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Wildflowers at Lyle Cherry Orchard 4/17/2022

Posted: April 18th, 2022, 6:21 am
by pdxalex
I originally proposed to my wife that we check out Cook Hill but saw that the summit was buried in a thick cloud bank and that neighboring Dog Mountain had a decent layer of snow. It didn't look like much fun so we kept going east and decided on the Lyle Cherry Orchard hoping for a nice wildflower display. We were not disappointed. We were surrounded by flowers at virtually every point on the 7 mile hike. It was beautiful.

We arrived at the TH around 10:45. It was about 45 degrees with very thin cloud cover. There about a dozen cars when we arrived, twice as many when we left. We saw a couple of people on the way up and 3-4 parties lounging at overlooks on the orchard loop. As we headed over to the Lyle overlook look, we ran into more people and eventually passed a steady stream of people as we descended from the upper bench.

Flowers: I am not an amateur botanist but sometimes I wish I knew more about flowers. I lost track of how many different types of flowers we encountered, from the large blossoms of balsam root to tiny white, pink, and blue flowers about the size of a pencil eraser. I recognized shooting stars, glacier lilies, and buttercup on the ridge but there were far too many flowers I don't know. Flower photos are at the end of the report.

Hazards: We were also surrounded by poison oak, particularly below the ridge top, that is starting to encroach on the trail, at some points growing on the trail. There were several clueless hikers letting their dogs walk through patches of poison oak. I am glad we did not bring our dog. Ticks are out. We haven't found any yet but we did meet a few women doing tick checks at the falcon overlook. It was sparked by one of the women noticing a tick on her while the sat and enjoyed the view.

Trail: A trail crew has been through the area at least once. The downed logs I saw in February are gone. As you approach the second bench from below, the crew cut a new section of trail to replace a short section that they decommissioned. I don't know why they did this since the decommissioned section seemed fine in February. Overall, the trail is in very good shape. We hit one short section of mud. There's no snow up there, except for about a 1 square foot patch we noticed near the trail on a sheltered north facing segment of the Lyle overlook loop.

The start of the decommissioned stretch of trail.
decommissioned trail.jpg
Weirdness: This was the first time in my nearly 30 years of hiking in this area that I've encountered an armed hiker. One man in his late 30's or early 40's wearing Marine Corps pattern camo pants had a semiautomatic pistol in a thigh holster and was also carrying a 10" bowie knife. He was with two boys in their late teens. He seemed pleasant and said hello. I didn't feel threatened and he wasn't drawing attention to his weapons. But, it was bizarre. It must have been bizarre to others considering the chatter we heard passing a few other couples. I can't imagine why someone would feel the need to be armed on a popular hike like this one.

Oh, the Easter bunny had obviously visited. But for some reason it left a rock in the egg.


Re: Wildflowers at Lyle Cherry Orchard 4/17/2022

Posted: April 18th, 2022, 6:49 pm
by justpeachy
I've hiked on Easter before and found plastic eggs. I never understand the desire to purposely litter nature with more plastic.

I have found that repetition over many years has slowly embedded some flower knowledge in my brain, especially when I see people more knowledgeable than me identify flowers in trip reports. Have you ever used iNaturalist? It's a great app and website that can sometimes help you identify plants, wildflowers, mushrooms, trees, birds, etc. The accuracy depends on the quality of the photo.

Re: Wildflowers at Lyle Cherry Orchard 4/17/2022

Posted: April 19th, 2022, 5:26 am
by drm
Re poison oak, I was on the Syncline trail recently - before any leafing out. A party coming up as I was descending pleasantly stepped off the trail to let me pass, and were standing right in the middle of a patch of poison oak stems. They are not particularly recognizable without leaves, but the stems and branches are every bit as harmful, even in mid-winter, as the leaves are. And I know that trail is about as poison oaky as they come. So I warned them and we had a discussion about it.

Lyle Cherry has great flowers, but it is a narrow trail in parts and not the best choice during crowded times. Living in the eastern Gorge, I used to be able to hike these trails without crowds on weekdays. I don't like early starts and mid-day hiking is now almost impossible at almost every trailhead from Coyote Wall on up. Oh well - I do know of some alternatives!