Palmer’s Pond

Photo by Mary Masiel

“Palmer Pond, near the Cascade Divide, is named in respect of Lieutenant Palmer of the Royal Engineers. He crossed the divide in 1859.

The pond is situated alongside a portion of historic Hudson’s Bay Brigade Trail. This trail was used in the mid-1800’s to transport goods by horse between Hope and Tulameen. The trail is easy to follow — courtesy of literally hundreds of forefathers’ day pack horses that, in places, have trod the trail knee-deep into the soft earth.” trailpeak.com.

There are some things that you need to know about Palmer’s Pond. It is exactly 2 hours drive from Princeton to the trailhead. From the turnoff to Jacobsen Lake,you will see homemade sign that points out FALLS, presumedly Tulameen Falls because it is in that general area, and a highway sign advertising Vuich Falls. You will pass Vuich and Sutter Creek Campsites.

Stutter Creek is a lovely camping area, but at the moment occupied with hunters. The trailhead for Palmer’s Pond (at kilometre 46) is just beyond Jacobsen Lake. The hike to the pond is 3.5 kilometres if you’re feeling in top shape but 4 kilometres if you are not. It is all in the perception! The round trip will take 3 to 4 hours, either way it is a worthwhile hike that gets a hiker to the alpine very quickly and thus to the incredible views that one experiences in that habitat.

However, our experience on Saturday, Oct. 14th was somewhat different. We had overcast skies; the weather forecast did say that conditions would improve by afternoon, but it did not. We started to experience snow even before the turnoff to Jacobsen Lake; beyond Vuich Creek the snow deepened to about 6 inches; past this point hunters are not allowed to drive. Since we were not hunters, we continued on the road. We did see some hunters walking about, a most unusual sight.

We did have snowshoes but left them behind in the truck and trudged on the snow filled trail. We reached Palmer’s Pond at 6100 ft. with a snow accumulation of 12 inches or 1 foot of snow! Meanwhile, a very heavy mist moved in and nothing was visible; we could just about see the edges of the pond. In spite of this everyone’s spirits were high and we were congratulatory having reached our destination regardless of nature’s lack of cooperation.

Having the Lahaies with us was a bonus because they can always identify birds. We saw Gray Jays, flocks of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Pacific Wren, and Black-capped Chickadee. It is now definitely winter in this part of the world.

Photo by Mary Masiel

Kilpoola Lake Area

Photo by Mary Masiel

Some of the Kilpoola area is managed by BC Nature Trust and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. It is designated as an important birding site. From Highway 3, we took the turnoff to the Old Richter Pass Road and then onto Kruger Mountain Road. We were hoping to see lots of autumn colours, and we weren’t disappointed; although, a complete change has yet to occur.

At the first lake (no name) we anticipated seeing turtles but none were visible. We did, however, see a very pretty pink water lily that immediately caught my eye. It was identified as a Water Lady-thumb, (polygonum natans).

Numerous dragonflies flickered in and out of the marshy part of the lake; it was neat to watch them with binoculars. The most interesting aspect of this lake was how it mirrored a Monet painting.

Our next stop was Blue Lake, a rather large, tranquil lake. We scared off a couple of Mallard ducks and saw a Says Phoebe, as well as, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flying above us in the tall pines.

At Kilpoola Lake, we parked the vehicles and when we got out, we were immediately assailed by the strong pungent scent of sagebrush. We took a short walk along the edge of the lake, admiring the scenery. This is a beautiful grassland area. Two fishermen in a boat occasionally broke the silence in an otherwise very quiet and peaceful environment. Here, we saw American Coots, Gadwall Ducks, and Pied-billed Grebes. On the way back, we met a couple biking along the trail. Biking this area is a good way to see and appreciate what nature has to offer.

Leaving Kilpoola Lake we went up to the next lake which also has no name. Here we saw hundreds of ducks, but too far away to be identified. We could have walked toward them, but we did not want to frighten them away.

The group’s comments on the Kilpoola area were, “The scenery is just spectacular.” “It’s just so beautiful.” “You can hear the silence; it’s so peaceful, so restful”.

We left this wonderful area and proceeded on to our next stop, the wildlife observation site on Vaseux Lake. The new three tier bird blind is a great improvement. It is a good observation site, but again the birds were too far away to identify.

Finishing our little expedition, we stopped at Tickleberry’s to enjoy a treat.

