Little Darcy Mountain

Photo: Little Darcy Mountain
Photo by ?

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.


Photo: Timberhill
Photo by Johanna Nott

Either way you approach Timberhill, it is a bit of an uphill walk.  This time the naturalists chose a route  opposite August Lake.  As we started out we could see a frozen August Lake with little wildlife present.  The round trip of 5 kilometres was a pleasant one and a good way to spend a Saturday mid morning and early afternoon, starting at 10:00 a.m. and finishing at 1:00 p.m. For the most part the ground was bare with some patches of snow.   Along the way we saw tiny buttercups just ready to burst upon the scene.  There were also remnants of last year’s  Arrowleaf Balsam and most likely this flower will be plentiful when the right time arrives.  Reaching the apex of the mountain we hiked down a bit to get a better look at the town and environs.  It’s always fun to try to locate one’s house with the comment, “ah, is there where we live?”  We returned to the top of the mountain, and John built a nice campfire, and we had lunch.  The warmth was appreciated because a strong southern wind started to blow, but the sun did come out to add to our warmth.  The Lahaies identified for us a Williamson Sapsucker, a mature eagle, an immature eagle, Mountain chickadees, and a White Breasted Nuthatch.  As we headed down the mountain, threatening clouds from the south were fast moving towards us, but we finished the hike without any weather incidence.  A Red-Tailed Hawk escorted us as we drove toward Princeton.

Lava Beds

Photo: Lava Beds Snowshoe
Photo by John Henry

Seven people participated in this snowshoe hike.  It was a fine day for a hike with plenty of sunshine and no wind.  We left 2 vehicles on the road past the golf course and then drove back to the Princeton Cemetery, “the dead centre of town” (groans).  With the help of an old cushion, even those of us who are vertically challenged, managed to cross the barbed wire fence while wearing snowshoes (this may become a winter Olympic Event).  We skirted around the old tailings, marvelling at what the mining companies got away with in the past, then got on the old road.  The rolling hills are covered with Big Sage (Artemisa tridentata) which gave off a perfume even on a winter day.  Following the trail, we saw many tracks of squirrels, coyotes, snowshoe hares, deer, mice, grouse, and even tracks left by a cross country skier. Later in the day, almost at the end of the hike, we saw the parallel marks made by a cougar, eight feet off the ground on a ponderosa pine!

After an hour and a half we reached the lava beds. This area measures 200 metres wide and slopes downwards for half a kilometre.  At this time of year the lava beds are covered in snow but some rocks are visible. This area is devoid of all vegetation, whilst the edges are covered in some trees and grasses.  The reason for this phenomena is quite unclear.  In the distant past Princeton was the site of much volcanic activity, and these lava flows are indicative of this.  My question is, “Why isn’t this site covered in glacial deposits like everything else?

Along the way we enjoyed wonderful views, especially looking northward.  We stopped for lunch on top of the old Amber Ski Jump and found the tower and bull wheel at the top of the old tow.  After lunch we made our way down the steep trail toward the big ponderosa pines above the golf course and down the track of the other tow line.  We arrived back at the cars at about 1:00 p.m after our 3 hour hike.

Snowshoe Hike to China Ridge Viewpoint

Photo: China Ridge Snowshoe
Photo by ?

An enthusiastic group of nine naturalists showed up at China Ridge Longhouse on Saturday, Jan. 28th to participate in the snowshoe hike to China Ridge Viewpoint.  Following the Parker Owen trail and onto the top of the basalt ridge the group enjoyed views of the Tulameen Valley and the snow covered mountains toward the West.  Dropping down to Fence Fun, we crossed the Ridge Trail Cross Country Ski Trail and continued on what is designated as the Parker Bike Trail.  Surrounded by remnants  of the last giant interior Douglas Fir forest that once covered this area, we then entered a self generated forest as we made their way to the viewpoint.  Many tracks of deer, elk, moose, ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare, lynx and the odd cougar track abounded. Reaching the Viewpoint, a view of the Similkameen valley and all points east could be admired.  A fire was soon built and a picnic table allowed everyone to have a sit down and enjoy their lunch.  Everyone enjoyed themselves and commented how much easier it was than Secret Lake.  The actual roundtrip took 3 hours, not 4, and this trail can now be classified as Easy/Moderate.  VFFN encourages everyone to come out and enjoy nature in its winter setting.

Photo: China Ridge Snowshoe
Photo by ?

Hope Pass

Photo: Hope Pass
Photo by ?

The Hope Pass Field Trip took four hours to do at a leisurely pace, (2 hours there; 2 hours back).  The level of difficulty was EASY rather than MODERATE.  Something to remember for another time.  The trail was built in 1861 and sections of the corduroy roads are still visible.  These roads, of course, were to facilitate the passage of wagons.  Today, the trail wanders through stands of lodgepole pine and spruce.

