Olallie Mountain

July 14, 1991

This was the third time I have led an Obsidian wildflower-watching hike up to Olallie Mountain. The first time it was late in a dry year, the second time it snowed (on July 4th!!), but this time was just right. The clouds under which we departed had almost disappeared by the time we reached the trailhead. The air was fresh and clear. We began hiking at 10:20, moving slowly as we identified all the flowers that were out. The bunchberry was particularly spectacular in the woods, as were the coral root orchids, both spotted and Mertens’. The dwarf bramble (Rubus lasiococcus), something people rarely notice in bloom, was near the peak of its flowering as it sprawled across the forest floor. We lunched at the saddle next to the junction leading to the mountaintop. Because the flowering season is so much delayed by the late snows, we saw the meadows in early form. The smaller bluebell, Mertensia bella, was particularly pleasing. In a few weeks it will be obscured by taller herbs, most notably the tall bluebell, M. paniculata, that dominates these moist slopes. We took a short detour to a slushy seep to look at marsh marigolds, purple elephant’s head and knee-high Dodecatheon jeffreyi. White bog orchid was joined by a green one, the same one we saw on lower parts of the trail near Wolverine Meadows, identified as Habenaria saccata. The diminutive Lewisia triphylla showed its 7-petalled flowers near the dry ridge-top where pussy-paws are found. The final few hundred yards below the summit had glorious flowers too numerous to list, attended by the floating flashes of flagrant friviolity known as butterflies. Compact binoculars prove to be a satisfying alternative to the net for ethical field enjoyment of butterflies (get “Watching Washington Butterflies” by Robert Pyle). Columbines and gnat-tended pussy-toes, blue gillia and intoxicating penstemons absorbed our senses until the summit vista rooted our tushes in the rocks by the lookout. The air was so clear we could see from Mt. Hood to forever. We left slowly and descended slowly. Most of the group took a side trip to deliver fresh fruit and the Sunday paper to Olallie Guard Station for Obsidian wilderness volunteers Mary Bridgeman and Helen Smith — a mission of appreciation organized by trips coordinator Sharon Ritchie persistently telephoning Obsidians the evenings before the hike. Happy hikers on this trip were Harold Busby, Barb Elsen, Ruth Galad, Connie Laux, Dale & Margaret McBride, Lindsay Pierce, Karen Seidel, Carol Stern, Miriam Witkin and Dave Wagner (leader).

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