The field trip to Little Darcy Mountain was entertaining, educational, and a sight-seeing delight. Although we saw evidence of elk, they weren’t around but with the use of binoculars we could see the elk down at the Young Life Village. We heard the flutter of wings which indicated that the grouse were around as they took shelter in the pines, but we weren’t able to spy them. We heard the sounds of Mountain Chickadees and the Pileated Woodpecker and saw Red-tailed Hawks, Mountain Bluebirds and in August Lake we sighted Bufflehead, Mallards and Canada Geese. These ducks were all seen in pairs, getting ready for that all important mating season.
On the hike our “esteemed” leader pointed out small things found on the ground but always overlooked, such as the Shaggy Peat Moss (Sphagnum squarrosum), Freckle Pelt-Leaf Lichen (Peltigera apthosa), Ribbed Scale Lichen (Cladonia cariosa), and Wolf Lichen (Letharia vulpina). We learned that there is a distinct difference between moss and lichen and that they are worlds apart.
Wolf lichen was used by interior native people as a yellowish-green dye to colour fur, moccasins, feathers, wood and other articles. The Nlaka’pmx used it as a body and face paint. The genus letharia means deadly or lethal and refers to the poison found in it, vulpinic acid. It was used in Europe as wolf bait; it’s found in open Douglas fir forests. Freckle Pelt-leaf Lichen’s habitat is over moss, humus, rocks, and decaying logs in open forest. The “warts” on the upper surface contains tiny colonies of blue-green cyanobacteria which supply the lichen fungus and its green algal partner with nitrogen. Ribbed Scale Lichen is found over humus and soil in open dry forests and grassland at all elevations; its favourite place is disturbed areas. Shaggy Peat Moss’ habitat is low subalpine elevations; seepage areas in woodlands; also in wetland, but not bog species. The native people of BC, including in the interior, used the soft, absorbent qualities of sphagnum moss; it was used widely for bedding, sanitary napkins, and baby diapers. All the above information on mosses and lichens was taken from the book, Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia, (Parish, Coupe’, & Lloyd), pages 435, 418, 416 & 384 respectively.
As we meandered through the meadows we saw our first Spring Beauty, a delightful, delicate, beautiful, little flower; the mountainside was now also covered with Sagebrush Buttercups.
Eventually, as we headed down the only real steep part of the hike; we came upon the exposed area of rocks containing copper ore (malachite). It is an area that always entrances the hiker because the lovely colours of blues and greens that the rocks exhibit.
Although the day began with glorious sun, by the time the hike finished, the weather had taken a threatening turn. We made it to the cars before the rain started.