Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Thimbleberry


The Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) is a prolific shrub along roads, in clearings, and logging slashes in Coastal BC. 

Thimbleberry is in the rose family like blackberries and raspberries. Thimbleberry plants grow in dense thickets up to 2.5 metres tall, rapidly spreading from underground rhizomes. The large green palmate shaped leaves are fuzzy and have five points.  Unlike the other berries, the canes do not have thorns.

The flowers are white with five petals and yellow stamens. They have the distinction of being the largest of any plants in the Rubus genus.

The berries ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer. Their shape resembles a thimble, leading to the plant's common name. Thimbleberries are a favourite with forest animals and birds.

Pick thimbleberries when they are bright red and juicy. They can be eaten raw, but because they have many small seeds they may best made into jelly or jam. -- Margy

References: E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online) and Eat/Drink/Breathe: Recipes and Reflections from the Westcoast (online).

Saturday, November 21, 2015

"There's a Seal in My Sleeping Bag" by Lyn Hancock

When I find authors I like, I purchase more books to enjoy. One author I discovered in the last year was Lyn Hancock. She is well known in British Columbia for the books she has written since the early 1970s and for nature presentations she made in schools along with her then husband David.

I haven't read her books in order, and you don't need to. Each one can stand alone, but as you read more of her titles there are common threads and each book expands on previous topics and adventures. The first book I read was There's a Racoon in my Parka and then Love Affair with a Cougar. The newest book for me was There's a Seal in My Sleeping Bag (Alfred A. Knopf, 1972).

Sea lion (not a fur seal like Sam) at Powell River.
One animal that's prominent in many of Lyn's books is Sam, a northern fur seal that came into her life only one month after her honeymoon. David was always bringing home animals and birds, and a lot of their care fell on Lyn. Overcoming many challenges including lack of experience, having to force feed unwilling animals, and an initial deep seated dislike of fish, she became a strong force in the couple's conservation efforts.

Lyn had a complex schedule for animal care wrapped around her career as a teacher. Her work load compounded when David was away on speaking tours or scientific studies. She also took many of her animals to school to give students first hand experiences with nature.

Seagulls on Mittlenatch Island.
While Sam's story threaded its way through the book, Lyn also shared about adventures with David to study eagles, seabirds, seals, whales, otters, and much more. I could feel Lyn's fear of heights and could relate to her climbing cliffs on hands and knees, and sliding down on her bum. But I have to admit, she handled it much better than I could have. And all the while they were filming their experiences for conservation presentations and school tours.

I still have seventeen of Lyn's twenty books left to enjoy. You can find more information about her books and speaking engagements at the Lyn Hancock website or Facebook. I highly recommend you try or even reread one of her books. They are timeless. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce

Young Sitka Spruce along Daniels Main.
On our quad ride at the Head of Powell Lake, I noticed silver coloured evergreen trees mixed in with the more common cedars, firs, and hemlocks. After taking several pictures, I came home to look it up.

It turned out to be a Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis). The tell-tale sign was the sharp needles I felt when it rubbed my hand over a branch. Sitka Spruce grow along the coast from Northern California to Alaska. They are commonly found in low to middle elevations in moist to well drained soil. The ones I saw grew in disturbed soil bordering the logging roads, and in slashes that are starting to regrow. They are also found on river floodplains, headlands, and avalanche sites.

Sharp blue-green Sitka Spruce needles on a young tree.

The trees I saw were young and small, but at full growth they can reach 70 metres tall and 2 metres in diameter. The branches are long and drooping, covered with yellow-green to blue-green very sharp needles. It was the blue-green (almost silver) needles on the growth tips that caught my eye.

First Nations peoples used spruce trees as a source of food, medicine, and building material. The inner bark was eaten fresh or dried in cakes, and young shoots were high in Vitamin C. Pitch was chewed much like we do gum, and it was used medicinally for skin irritations, colds, sore throats, toothaches and other internal aliments. The roots were processed and split to weave hats and baskets.

Another young Sitka Spruce sporting blue-green needles.
One interesting fact is that the coastal Sitka Spruce can hybridize with the interior White Spruce when they come in contact. The resulting hybrid is called a Lutz Spruce (P. x lutzii) named after Harold John Lutz who discovered it in 1950. He wasn't a relative, but Lutz isn't a common surname in North America. -- Margy

References: Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Lone Pine Publishing, 1994) by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (It’s one of my favourite botanical guides.) and E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online).

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fall Cleaning and Relocations

Usually spring is the cleaning season, but we picked fall for our storage shed on shore because it was time to put away our summer things.