Stopping occasionally, we examined some of the plants and flowers which were amazing for this time of year.  We saw Asters, remains of Lousewort plants which are parasitic on pine and Arrowleaf Groundsell, the remains of Leather-leaf Saxifrage, clumps of Pearly Everlasting, and small Flowered Penstemons.  We also found a bewildering number of mushroom species; those recognizable were Lactarius Delicious (edible), Lactarius Rufus (poisonous), Russula Emetica (poisonous), and Hydnum Ibricatum (Hawk Wing) (edible), and others that were unidentifiable.  The hike was a pleasant way to spend a lovely, fall day.

Volcanic Lava Flows

Photo: Volcanic Lava Flows
Photo by ?

Inclement weather, a kind description for the ferocious weather experienced early Saturday morning (July 9th), made the decision for the naturalists to forgo their trip to Palmer Pond and stay near Princeton. The alternate choice was Princeton’s Volcanic Lava Flows located above the old Amber Ski Hill Site. Feasting on plump, juicy Saskatoon berries we made our way to the lava flows. Once there we appreciated the stunning views, especially of the valley and of Baldy in the distance. After the rain everything was a vibrant green. Geologically, this area is very interesting. The lava flows are not the result of a volcanic explosion. At some point in the distant past, possibly five million years ago, molten lava bubbled out of the ground and flowed down the hill, leaving a huge area of rocks. By examining the rocks, we could see the air bubbles (holes). Wandering amongst the lichen-covered rocks, it was easy to visualize the drama that had occurred here. Unlike an area that has been covered in volcanic ash, this site has not recovered from the trauma it experienced. Almost nothing grows here, but we did see some fern that somehow has taken root. Evidence showed that some small animals have also made their home in the rocks. It was a short, delightful hike and the sun even came out!

Sheep Station

Photo: Starvation Flats
Photo by Mary Masiel

Undeterred by weather, some of us naturalists set out to enjoy nature. Prepared for a wet day, we, instead, experienced a rain-free day, except for a short period of light drizzle. The steep climb to Starvation Flats took 2 hours. On the way there and beyond to Sheep Station, we saw a profusion of wildflowers, at least 17 species, the most notable being the Fairyslipper Orchid. We also saw a Blue Grouse in its full mating display and one specimen of Agaricus Campestris Mushroom, which we left untouched to spore the area. At the open meadow of Starvation Flats, we had lunch. From here we got a clear view of the deep Ashnola Valley, despite the low cloud ceiling.

We continued our hike on a trail visible through the trees, but difficult to follow in the open meadow. We finally reached Sheep Station, an observation station set up by UBC to study the mountain sheep that usually gather in this area in winter. Enjoying a brief interlude of sunshine, we sat on the verandah of the main cabin, had a snack, and looked toward Flatiron Mountain to catch any glimpse of the sheep; alas, none were to be seen.

Leaving Sheep Station, we started our steep descent. Two foot bridges built by volunteer groups allow the crossing of 2 very important creeks, Juniper & Ewart, making possible a round trip. Juniper Creek, normally a small creek, was a dangerous, white-water, torrent due to freshet. Equally impressive was Ewart Creek, now a powerful, roaring, foaming river. We could hear the rumble of Ewart Creek as we hiked along side it on the way to an old hunter’s cabin 4 kms away where we had left another vehicle. This foresight saved us an additional 2.8 km walk! A bridge used to span the creek here, but BC Parks allowed it to fall into disrepair; so we continued farther down to where it was possible to cross the creek again. A well deserved meal at the Hitching Post in Hedley concluded our field trip.

Poland Lake Snowshoe

Photo: Poland Lake Snowshoe
Photo by Mary Masiel

The last VFFN snowshoe hike was a trek to Poland Lake.  Weather wise the day was a good one, with some clouds and bursts of glorious sunshine and a moderate temperature that allowed the snow to remain quite firm. Icicles still hung from trees.  We started our demanding climb from the bottom of the orange chair and took 45 minutes to reach the trailhead.  From there the hike was an up and down affair, but with spectacular views of the twin peaks of Hozomeen Mountain to the south and other intriguing peaks on the horizon.  We followed a well used trail and met three other parties with the same destination, two on snowshoes and the other on skis. Two hours later we arrived at the snow covered Poland Lake and headed across the ice to the opposite bank.  John with his trusty shovel built a sitting platform for us to enjoy our lunch and appreciate the view of the lake and the mountain beyond.  Lunch finished; we went exploring and found the toilet buried under three metres of snow. Some parts were visible, enough to see the weight of the snow destroying it.  A similar fate awaited the shelter but it held strong.  Someone had dug a tunnel to access it, and John and Martin went down to have a look.  Our trip back took two and half hours; in total we travelled 12 km in 5 1/2 hours, with many stops to admire the scenery (and take a breath!). It was an enjoyable excursion.