Photo by Mary Masiel

Sheep Rock

Photo by Martin Hough

A smoked filled Similkameen Valley did not bode well for our hike. As we got closer to Hedley we could see that the Diamond Creek Fire was having an effect. However, once we arrived at our destination, on the other side of Apex Mountain, conditions improved. The day proved to be a fine one, overcast skies with brief bursts of sunshine.

From the Apex Road we made a turn at Shatford Road which leads to the Sheep Rock trailhead. The road was somewhat rough, but our driver managed to get us through with considerable skill. This road continues on to the Brent Mountain Trail.

The trailhead was easy to find unlike the previous time that John and I were there. From the trailhead, the path goes sharply down; some fallen trees forced us to go across a very muddy area, a surprise considering how dry it has been. In this area we did see some berries, one yet to be identified and the other, the 5-Leaved Bramble (Rubus pedatus). Thereafter, the trail was well defined, and we could see that much deadfall had been cleared, probably at the start of the hiking season, but in spite of this more trees had fallen after the cleanup.

The trail meandered uphill through a widely spaced forest, and as we gain elevation we were surprised to be surrounded by Whitebark Pine! Still in the forest, John alerted us to Sandhill Cranes flying above us, barely visible, about 60 or so. At the lower meadow dry pond beds indicated that it had been a busy habitat during the summer. We stopped for lunch in this meadow and were again rewarded with the sound of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead. This time they were visible; no trees obstructed our view. In total we estimated 200 to 300 cranes. We were absolutely delighted!

After lunch we continued our uphill climb to reach the upper meadows where we could see the remnants of what must have been an incredible floral display. Now, the plants and flowers were a different colour; instead of vibrant primary colours, they were muted yellows and browns, but some were brilliant oranges and reds. The blueberry bushes, for example, were now a striking vermilion. At the very top we encountered some hardy lupines and yarrow still in bloom, amazing!

As we congratulated each other in having reached the top, the weather deteriorated, and the wind was bitterly cold. Having had some considerable foresight, we donned our toques, mittens, and warm jackets. From our vantage point, we could see the fire lookout on Brent Mountain. We, also, got a good look at the surrounding valleys; some covered in smoke others with dark, heavy threatening clouds. We did a quick retreat; those mean clouds promised rain. The rain came down just as we got to the car. How lucky was that?

The hike was about 10 to 12 kilometres and took 4 hours. Although not technically difficult, it was a long day. It was worth it; an opportunity to see nature in a different season and admire all it had to offer.

Photo by Mary Masiel

Stemwinder

Smoke did not deter 6 determined naturalists to hike up Stemwinder Mountain, Saturday, August 5th. Actually, the higher we went the less smoke we encountered. The smoke was almost negligible by the time we got to the top.

Nature is a real marvel. Every few weeks “out goes the old and in comes the new!” I was not expecting any flowers, but I was wrong. What’s in bloom? FIREWEED or ROSEBAY WILLOW HERB (Epilobium angustifoluim) with its bright, brilliant pink fuchsia coloured flowers was in bloom everywhere. We stumbled across the YELLOW TOADFLAX (Linaria vulgaris). It was a stumper until Stella later identified it. It is a far daintier than its cousin, DALMATIAN TOADFLAX, but still considered an invasive weed. We vied for position to photograph bees feasting on CANADA THISTLE (Cirsiym arvense). Clear area were festooned with GIANT MULLEIN (Verbascum thapsus). Further along we saw a rabbit that froze, pretending that we couldn’t see it, amongst white daisies, OXEYE DAISIES, (Leucanthemum vulgare). Up on the top, we came across the SULPHUR BUCKWHEAT (Eriogonum umbellatum). Remnants of SHOWY DAISIES (Erigeron speciosus) and YARROW (Achillea miffefolium) were still evident. I managed to identify yet another lichen, HORN CLADONIA (Cladonia cornuta).

Other features were pointed out by John. On our way up John pointed out “muck piles” indicating small mine exploration, and we explored a small meadow where a corroding woodstove and bits and odds scattered about gave evidence of an existing camp in the distance past. As the path started to climb, John noticed a mine adit which had been overlooked in past hikes, and everyone had a quick look inside.

Reaching the top, our view of the area was obstructed by smoke in the distance, but we experienced a wonderful cooling breeze. We congratulated ourselves, being on top, instead of down in the “pea soup” condition that existed in the valley. It was a satisfy walk more so as we headed down to the Hitching Post for lunch.

