Whychus Canyon Preserve

Whychus Creek starts up in the Three Creeks area south of Sisters, OR, below Broken Top and the Three Sisters, and runs north-easterly to where it joins the Deschutes River winding much of the way through a canyon carved through basalt.  It’s a beautiful band of green cutting its way through the Juniper – Sagebrush Scrub country where I grew up.  I’d never been to the Preserve before and was happy to see it mostly intact.  Though development has been creeping up along some of its edges the Preserve is being actively managed by the Deschutes Land Trust these days.  We hiked it on June 26 and many plants  were still in bloom.  Many people from the wet side of the Cascades have never developed an appreciation for the starkness of Oregon’s High Desert country.  Julie and I both grew up over here and where some people see barreness we see country defined by its sky, its geology and the spaces in between that set off the unique character of everything that lives here.  We took this hike with long time friends, Robert and Elayne, who stayed in Bend when we and others left.

Julie contemplating something deep

Julie contemplating something deep. Somebody’s house perched up  high

Eriogonum poking up through a litter of Pine needles and dry twigs

Eriogonum poking up through a litter of Pine needles and dry twigs

What the desert grass/ scrub lands looked like before sheep and the invasive Cheat Grass

What the desert grass/ scrub lands looked like before sheep and the invasive Cheat Grass and the Knapweeds

Scarlet Gilia was widely scattered and hard to get to show up in photos

Scarlet Gilia was widely scattered and hard to get to show up in photos

The canyon looking north with the bigger Ponderosa concentrated near the creek

The canyon looking north with the bigger Ponderosa concentrated near the creek

Eriogonum sphaerocephelum...unless one of you know better (my best guess w/o a sample)

Eriogonum sphaerocephelum…unless one of you know better (my best guess w/o a sample)

In the desert you develop an appreciation for dead things.  This dead Juniper will stand for decades scratching at the sky

In the desert you develop an appreciation for dead things. This Juniper will stand for decades scratching at the sky

One of the many Castilleja (Paintbrush) species.  This one was everywhere in the upper canyon

One of the many Castilleja (Paintbrush) species. This one was everywhere in the upper canyon

Robert cooling his feet in the eponymous creek

Robert cooling his feet in the eponymous creek

Eriogonum unbellatum, I think.  I love the textures formed by the needles, twigs and dried broken sticks

Eriogonum unbellatum, I think. I love the textures formed by the needles, twigs and dried broken sticks

Okay, I'm not good with Asteraceae.  This was right in the path on a shelf just above the creek

Okay, I’m not good with Asteraceae. This was right in the path on a shelf just above the creek

 

The canyon looking south

The canyon looking south

 

Elayne and Robert on a basalt bluff before the trail dropped down to the canyon bottom

Elayne and Robert on a basalt bluff before the trail dropped down to the canyon bottom

Those of you who are unaware of it should check out: wildflowersearch.com, it’s a great GIS based data base for wildflowers in America with lots of good links to photos and info.  Steven Sullivan is still adding plants to a list that, as of this writing, includes 5,720 species and varieties.  It’s a great resource.

While you’re at it check out the Deschutes Land Trust’s website.  They offer various interpretive hikes through the properties they manage, one of them a historic look at the Santiam Wagon Road that passed through here along the top of the rim, is being offered Sept 19. 

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