Simone and I started off at 8 am out of Seattle. The city sent us off in full form, with a good swath of rain as we slid through traffic on our way to meet up with Dr. Steven Herman in Olympia. Steve was first Simone’s and my professor at Evergreen for Spring Ornithology in 2005. It was a serious turning point in my environmental education and it set us up for some amazing experiences and great friendships. As this was our first field job it seemed only right to meet up for some breakfast to have him send us off. Besides he continues to be an amazing mentor and friend!
Onwards down the road from Olympia, we approached the Columbia, and it was clearing up. Portland came and left and soon we were cruising for Corvallis. In no time we were pulling up to the Rogue Brewery in Newport for a quick drop for the road. Getting onto Highway 101 south felt like the fun was really about to start.
The sun was shining and a fierce wind was blowing against the coast. We couldn’t resist stopping to enjoy the glinting light over the pacific but we wanted to get down to the Darlingtonia Wayside. The light was getting longer as we finally were a few miles from Florence and slid into the wayside parking lot.
Darlingtonia californica is a type of pitcher plant that lives in Oregon and California from nearly 6000 ft to sea level. It is the only of it’s kind in Oregon and is uniquely suited to the poor soils in the boggy areas it grows. Its leaves are modified into a “pitcher” and hold water with a sweet smelling attractant at the base of the opening to lure insects. Once they’ve crawled into the plant, sharp “hairs” pointing down prevent escape. The insects are decomposed by bacteria, supplementing the resource poor, acidic habitat these plants grow in. The trees around us were stunted attesting to the sub-par growing conditions. Sometimes called cobra lily, Darlingtonia have a beautiful purple flower with a yellow center, which unfortunately wasn’t visible. In all honesty the plants weren’t in full show as they weren’t fully rejuvenated but the new leaves were probably 20 inches high.
Our flora fascination satisfied we needed to find a place to eat and somewhere to sleep. The food we got in Florence was far from adequate but we ended up finding a great camping spot. Like most young people traveling on their own dime we wanted a free place to stay but after a bit of searching we realized that this wasn’t going to happen. Luckily we found a campsite just south of the Florence in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.