackberry juice spilled on it. I’ve heard it referred to as tuffaceous rock, but I know zip about geology. The higher sites I know of were in full perfect bloom (for its protection, locations are not posted publicly!). This plant is tantalizingly close to Lane County—only about 7 miles from the border—but has never been discovered outside of eastern Douglas County. Read the rest of this entry »

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