Hedley Creek

Photo: Hedley Creek
Photo by Janis Wright

Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists enjoyed an easy hike along the Hedley Creek trail on Saturday morning, August 8th – a perfect outing for a hot summer day, as the trail is shaded and cool. Hedley Creek, aka Twenty Mile Creek, runs between rock walls of a box canyon, and flows south into the Similkameen. Years ago the creek was dammed by mining companies to provide water for a reduction mill, and subsequently domestic water was supplied through wood stave pipes, remnants of which are still evident below the trail. Four wooden plank bridges existed at one time, as well, to allow access further up the creek, but all crossings and the dam have since been destroyed by spring floods. Fifteen of us, led by Margaret Hale, walked along a footpath paralleling the creek until we reached the first bridge washout area. The bridge still lies relatively intact, but positioned on the opposite bank. This turnaround spot makes a great place to sit and rest, enjoy a snack and the spectacular scenery before heading back. The rock formations of the canyon and lush foliage along the water make for a unique and lovely landscape – cedars, willows, ferns and Oregon grape are abundant. Our 2 ½ hour hike ended with lunch at Hedley’s Hitching Post, a treat any day of the week!

Gold Panning on the Similkameen

Photo: Gold Panning on the Similkameen
Photo by Sean Walsh

Hiking and gold panning replaced Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists’ customary fishing trip on a recent field trip along the banks of the Similkameen River in the Allenby area. Six of us, led by Peter Antonick, slogged through rain, forest and wet grasses as we climbed to a craggy ridge high on the cliffs, overlooking the river and offering spectacular views. As we traversed the ridge, heading north and then east, our outlook changed from steep canyons and the Copper Mtn. Mine site, to an isolated resort, extensive green meadows, and intriguing formations along the river bank itself. We hiked 2 ½ hours before gradually descending to a secluded spot along the shore, where we enjoyed intermittent sunshine as we ate our lunches and panned for gold. Although flecks of gold and platinum were discovered, we left these treasures behind!

The riches that we did enjoy that day included a Bald Eagle standing sentry over us while Canada Geese swam nearby, two coyote pups romping through the woods, a Cooper’s Hawk, a Raven family vociferously protecting their young, and several Blue Grouse lurking in the grasses. We sampled sweet salmon berries, wild raspberries and the less palatable Oregon-grape berries. The fitting finish, however, was sipping Peter’s cherry wine at his home after our 5-hour field trip had ended!

Tanglewood Hollow

Photo: Tanglewood Hollow
Photo by Janis Wright

Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists experienced a change of pace from our recent hikes in the heat, as we embarked on a leisurely stroll in the cool morning air of Saturday, July 11th. Even more refreshing was the sprinkle of raindrops enjoyed by nine of us as we ambled in search of wildflowers and grasses on the property of Tim and Del Hall. Several of us carried our plant identification books with us, but we benefited greatly from the expertise of Maggie Trehearne, local and venerable naturalist. She recognized a couple of dozen native plants, including Alfalfa, Prickly Lettuce, Eriogonum, a type of buckwheat plant, Narrow-leaved Collomia, from the phlox family, and Lamb’s-quarters, one of the goosefoot species. Grasses identified included Crested Wheatgrass, Fringed Brome, and Pinegrass, just to mention a few. We spent more than 2 hours roaming and reveling in the views, and were rewarded with glasses of lemonade halfway through our ramble. Thanks to Tim & Del, with sincere appreciation to Maggie Trehearne for helping to educate us!

Osprey Lake to Eastmere & Westmere Lakes

Photo: Osprey Lake to Eastmere and Westmere
Photo by ?

The hike from Tellier’s Fisherman’s Cove at Osprey Lake to the lakes of Eastmere and Westmere started under bright blue skies with gentle, refreshing breezes, a round trip of 9 km. Twenty-four nature enthusiasts, amongst them a young hiker, 8 year old Mathias, and a special guest from Russia tromped off with unbridled energy. Following the Tellier’s foot trails, the viewpoints to “Top of the World” and “360” were reached. From “Top of the World” the peaks of the Three Brothers, Snass and Outram stuck out proudly in the mid-morning sun.  At “360” the view was somewhat obscured due to new growth, showing a good forest recovery. Thinking of lunch we renewed our efforts and continued our trip to Eastmere & Westmere, two lovely lakes in the midst of trees. Common loons swam gracefully around the lily-pad lakes while someone reported Spotted Sandpipers along the shore.   Other birds seen or heard on the hike were Spruce Grouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Swainson Thrush, Black-capped Chickadee, and Townsend Solitaire. We stopped and had lunch at Westmere. Two adventurous ladies swam in the warm lake, one individual tried his hand at fishing, and others sat and enjoyed the view. The Westmere outhouse was voted the best ever. We returned to Osprey Lake following the “Brunner Trail” which was established over 60 years ago as a foot trail. Also on view along the trails were wild flowers which unfortunately were starting to dry up from the early summer’s heat; however, in damp areas numerous species abounded, amongst these were Columbian Monkshood, Pink Wintergreen, Bunchberry, and Queen’s Cup. Two special treats at the end of the hike were a Townsend Solitaire’s nest built from a projecting sand bank, and a tree which had been marked by bears many times. The woods are full of wonderful surprises!

