Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
In late June, we went on a short camping trip to the eastern slope of the Cascades and did a hike that a neighbor told us about. For a number of years she's talked about this place but always said she'd have to kill us if she told us where it was! This year she finally relented and told us how to get there. But I can't tell you because then I'd have to kill you!

It's a research natural area called Meeks Table just into the William O. Douglas Wilderness Area. The trail isn't marked on any of the maps and the drive is quite an adventure just to get to the trailhead. The Forest Service does their best (we're happy to say) to discourage people from going there to preserve the virgin stand of Ponderosa Pines and grasslands there that have never been grazed by cattle. There are wildflowers here that used to grow all across the eastern slope of the Cascades but are rarely found anymore outside of the Table because of overgrazing.

The hike takes you up a talus slope that is so dicey that cattle won't cross it--thus it's never been grazed! It makes for an challenging hike but it was worth it.

When you finally make it to the top of the table you can see for miles.

View from Meeks Table

On the rocky edges of the table the wildflowers are low growing wonders --read so small you have to get down on your hands and knees to have a look at them. Scattered in amongst the rocks we found lots of these little pink flowering onions.

Allium acuminatum
Allium acuminatum

These fun little clumps of Scabland Fleabane have flowers that start out yellow and turn orange and red as they age.

Erigeron bloomeri
Erigeron bloomeri

The center of the table has an amazing stand of old growth Ponderosa Pines that have been hit by lightening and shaped by the winds.

Windswept Ponderosa Pines

Here's Walter next to a couple of younger ones.

Walter and Young Ponderosa Pines

And Sara next to a big old gnarled one.

Sara and Ponderosa Pine

The trees create a sheltered area of meadow grasses that carpet the entire center section of the table. Our neighbor says that the grass is still green here in July when everything else on this side of the mountains is dry and brown.

Ponderosa Pines and their meadow

All sorts of different flowers grow in the meadow (Columbia lilies, lupine, bistort, yarrow, penstemon) including this amazing plant that's called a Monument Plant. This one was nearly 4 feet tall and covered with blossoms from base to top.

Frasera speciosa
Frasera speciosa

Frasera speciosa closeup

It turns out that these guys are fairly common in Colorado where they're also called Elk Plants. Researchers have found that they bloom once every 20 to 60 years and then die. About 10% of the plants on the table were in bloom. I'd never seen one and was very impressed.

Prairie Smoke
Geum triflorum

We also saw these sweet little pink nodding flowers called Prairie Smoke --after the long hairy seed pods they make after blooming.

I had a great time trying to figure out what all these flowers I'd never seen before were.

Sara identifying flowers at Meeks Table

I took a series of shots of the mountains from the edge of the table that gives you a sense of the area.

Meeks Table Panorama

We think that the mountain on the far right is Mt. Aix.

You can see more flower photos in the Meeks Table Photo Gallery