Posts Tagged ‘Galium’

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 »

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 »

Fabulous Loop Trip Around Balm Mountain

Classic frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) has narrow leaves that are often quite purple-tinged. Mount Bailey is the snowy mountain to the left. To its right, the rim of Crater Lake can be seen even farther southeast.

On my very last hike in the mountains last year, John Koenig and I found a great way to bushwhack up the south side of Balm Mountain, the highest point in the Calapooyas and one of the coolest places in the Western Cascades (see Another Way Up To Balm Mountain’s South End). We talked about coming back this year and doing a loop by climbing up that way, walking the entire ridge to the north, and returning via a road that leads to the north side. It was high up on both of our priority lists, so for our first trip together to the Calapooyas this year, on July 3rd, we decided to give it a try.

After a number of trips up here, this was the first time I was able to see the deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) in good bloom at the far south end of the mountain. Some monkeyflower and large-flowered blue-eyed Mary indicates this area is somewhat seepy.

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Not Balmy Yet at Balm Mountain!

End of the line. The first (but not the last!) snow bank we had to walk across on our way to Balm Mountain.

Crater Lake currant (Ribes erythrocarpum) is endemic to the Cascades of Oregon, mostly in the south. It is very common in the area near Balm Mountain. Its unusual orange flowers are followed by red berries.

Yesterday (July 20), John Koenig and I went to Balm Mountain to pre-hike it for an NPSO trip I had scheduled for the end of the month. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get there or not, but looking at photos of it I’d taken from various spots in the last week or two, I had some hope it had melted out enough for us to get there. It was clear sailing all the way up Staley Ridge Road 2134. We turned onto Timpanogas Road 2154 and hit snow at about 0.8 mile. It covered half the road but with some shoveling was safely passable. A tree had also fallen across the road but was held up by the steep bank. John had brought some equipment, although unfortunately he forgot his chainsaw, and we spent more effort tackling these obstacles than we should have—in hindsight. While the road seemed clear after that, we were stopped by an insurmountable snow bank covering the road a mere 1/4 mile farther up the road, just before the intersection of Road 236. Time to walk. Read the rest of this entry »

Third Trip to Loletta Peak

The interesting rock formations just north of Loletta Lakes and “Loletta Peak” are home to Heuchera merriamii and Penstemon rupicola.

Saturday (August 7), I returned to Loletta Peak, primarily to look for female plants of the dioecious Galium grayanum I had discovered three weeks ago (see More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas). There was still plenty blooming along the roadside. The masses of pale yellow Epilobium luteum were almost at peak as was the nice stretch of Artemisia douglasiana. For the first time, I saw the two look-alikes, Stellaria crispa and S. obtusa growing side by side in the damp ditch. At a glance, it was easy to spot the difference between the tight, almost prostrate stems of S. obtusa and the lax but more upright stems of S. crispa with widely spread out leaves. There seemed to be lots of trucks driving around the normally empty roads. Hunting season is coming up, and, alas, this is a popular place for hunting. I met one nice young man out scouting with his daughter. He quickly figured out that I “probably didn’t like that sort of thing.” I replied that I enjoy seeing animals alive in the wild, but we had a pleasant conversation about the road conditions and nearby wet meadows. He was obviously very familiar with the area, too, but looked at it from a different viewpoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Mystery Bedstraw Blooming in Calapooyas

Is this California bedstraw (Galium californicum) this far north of its normal range? No, it’s Gray’s bedstraw (G. grayanum), still quite rare in Oregon.

When John Koenig said he had a day free to head up to the Calapooyas with me, I was excited about showing him the wonderful spot I’d explored a couple of weeks ago and seeing if my mystery plant was in bloom yet (see More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas). So Wednesday (July 28), John and I headed back up Coal Creek Road. We couldn’t help but stop a number of times along the roadside because there was so much in bloom. The butterflies seemed to be everywhere, enjoying the flowers as much as we were. One of the plants that had drawn us both to this area many times is the rare Epilobium luteum. It was just starting to bloom. Also in the creeks and wet ditch that drain Balm Mountain were perfect Mitella caulescens, Veronica americana, masses of Senecio triangularis, and some gorgeous Epilobium glaberrimum. It may have small flowers, but they are a lovely shade of rose and are set off by attractive glaucous foliage. Glaucous foliage turned out to be the theme of the day. Farther up the road, there was a long stretch of Agastache urticifolia in full bloom. This is a real favorite of hummingbirds and large butterflies, but neither that nor flowering Castilleja miniata and pruinosa seemed to be attracting hummers. Read the rest of this entry »

More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas

Ceanothus velutinous covers the lower slope of the ridge before giving way to slippery gravel. The ridge ends on the left in a protected, north-facing cliff.

Yesterday (July 19), I returned to the Calapooyas to explore an interesting spot I discovered last fall. It’s an unnamed high point along the ridge just south of Loletta Lakes, so I’m going to dub it Loletta Peak. Much of it is steep, open gravel, and I had wondered for years what might be up there. Only last October, after the first dusting of snow had landed, did I finally manage to climb up there. I was thrilled to discover Castilleja rupicola on the north-facing cliffs (see More Castilleja rupicola in Douglas County). This is the most southern point I’d ever seen it. I was anxious to see it there in bloom as well as to see what other treasures the area might hold. Read the rest of this entry »

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