Stacker Butte 3-23-21

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Stacker Butte 3-23-21

Post by bobcat » March 24th, 2021, 9:13 am

A stunning day out in the eastern netherlands of the Gorge, with just a cool westerly breeze rather than the more common freezing easterly hurricane on the summit ridge.

Hikers in the Columbia Hills Natural Area Preserve need to stay on the gravel road that leads up to the array of communications towers on the summit ridge of Stacker Butte. (It's not such a bad idea to stick to the road anyway in March/April, when ticks swarm in the grasslands.) At the beginning the views are all south: to The Dalles, Mt. Hood, Mt Jefferson and, from higher up, the tops of the Three Sisters. Balsamroot were just beginning to bloom up here, but there were a variety of species decorating the slopes although it’s not time for the full bonanza just yet.

Mt. Hood from the trailhead, Stacker Butte.jpg
Pungent desert parsley (Lomatium grayi), Stacker Butte.jpg
Looking to Mt. Hood from the road, Stacker Butte.jpg
Carey's balsamroot (Balsamorhiza careyana), Stacker Butte.jpg
Harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), Stacker Butte.jpg
Hood's phlox (Phlox hoodii), Stacker Butte.jpg

Past the first towers is where you can find the largest congregations of the obscure buttercup (Ranunculus triternatus), a rare species with a strangely disjunct distribution in only four counties in four different states (Klickitat County, WA; Wasco County, OR; Bonneville County, ID; and Elko County, NV)! There’a a great view from here to the agricultural fields of the Centerville Valley and the windmills stretched along the crest of the Columbia Hills to Haystack Butte. After reaching the summit, taken over by an FAA beacon and associated structures, I was able to get clear views north to Mt. Adams, front and center, with Mount Rainier and Goat Rocks behind. High Prairie and Swale Canyon stretched below. To the east was Grayback Mountain above the Klickitat Canyon at the western edge of the Simcoe Hills. To the west, the jagged summit of Mt. St. Helens was peeping above the hills.

Obscure buttercup (Ranunculus triternatus), Stacker Butte.jpg
Centerville Valley and Haystack Butte from Stacker Butte.jpg
Upland larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum), Stacker Butte.jpg
Mt. Hood view from a gully, Stacker Butte.jpg
FAA beacon, Stacker Butte.jpg
High Prairie, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks from Stacker Butte.jpg
Watson's desert parsley (Lomatium watsonii), Stacker Butte.jpg
Swale Canyon and the Simcoe Hills from Stacker Butte.jpg

I continued past the last communications towers and, on an abandoned section of the road with views all the way, dropped to a saddle near the western boundary of state land before turning back. There were still large patches of grass widows here just going off bloom. Lots more people were coming up as I descended, and there was a convoy of vehicles - on some kind of official business - parked along the powerline road to Oak Spring. (For flower IDs, you can run your cursor over the pictures.)

The arrays, Stacker Butte.jpg
Grass widow (Olsynium douglasii), Stacker Butte.jpg
Piper's desert parsley (Lomatium piperi), Stacker Butte.jpg
Biscuitroot (Lomatium macricarpum), Stacker Butte.jpg

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Re: Stacker Butte 3-23-21

Post by lordgares » March 24th, 2021, 9:43 am

Looks like a gorgeous day up there. Love the pictures. I haven't had the chance to go up Stacker Butte this year but I have been down the canyon on Swale Creek a couple of times.

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Re: Stacker Butte 3-23-21

Post by Gray Jay » April 5th, 2021, 3:40 pm

My car was part of the caravan you saw. We were helping DNR monitor the Obscure Buttercup (Ranunculus triternatus).

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