Hope Pass

It was another warm July day as nine of us led by Charlotte Sellers hiked the Hope Pass wagon trail built in 1861. The last part of the drive was over a severely rutted road, but the SUV and pickup handled it well, although at very low speed. There were actually clouds which have been rare this summer, moving east quickly; this and the high altitude kept the day cooler than other days in town. The elevation of the pass is 1839 m as per the sign post – almost the same as Mt. Kobau.

The wild flowers were blooming in great profusion – white, yellow, red and blue mainly. The marmots were active in Marmot City, just past the summit where we stopped for lunch. We then continued down the west side a bit until it got a bit steep, and we turned back. The heat hit us when we arrived back in Billy’s parking lot about 3 pm having left at 8:30. We were glad to have been in the flowery hills for the day.

Overall, to quote Rika (without permission), “The flowers were worth the price of admission”.

Ponderosa Pine Reserve

Photo by?

A glorious summer day greeted 10 very enthusiastic walkers as they headed up the hill to explore an area known as the Ponderosa Pine Reserve with Warden Charlotte Sellers. We encountered numerous species of flowers and one not yet seen this year, the Round-Leaved Violet, Viola orbiculata, or Yellow Violet as it is commonly called. Actually there are 2 species that look similar but called by different names, the Round-leaved Violet and the Stream Violet. The Round-leaved Violet appeared in profusion in the meadows whilst the Stream Violet populated the grounds around Lamont Creek. Others flowers seen, were the Lemonweed, Fairyslipper, Arrow-leaved Balsamroot, Bullhead Waterleaf, Small Flowered Woodland Star, Oregon Grape, Lockspur, Small Flower Blue-eyed Mary, and lots of Wolf Lichen on the Ponderosa Pine.

We meandered up steep hills with occasional stops to admired and photograph the flowers. We arrived at the highest point to have lunch and after lunch we went along a ridge then down again to the fast flowing Lamont Creek. We followed a dubious trail (cow track) along the banks of Lamont Creek; all of which was very pleasant. In no time at all we were back at the cars. It was a most pleasurable hike.

Mount Kobau

Photo by Cathy Lahaie

The Mount Kobau outing was a wonderful trip.  We savoured the experience long after we were finished.  We arrived early; Lee Mcfayden, our tour guide, arrived on time.  While we waited, we immediately began exploring the side of the road and were rewarded with an incredible variety of flowers.  Some that we had seen before, others not.  The trip itself became one of admiring flowers and discovering ones that we as a group had not seen before.  To name a few, the Thompson Paintbrush that looks nothing like its cousin the Indian Paintbrush; it has a greenish white upper part and we were told by Lee that it is unique to this area.  The Silverleaf Phacelia, the Siberian Elm, an introduced species of trees, Narrow-leaved Collomia, Single Flower Broomrape, a parasitic flower blooming amongst the Round leaved Alumroot, Hillside Milk Vetch, pink and white bitterroot (first time this season), and white Penstemons, all were an awesome treat for us.  This was one of those rare moments that you could immerse yourself in an explosion of colour and become part of a painter’s canvas.
Lee, always a fountain of information, told us the story of Mount Kobau.  It is referred to as the “Million dollar road that goes nowhere.” There were big plans for Mount Kobau, elevation 1873 metres (6145 ft.)  It was chosen to be the site of a large astronomical observatory.  The proposed telescope was to cost $15—$17 million.  The 381metre (150 in.) optical telescope would be the second largest in the world and it was to be named the Queen Elizabeth II Observatory.  Such plans did not materialize because the cost kept rising.  So today all that is left is a proper size road which makes the going up relatively easy.
As we continue up Lee pointed out water leaking from the rock and explained how man changes the environment.  In building the road the groundwater was exposed; and thus, the water now runs down the rocks and along side the road.  A simple observation that would have gone unnoticed unless someone pointed it out.
The road goes up and up until the top is reached.  With each gain in elevation the flora changed; beginning with the Thompson’s Paintbrush and ending with Spring Beauty and Sagebrush Bluebells at the top. The last two flowers, we saw a month ago in the White Lake to Mahoney Lake trip.  That’s what made this trip so exciting!  It was like an archaeological trip in reverse.
The area higher up had been devastated by forest fires, but new growth was evident.  We found a picnic table at the parking lot and had lunch before we hiked to the top.  At the top we had a splendid view of the surrounding area and the views continue to be stunning as we made our way down.  At the end, we felt self-satisfied, felt that we had learned much, seen a lot, and just enjoyed the camaraderie.

