In May, I got to be an Artist-in-Residence for the National Park Service for the second time. I spent two weeks writing poetry about Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve’s old-growth forests and stunning cave formations.
The preserve is situated in the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion, a world biodiversity hotspot that boasts nearly 70,000 species.
The old-growth forest in the preserve is comprised of Douglas fir, incense-cedar, and hardwoods like Pacific madrone.
I saw some incredible wildflowers while I was there, including my first wild orchid, the Western fairy slipper. I also saw Cascade Oregon grape, Pacific trillium, Western wild ginger, greenleaf manzanita, and vanilla-leaf, which was used by Native Americans as a natural insecticide.
There was old man’s beard lichen hanging from every tree in sea green nests of twisted threads. Horsehair lichen also grew in the park.
Moss grew everywhere you looked. The most common type of moss was stairstep moss, a type of feather moss.
This is an incredible area of the country, and if you are ever in Southwest Oregon, I recommend stopping by the monument to take a cave tour, or to hike in the pristine old-growth forests of the surrounding preserve.