Before everything was a mess and hard to reach.
The shed is suspended just about the high water mark next to the stairs leading to the upper cliff. Here we store things that can't be harmed by small critters like squirrels, mice, and woodrats (packrats). The shed has become quite full with things we no longer need or want, so one sunny fall day Wayne and I tackled this messy chore.

We hauled everything out and created two piles, trash and save. Fortunately the trash pile was larger than the save one.

Now everything is organized on shelves and in barrels.

Everything that comes up the lake has to stay, or go back down the lake to the dump. We bagged everything from old carpet remnants from when John built our cabin in 1999 to deflated water toys from summers gone by. Made me wonder who the packrats really are.

The empty shed got a good sweeping high and low. Over the years woodrats have used our shed to store their winter food supplies, and the hidden piles of foliage and scattered droppings left a huge mess on shelves and in back corners.

We purchased a small table at Canadian Tire to give us more storage space and easy access. The results were amazing, neat, tidy and clean. We vowed to keep it that way from now on.

Woodrat's cedar nest.
We started noticing that the cedar tree on our deck had branches missing. On the way down the hill, Wayne stopped in at the shed. This is what he discovered. Ms. Woodrat had moved back into her now clean home and used our beautiful tree (and many others) to made a sweet smelling cedar nest.

Ms. Woodrat ready for her boat ride to a new home.

So, it was time to catch Ms. Woodrat and take her on a boat trip across the lake. We want to save our beautiful cedar tree and other deck plants, and we want to keep our clean shed neat and rodent free. The only problem, where there's one woodrat there can be many. It may be a long fall of cleaning and relocating until winter finally arrives. -- Margy

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Glossy Red Bryum Moss

Glossy Red Bryum Moss

Up on the granite cliff at our cabin are large mats of Glossy Red Bryum Moss (Byrum miniatum). Early in the season it is green. Through late summer and fall it displays its glossy dark red coloration.

It grows near the coast at low elevations on rocky outcroppings, especially those with surfaces that get wet on occasion or exhibit seeps of moisture. It is found less frequently in the high mountains or interior.

It reproduces with saprophytes that rise on tall thin stalks. They start out light green in colour, but also turn a deep red when mature.

Glossy Red Bryum Moss is native to British Columbia. I like it in my natural cliffside garden because it provides a distinctive colour variation to the other green mosses and lichens. -- Margy

Reference: E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online).

Monday, November 09, 2015

Treasure Hunting in the Bush

The Powell River backcountry is dotted with treasures from times gone by. Go hiking, biking, or quadding and you'll discover old logging equipment, homesteads, plank roads, train trestles, cabins, and much more. Over the years, our friend John has led us to some exciting places where history lives on, like a natural museum.

Powell Lake's slopes have been logged since the late 1800s. The first stop on this tour is Chippewa Bay in the northwest corner of the lower lake. Here there's a logging dock and barge ramp. Nearby, Museum Main heads uphill to two abandoned Steam Donkeys.

Steam Donkey #1 is close to the main. It may be rusted, but it's still standing and surrounded by bits and pieces of logging history.

Steam Donkey #1 along Museum Main.

Steam Donkey #2 is farther up the main and reached by a trail through a logging slash and second growth trees. Steam donkeys were used in early days to pull trees out of the forest and down to the lake for transport. You can still see wood stacked by Donkey #2 ready to stoke the fire to produce steam power.

Steam Donkey #2 is reached by a trail. Photo credit to John.

East of the Chippewa dock is a place we call The Point. Before the dam there was a logging camp here along the shore. When the lake level is low, you can see bits of pottery and parts of an old woodstove wedged against a stump.

Oriental crockery at The Point in Chippewa Bay at low water.

While it's possible to get to the steam donkeys by boat and a long steep climb, to reach the old shovels on Heather Main an offroad motorcycle or quad is best. Heather Main links Theodosia Inlet and Chippewa Bay so you can reach the shovels from either side. I guess the cost of removal must have outweighed their value.

Bucyrus Erie shovel on Heather Main.

Water from Powell Lake is important for power generation at the paper mill. Monitoring the snow pack in the early days helped determine if there would be enough water to get through summer. The first snow cabin is along the east shore at the Head. The second is in the high country reached by logging road and trail.

Snow cabin along the shore at the head of Powell Lake.

At the Head there's an old shake block cutter's camp from the 40s or 50s. The cabin has fallen, but the outhouse made of cedar slabs still stands. The area is reached from the lakeside at low water or cross country through undergrowth from the main.

Outhouse from cedar slabs.

Probably a root cellar at the shake block cutter's camp at the Head.

