Category Archives: Oregon

Oregon – Sand, Waves, and the Carrot Family

wild iris

From southern Oregon we headed northwest to the coast. This trip involved lots of driving, of which I did a fair amount, and that kept my nose out of a book and my eyes on the scenery. I tried to memorize the components of the lush countryside, forests thick with every kind of tree, bordered by wide bands of blackberry hedges in bloom. The Deer Brush (mentioned in my last post) in white and blue made big pastel splashes, and I’m sorry to say that a species of noxious weed, Scotch Broom, was rampant here, making gaudy yellow blotches on the hillsides in quantities I’d never seen before. I now do believe what they say: Broom is taking over.

Cow parsnip bloomed everywhere, too. It wasn’t until we got to the coast and walked down to the shore that I noticed what seemed to be two types of cow parsnip. I had to wait until we got to Pippin’s house a few days later to read in her wildflower books and get the two cousins straight. They are both in the Apiaceae family, also known as the carrot or parsley family. The one on the left below is the more familiar-to-me Cow Parsnip, Heracleum maximum (named after the god Hercules) and on the right is Angelica lucida, known as Sea Watch or Seacoast Angelica. That one doesn’t grow so much inland.

Cow Parsnip and Seacoast Angelica


Wish I could identify the viney blue flower that grew nearby, in the middle of the photo at right, but I’ve already spent a fruitless hour trying. Anyone?

enlargement of the unknown flower above

Heceta Head Lighthouse in the distance

Our first night on the coast was spent in Yachats, where our room looked out on this scene. That made the long drive worth every mile – nothing like going to sleep to the sound of ocean breakers.

One more plant was new to me, and I eventually found it in an Oregon wildflower guide: Maianthemum dilatum, common name False Lily of the Valley or May Lily or Two-leaved Solomon’s Seal (below).

Maianthemum dilatum

Wherever we drove or walked, big rhododendrons met us around every corner, covered with big pink or red or white blooms. Purple vetch and foxgloves, long-stemmed white daisies blowing at the roadsides, and even giant blue lupines added to the visual feast.

We did stop at the famous Oregon dunes on our way up the coast, miles of broad and high sand dunes you can get lost in. I left my shoes in the car and trudged up a tall sand hill, the wind blowing my pink flowered skirt all over. Deep sand is the most cushiony thing you could desire to hold you up, so after pausing a minute at the top to look all around, I galloped down again, feeling young and strong.

Oregon – Part 4

The last big thing we did was visit Crater Lake. This is the deepest lake in the United States; it fills the caldera of another old volcano, and is the definition of blue. My grandfather as young unmarried adventurer from Chicago was one of the laborers who built the original road around the rim of the crater, completed in 1918.

In 2010 we arrived in the parking lot in three cars, cousins pouring out with shy grins after years of missing each other. The tallest boy stood back-to-back with his uncle to compare heights, and the two little girls and a couple of boy cousins followed suit. The 11 yr-old boys linked up and became a  happy world unto themselves, jumping in sync on snow shelves until they broke , and quickly getting separated from the rest of the group so that as we were setting off on a walk we had to take 15 minutes to hunt for them.

rock penstemon

We were disappointed to find all but one trail still closed for snow; the one open trail was steep to the dock at water’s edge. Everyone from the six year-old little bit of a girl to the stiffening grandma me tripped down the switchbacks along the inside of the old volcano’s top.

By the path and in cracks at eye-level this flower grew. As soon as I saw Pippin again, later that day, she got out her wildflower books and we found out that it is Rock Penstemon.

All along the path to the shore, which was about a mile’s walk, I was thinking about how much longer it would take me later to tromp back up the grade. That’s the problem with hikes that start with a descent.

At the boat launch, one of my Grandsons from the East got permission from his father to swim in the lake, whose sides slope steeply down to the almost 2,000 ft. depth at bottom. He stripped down to his undershorts and plunged in, only to exit within seconds, the water was so icy. But back in he went, and swam a few strokes to make it official. The chance of a lifetime!

As expected, the hike back up was slow and rigorous. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and tried not to think of whether I was the last in the line, or to care. I was prepared for a long haul–or wishing someone could haul me up!

Then suddenly, perhaps half way ? son Pathfinder was alongside, and somehow we got on the subject of a book he is reading, and were talking about greed and how it differs from covetousness, and in no time, having meaningful and philosophical matters take my attention, I was surprised to find myself back on level ground and at the car.

Within a few minutes our carload was on the road south and out of Oregon, full of comfortably tired people who were mulling over the events of the last week, and the satisfactions of being part of a big and loving family.

Crater Lake, Oregon