|Kate Thomas Keown
By Sue Anderson
The Sisters Country comes alive each summer with a colorful riot of wildflowers.
Three Creek Meadow area: Turn south on Elm Street in Sisters and begin the steady climb toward the mountains. You'll start out in sagebrush lowlands, and within a few miles find yourself in mixed pine and fir forests.
Near the end of the road, before you reach Three Creek Lake, beautiful Trapper Meadow will appear on your right.
Turn right at the first intersection and right again into the small campground.
Wildflowers, starting in mid-June, grow and enliven the meadow with every color of the rainbow. Three particularly rare species are worth searching for. The first is elephanthead. This appropriately named member of the figwort family has purplish pink flowers clustered on stalks that, with a little imagination,
resemble miniature trunks and ears of elephants. You can't mistake it because it looks so different and it usually grows in wetter areas in company with
Another streambank favorite is ladies' tresses. These delicate-looking
orchids resemble lovely, white, braided hair and grow, like
the elephantheads, on tall
stalks. The last of the trio is a rare specimen called Newberry's gentian.
If you want to range a little farther afield, take a trip to Iron Mountain in the
Drive west from Sisters on Highway 126/20 until you come to a major junction (past Hoodoo). Take the left fork (Hwy. 20). At the next junction, stay on Hwy. 20 to the right (signs will say "to Sweet Home"). Continue for about seven miles until, at the top of a hill, you'll see the parking lot for the Iron Mountain trail on your left. The trailhead is back across the highway.
More than 275 species of
wildflowers call this unique place home.
Here are a few of the more showy wildflowers to look for: Cardwell's penstemon (large purple tubular flowers), Washington lily (tall, creamy white to purple), mountain cat's ear (three large
off-white petals with a yellow center), Scarlet gilia (brilliant red tubular flowers on a stalk – favorite of the hummingbirds), Rock penstemon, Indian paintbrush, Menzies' delphinium and more.
The first week in July is usually the peak of the breathtaking display, though a late, wet spring may push the peak further back this year.