The 1st Annual Herbarium Foray was held at the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in remote south-central Oregon in 1996. We were a small group, 13 in total, and enjoyed glorious views stretching for hundreds of miles around us. Looking to the east, a broad, snowy ridge could be seen, and those familiar with the area identified it as Steens Mountain. The idea of holding a foray there was discussed enthusiastically, as it has been nearly every year since then when deciding where to go for the Foray.
In 2007, we finally made Steens Mountain our destination, and the number of participants (26) was twice the size of that at Hart Mt. in 1996. This despite the fact that Steens is a 12-14 hour drive from Seattle! The Foray was held July 19-23rd in order to ensure that we had passage along the road to the summit and upper shoulders of the ridgeline. The loop road servicing the mountain typically isn't snow-free until after July 4th.
Steens Mt. is a remarkable place both in terms of its geology and botany. The 30-mile long ridge upon which Steens sits is a fault-block, the result of the earth's crust tilting in response to being stretched. This topographic phenomenon is characteristic of the Basin and Range region so typically encountered in Utah and Nevada. Botanically, the area is a crossroads among the Great Basin, California Province, and Pacific Northwest floras. Steens is the home to several endemic taxa, in part due to its island-like nature. The valley floor from which it arises is several thousand feet below, and the closest mountain peaks stand far away in all directions.
We made our camp at Fish Lake, a placid body of water nestled among quaking aspen trees at about 7500' elevation. We were fortunate to be joined by Dr. Don Mansfield of Albertson College, who wrote "Flora of Steens Mountain", as well as by another outstanding regional botanist, Dr. Jim Smith from Boise State University. For three days small groups spread out over the upper canyons, ridgelines, high-elevation shrub-steppe, and lowland riparian areas found on or near Steens Mountain. Many of the plants that we saw were unfamiliar to us, such as Cirsium peckii (Steens Mountain thistle), Castilleja linariaefolia (narrow-leaved paintbrush), andHymenoxys hoopesii (owls'-claws). In all, we made approximately 650 collections, some of which resulted in new species being added to the Steens Mt. checklist.
In keeping with tradition, the Spaghetti Dinner was held Saturday evening, followed by the Ken Davis Memorial Dessert Contest. Special thanks go to Maria Gerace for once again generously offering to be chief chef for the dinner, which involves cooking a large pot of spaghetti over an open fire — no small task! We're especially grateful to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Office in Burns, OR for facilitating our trip by providing the necessary permits. Of course, thanks to all of the 2007 Foray participants: Suzanne Anderson, Brianne Cohen, Maria Gerace, David Giblin, Robert Goff, Elizabeth Gould, Ken Karol, Megan Jensen, Jessie Johanson, Joe Johanson, Mary Johanson, Rochelle Johnson, Don Knoke, Don Mansfield, Ryan Miller, Dick Olmstead, Sheila Olmstead, Dan Paquette, Jim Rodman, Barb Smith, Jim Smith, Valerie Soza, Doug Williams, Yuan Yaowu, Alan Yen, Peter Zika (plus Chinook, Pico and Tiger).