Mt. Pisgah (east side) & Willow Creek Preserve (Eugene) 4-15-21

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Mt. Pisgah (east side) & Willow Creek Preserve (Eugene) 4-15-21

Post by bobcat » April 17th, 2021, 8:36 am

I hiked from the East Trailhead of Mt. Pisgah (Howard Buford Recreation Area) for the first time, taking Trail #4 up the east slope through oak woods and then dense Douglas-fir forest. At the summit ridge, I connected to Trail #1, which offers views west to Spencer Butte as you ascend. The poison oak , much a feature of this park, is now leafing out with abandon although the trails are wide enough to avoid any contact. From the Jed Kesey Memorial at the top, you can see Diamond Peak to the south and the very summits of South and Middle Sister.

East Trailhead, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Wet prairie, Trail #2, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca), Trail #2, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Oaks and incense cedar, Trail #4, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Baby blueeyes (Nemophila menziesii), Trail #4, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Poison oak leafing out, Trail #4, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum), Trail #4, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Sessile trillium (Trillium albidum), Trail #4, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Great hound's tongue (Cynoglossum grande), Trail #4, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Giant white fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum), Trail #4, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Junction with Trail #14E, Trail #4, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
View to Spencer Butte, Trail #1, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Henderson's shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii), Trail #1, Mt. Pisgah.jpg

From the summit, I took #6 down to connect with #3, which took me to Buckbrush Creek and then a nice traverse through buttercup meadows back to the trailhead. The camas on this side was in full bloom, seemingly all of one species (Camassia leichtlinii). The trails were remarkably uncrowded, only getting busy near the summit, where there were people coming up from the west side.

Jed kesey Memorial and South Sister, Mt. Pisgah Summit.jpg
Great camas (Camassia leichtlinii), Trail #6, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Buckbrush Creek, Trail #3, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Footbridge, Trail #3, Mt. Pisgah.jpg
Looking back on Trail #3, Mt. Pisgah.jpg

I then motored over to West Eugene to explore a Nature Conservancy property called the Willow Creek Preserve. The 400+ acres of this preserve protects the ‘wet prairie’ ecosystem, more technically known as the tufted hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) prairie, supposedly one of the rarest habitats in North America. This type of meadow is a squishy bog in winter and spring, drying to hard-as-rock in summer and fall. (This year it is drying out very early.) There are some plant species that survive only in this regime. The biome once occupied much of the Willamette Valley, but the arrival of Euro-American farming practices reduced it to only a few remnant patches. The Nature Conservancy has been attempting to restore this rather large parcel right next to a medium-sized city.

Nature Conservancy signage, Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg
Camas path, Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg
Wild Iris Ridge from Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg

The Conservancy has had the preserve closed for a year because of the pandemic and only opened it up again on April 1st. It’s all meadow and thicketed riparian corridors and the “trails” are even fainter or non-existent after a year without human traffic. (You can’t bring dogs here, which prevents a lot of locals from making it a daily walk.) I walked around fields and crossed an ash wood to loop back to 18th Avenue where I had parked. There were thousands upon thousands of camas plants, but only a handful in bloom. I suspect that there they are mostly common camas (Camassia quamash), which will be in full flower towards the end of the month. Of the rare plants protected here, only Bradshaw’s desert parsley (Lomatium bradshawii) was in bloom, hidden amongst the camas. This lomatium was considered extinct until 1979, when it was rediscovered by a University of Oregon student. Reseeding programs have been so successful that it was taken off the endangered species list just last month!

Bradshaw's desert parsley (Lomatium bradshawii), Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg
Mt. Tom and Buck Mountain from Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg
Luxury viewing, just outside Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg
Boundary meadow, Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg
Scouler's willow (Salix scouleriana), Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg
Great camas (Camassia leichtlinii), Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg
Apple blossoms, Willow Creek Preserve, Eugene.jpg

They do controlled burns here to replicate Native American practices of the past. This facilitates seeding of the native plants and keeps the ash trees from invading the meadows. Some turkeys were plodding around foraging (no photo). Adjacent to the property is a shady wood where transients have set up some furniture, and I also saw some Conservancy volunteers setting out flag plots, probably for a botanical survey of some kind.

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