Vortex Station and Agate Mountain Lookout

Photo: Vortex Station Lookout
Photo by ?

Seventeen naturalists showed up to join Tip Anderson on a drive to Vortex Station and then a hike to Agate Mountain Lookout. Vortex Station is a bearing point for airplanes. From there they can veer off in the direction they wish to follow. Ascending steep steps, we came to a flat area that gave a spectacular view to the west of many visible mountain peaks. There were speculations as to the names of these peaks, but it was difficult to know because of the different angle they were being seen. After a few minutes of admiring the view, we started our hike to Agate Mountain Lookout. The road we followed led us through areas of plentiful flowers which included Tiger Lily, Trapper Tea, Diverse-leaved Cinquefoil, Wild Rose bushes, Bunchberry, and the incredible White Bog-Orchid. “These species occur at low high elevations, in wetlands, seepage areas, subalpine meadows, wet coniferous forests and clearings.” (Plants of Southern Interior BC, Parish et al) A perfect description of the ecology on either side of the road that we hiked. Meanwhile, our lepidopterist, Sue Elwell, saw 12 categories of butterflies. To list just a few, they were Chryxus Arctic, Mariposa Copper, Anise Swallowtails, and Checkerspots. For most of us, the butterflies moved too quickly to truly appreciate what we were seeing. Reaching Agate Mountain Lookout, the group was able to enjoy yet another incredible view of Princeton and surrounding area. The drive down also provided some wonderful vistas, among them a glimpse of Wolf Lake.

Hike to Secret Lake

Photo: Secret Lake (2015)
Photo by ?

Thirteen Vermilion Fork Field Naturalists met thirteen like-minded people from the Osprey Lake area and together they had a good time doing the 2 km hike to Secret Lake, using the Blue Flag Trail that Mark Wong and the Telliers flagged out. The hike began with an explanation from Mark on what had occurred in this area.  A private group logged the vicinity leaving it in a sad state.  A group of people then bought the land with the intention of bringing it back to its natural state.  Their first job was to clear the mess that was left behind and then plant trees.  In this endeavour Weyerheuser proved to be very helpful by donating thousands of tree seedlings.  This new tree growth is every evident at the site.  Leaving the newly planted zone, we walked through a wooded area, stopped, admired, and identified wildflowers, amongst them the beautiful Tiger Lily.  A hawk circled high in the sky on a day that was just perfect for walking. Secret Lake proved to be a special spot.  At one end was a beaver lodge and the surface of the water glistened with lily pads, much appreciated by Barrow’s Golden-eyed Ducks, a turtle that came into view, and a small frog capture by our young naturalist, Karlie Sellmer, for us to admire, then released into the water. We also found a sandpiper’s nest with 4 beautiful eggs.

White Lake to Mahoney Lake

Photo: White Lake to Mahoney Lake
Photo by ?

A field trip to the White Lake Grasslands Protected Area rewarded us with great views, plenty of birds, familiar flowers and plants, and two adult black bears! The area was teeming with interest. The moderate 7 km hike from White Lake to Mahoney Lake passed quickly as we stopped to admire the wildflowers; the Mock Orange bushes, in particular, were blooming gloriously. Here and there were clumps of Giant Wildrye Grass, the ubiquitous Big Sagebrush, and tall Ponderosa Pines that provided wonderful shade. Numerous butterflies and dragonflies flickered around us. Cathy and Jason Lahaie helped us identified 34 species of birds. Stopping at one small lake someone spotted 2 adult black bears on the other side. Being a sufficient distance from them, we admired them without feeling that we were encroaching on their territory. After a quick lunch at a man made dam in the shade of trees, we continued to Mahoney Lake. Mahoney Lake is an Ecological Reserve. “An ecological reserve provides the highest protection for the maintenance of physical and biodiversity while allowing for research and educational activities.” Mahoney Lake is one of few meromictic lakes in BC, which means that the water remains unmixed with the main water mass during normal circulation period. Mahoney Lake is particularly noted for its purple sulphur bacteria, which needs H2S & CO2 to develop. Go online and read more about this fascinating lake. Reaching Green Lake Road, we boarded our cars and went off to Tickleberry to enjoy a much needed treat!

Cinder Cone

Photo: Cinder Cone 2015
Photo by ?

Naturalists Climb Cinder Cone
Those of us who live in the Princeton area value the various intriguing geologic formations in our vicinity, and Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists climbed one of these ancient sites on our May 9th  field trip, when Charlotte Sellers led nine of us up the cinder cone located east of China Ridge. This remnant of a volcano, part of the Eocene Trench in the Challis-Kamloops Belt, is constructed of pyroclastic fragments ejected from a central vent, created at least 34 million years ago! A 45-minute hike up the 30° slope took us to the top, where we were rewarded with a panoramic view. This volcanic field concealed in the woods was just one of the attractions we enjoyed on our 2-hour hike. We were lucky enough to find a few pink lady’s slippers, extensive amounts of Arrowleaf balsamroot, as well as purple violets and lupine. Avid birding members of VFFN observed 17 species of birds along our 4 km route, including Townsend’s solitaire, green-winged teal, western tanagers and turkey vultures. It was a fine morning to be outdoors!