I love visiting Alder Springs in the springtime. Not only is it jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but it really gives you a taste of spring before it has sprung elsewhere. Last Wednesday a group of Land Trust folks took a hike down to Alder Springs and then beyond to the confluence of Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River. This is was before our warm weekend--and between last week's series of snowstorms. So suffice to say, we needed some spring!
If you're not familiar with Alder Springs, its a great hike within the Crooked National Grasslands that takes your down to a gushing spring that pours water into Whychus Creek. The Land Trust helped broker its protection back in 1997. Our goal last week was to dig a little deeper into the geology of the area with former USGS geologist Janet Brown.
While I loved the closer look at all the geologic layers, I must say (apologies Janet!) that my favorite part was to see what flowers were blooming around each corner. At the top of the grasslands it was the usual suspects we've already seen out braving the spring cold: gold fields and prairie stars. But on the warmer slopes the sand lilies (Leucocrinum montanum) were blooming. At first glance they always look like tissues littered across the landscape, but closer inspection reveals a delicate bunch of white flowers reveling in spring sun.
As we descended into the warmer, more sheltered canyon you could really begin to believe that it is spring. Green leaves! Yes, the willows and alders were beginning to bud! Mint. Growing wildly next to Whychus Creek with its wonderful smell wafting up after each footstep. And finally, as we neared the confluence of Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River, balsamroot (Balsamorhiza spp) !! Barely peaking out with just a hint of yellow showing, but soon to carpet the canyon sides with sun.
I happily hiked back up the canyon towards the cars enjoying the sun and spring. And then, as we neared the end of the hike, I spied one more new wildflower to fully announce that spring is here: yellow bells. Get out there and enjoy the flowers while you can!