Photo by Mary Masiel

Grasslands

Photo by Mary Masiel
Photo by Mary Masiel

The rains stayed away, but a fierce cool breeze blew as we explored different sites for grass species. It was an informative outing led by Don Gayton who was also our evening speaker. Having an outing in the afternoon, followed by a presentation in the evening was a good format. Something that we could be done more often.
We visited three sites beginning with one off the Coalmont/Tulameen Road just passed the turnoff to China Ridge. Here we started a different type of outing, a meander through Princeton grasslands. Don was delighted with the site and congratulated me for choosing it. It was amazing how much variety was here, and we spent most of our two hours exploring this small area. We learned the names of those elusive plants that surround us, but of which we know little about. I am, one, guilty of saying that all grasses look the same. We were introduced to Cheatgrass, Brome Grasses, Giant Wildrye, Junegrass, different types of Fescue grasses, Spreading Needle Grass, Crested Wheatgrass, and others whose names escape me. Some had interesting

stories such as the Crested Wheatgrass which was introduced to Canada from Russia to restore vegetation to the devastated prairies after the thirties’ drought. It is also good food for cattle. In most instances grasses serve a good purpose, such as enriching the soil by adding nitrogen to it. It’s hard to envision the grasslands without the numerous wildflower that make their home here or even the different wildlife that also call this environment home.
From here we drove to a hillside just pass the KVR on Belfort Road. This area was not as pristine as the first one, but, nonetheless, offered some good choices, such as the Giant Ryegrass and Orchardgrass. Again there were plentiful flowers to admire, amongst them the Sticky Geranium, the Graceful Cinqfoil, and Old Man’s Whiskers, which had truly become whiskers. We also spotted one butterfly, a Variable Checkerspot and one moth, the Mountain Sheep Moth.
Our last stop was Swan Lake. We did a short walk, noting that many of the existing signposts were no longer relevant because many of the plants were no longer there. It shows that nothing remains static in nature; things are always changing. The plants are still there but in different areas. After a two hour meandering in the grasslands our tour came to an end.

Baldy (Iron Mountain)

Photo: Baldy
Photo by Johanna Nott

The hike up Baldy Mtn aka Iron Mtn on May 6 was attended by 6 people; Cathy and Ed, Peter, Rika, Blain and Johanna. It was a cool clear morning and the meadowlarks sang us up to the top. The balsamorhiza sagittata was beginning its splash of colour on the steep hills. A good rain 2 days previous had filled several ponds where mallard and cinnamon teal were observed. C&E will list the other birds including a red-tailed hawk and a sitting dusky grouse out on a grassy ridge. Heading closer to the top, a swath of few-flowered shooting stars, fritallaria (yellow bell), and western spring beauty confirmed that spring is truly here. Viewing our valley, the town and the surrounding hills from the top always elicits talk of “who’s ranch” and “there’s my house”. Johanna gave a brief history of the people who lived there; the Chisler family who had a zigzag road down to Coyneville, Cox and Meuller who lived on Holmes Mtn, and Bill Budd. Finding a bit of shelter from the chill wind we gingerly hunkered down amongst the prickly pear cactus and had lunch while watching the six mountain goats graze on the far hill. An enjoyable day was had by all in a bucolic setting of green hills with the cows and calves kicking up their heels around us.

Submitted by Johanna

Photo: Baldy
Photo by Johanna Nott

White Lake to Mahoney Lake

Photo: White Lake to Mahoney Lake (2017)
Photo by John Henry

A beautiful Spring day greeted us at White Lake as we started on our hike down to Mahoney Lake. This region is sagebrush and ponderosa pine, quite different ecology from Princeton. The White Lake formation is Eocene lava flows and fossiliferous shales from over 35 million years ago. This area is referred to as grasslands and is under the Nature Conservancy stewardship.

We saw many wildflowers, some of which we struggled to identify; some so small that a magnifying glass would have been helpful. The Sage Buttercups, Sage Bluebells (a new species for our group), and Spring Beauties were in great profusion. They provided a wonderful canvas of delicate colours amongst the sagebrush.

The birders recognized 38 species, including 12 white pelicans overhead and higher still a lone Sandhill Crane. We were delighted by the Audubon Warbler (butter butts, as the Lahaies call them), the Nashville Warbler, the Hairy Woodpecker, the Nuthatches, and others as they flickered in and out of trees. After our 6 kilometre stroll (I think that the hike will be classified as easy for next time) we reached Mahoney Lake with its deadly poisonous hydrogen sulphide layer, a very strange natural wonder. The wild asparagus, a few stems that were found, were later cooked and were declared absolutely delicious. We finished our outing with a trip to Tickleberry for ice cream to restore our strength.