I discovered the Menagerie Wilderness while traveling with my girlfriend last summer. We stopped to stretch our legs while on a drive along Highway 20 from Bend to Lebanon, hiking the short Walton Ranch Interpretive Trail up to the viewpoint of the meadow below. I noted that there is another trail starting at the parking lot – the Trout Creek Trail – and looked forward to the day I’d return. February 15th was that day.
After a 90-minute drive from Bend, we arrived back at the trailhead, located just across the street from the Trout Creek Campground. There’s a second trailhead a few miles east of here, across the street from the Fernview Campground, but it’s a much steeper ascent than from this access point. I wasn’t surprised to see a few other vehicles parked, being an unusually pleasant day in February. Just a few steps onto the trail, we were immediately captivated by all of the plant life. The area around Bend offers interesting ecology, but there’s nothing to me as exciting in Oregon as the Western Cascades Lowlands and Valleys Ecoregion. I’ve nicknamed it the “serene green.” This might explain why it took us nearly an hour to get a mile up the trail, photographing moss, lichens, mushrooms, and old-growth trees every chance I got… and anyone hiking this trail would get a lot of chances.
The United States Congress designated the Menagerie Wilderness in 1984 and it now has a total of 5,084 acres.1
Unfortunately, my GPS unit ran out of juice early on the hike, so the map above only shows my track for the first two miles or so. The rest of the hike had a similar elevation gain. (Here’s a good map)
This hike was the first opportunity for my girlfriend to join me. She’s done hundreds of miles and dozens of hikes with me – including some adventures during my 100 Hikes Project – so it was great to now have her apart of this project as well. I’m sure it will not be the last.
An unusual shape, but this is a winter mushroom (Craterellus tubaeformis) It is the most common mushroom in the Western Cascades Lowlands this time of year. Being a Wilderness Area, it’s best to check with the USFS to see if a permit is required for gathering mushrooms.
Frog pelt lichen (Peltigera neopolydactyla)
I always hope to discover something new on each of my hikes, and this one offered many new encounters of interesting organisms. This is a lichen called Cladonia phyllophora, which I’ve never seen before until this hike.
Brown necrotic leaf spots – a type of fungus – was found on many dried Oregon grape leaves on the forest floor.2
I discovered these while laying prostrate photographing something else nearby. At first, I thought they were a type of birds nest fungi, but it is most likely a young colony of black cup fungi.
Leaf of the Klamath plum (Prunus subcordata) showing intricate pattern of decay caused by tar spot fungus, similar as that shown in photo of Oregon grape leaf above.
Milkmaids (Cardamine californica) are one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring. I’m not sure if it is out because it normally blooms this time of year on these slopes or if the unusually dry weather has tricked it into blooming early.
Snow queen (Synthyris reniformis) is also an early spring flower. We saw many of these along the trail.
A strong winter storm blew down these trees along the ridge, providing my girlfriend an opportunity to enhance her wilderness skills. I don’t think there’s anything quite like learning how to cross blowdowns other than maybe mounting and dismounting a horse.
A view of Rooster Rock from the trail. The Menagerie Wilderness was named after these ancient volcanic plugs and others found here, which apparently look like an assortment of animals when viewed from certain angles.
In Japan, they call it Shinrin-yoku (森林浴), or “forest bathing.” My girlfriend and I call it the “serene green.” There’s no better way to melt off the stress and worries of the world than a hike into this wonderland.
- Menagerie Wilderness on Wilderness.net – http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/wildView?WID=351 ↩
- Brown necrotic leaf spots – http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/oregon-grape-mahonia-aquifolium-leaf-spot ↩