Around Powell Lake there are logging docks and barge ramps that give access to the backcountry. On the west side of the lake between First Narrows and Olsen's Landing is a fairly new dock called Chip (Chippewa) North. The lower section was logged not long ago, but the upper part of the main connects to an old logging road that heads to Theodosia Inlet. Nearing Theo, old trucks have been left abandoned.

Old trucks on abandoned logging road between Powell Lake and Theodosia.

Another relic is on the south side of Goat Island near the Dunn Dock. We landed our boat on the sandy shore and walked up an old logging road a short distance. There we found this old winch from early logging days.

Winch on south side of Powell Lake.

There are lots of historic places to discover around Powell River. Each has a story to tell, and it's wonderful that people have left the artifacts in place for others to enjoy. If you want to learn more about the history of Powell River here are a few links.

Powell River Historical Museum
Powell River Forestry Museum
Willingdon Beach Trail

If you want to know more about exploring the Powell River backcountry by quad, contact the Powell River ATV Club.

Click the image to the right to enlarge for contact information. -- Margy

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Available Online: "Beyond the Main"

Beyond the Main
12th Book in Regional Series
by Wayne J. Lutz 

A new book in the series Coastal British Columbia Stories has been released by Powell River Books. Wayne introduced this series with Up the Lake (free for ebooks) in 2005, followed annually by additional titles that feature the Powell River region. All of the books in the series focus on the people and places along the Sunshine Coast.

The latest book in this series, Beyond the Main, uses a travel memoir format as the author explores the Powell River  backcountry by ATV.

Author Wayne Lutz at Olsen Lake.
I’ve concentrated on capturing the lifestyles of our region, where people are extremely self-reliant. When you travel the streets of Powell River, it’s a common sight to see quads in pickup trucks or loaded on a trailer, headed out of town. Where are all of these all-terrain vehicles going? And what is the attraction of this intense recreational sport? Heading off the beaten track, locals return again and again to the natural beauty of places where the mountains drop into the sea. -- Wayne Lutz

Beyond the Main is available at local Powell River bookstores and online through Amazon, Kobo, and other online booksellers. -- Margy

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Bush Bean Bonanza

This is the last of my bush bean crop for the year. After my snow peas quit producing in July, I fertilized the soil and planted bean seeds.

I started picking at the end of September and I've had enough beans from this one barrel quite a few dinners.

You can see the plastic mesh that I use as a critter deterrent. If I don't protect my deck pots, the woodrats that arrive in October would get to enjoy the beans instead of us.

Next year I'm going to buy more plastic mesh for the rest of my deck pots. They don't look as nice that way, but it's the only way to keep our local critters out of the larder. -- Margy

Friday, November 06, 2015

Cabin Baking: No-Knead English Muffin Bread

I like making bread. I saw this recipe for No-Knead English Muffin Bread on the I Believe I Can Fry blog and wondered if it would be easy (yes) and if the results would be tasty (yes). The only problem was it made two loaves. Wayne and I don’t eat much bread, so one loaf will last us a week. Cutting recipes in half doesn’t always work, but this one was very forgiving.

Here's my version that makes one loaf in a 5X9 inch pan.

No-Knead English Muffin Bread


1 ½ cups warm water (around 110°F)
1 package (1/4 oz envelopes) Rapid Rise yeast
½ tablespoon salt
¾ tablespoon sugar
2 ¾ cups bread flour
Melted butter (optional)


Heat the water. I used a thermometer so it didn’t get it too hot. Pour the warm water into a mixing bowl. Mix in sugar and the Rapid Rise yeast. Add the flour and salt, then mix until it's JUST combined. Don’t over mix.

The batter will be moist and sticky. Pour it into a greased 5x9 inch loaf pan and spread it out to the corners. Let the dough rise for 30-45 minutes in a warm place or until it doubles (mine took about an hour in the oven with the pilot heat).

Bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes or until it's golden brown. You can brush the top with melted butter for the last 10 minutes of baking, but I opted to leave it off. 

Cool in the pan for five minutes then remove to finish cooling on a wire rack. Let the bread cool completely before slicing otherwise it will be too moist inside. The recipe says it must be cool all the way through for the bread to become dry.

It was hard not to cut into the loaf while it was still hot, but we restrained ourselves. The result was a rustic, firm loaf of bread that makes great toast for breakfast and garlic toast for dinner. I'm sure I'll make this recipe again when I need a quick loaf on the shelf. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Powell River Quad Trails

We have lots of logging roads in the Powell River backcountry to ride.  But when they are deactivated and age, recreational users refurbish them into quad and hiking trails. Here are a few from rides we've taken over the years.

Culvert on a spur leading to a Olsen Valley homestead foundation.

Corduroy road section on upper Powell Daniels Main.

End of the easily passable section of upper Beartooth Main.

Bridge protecting a fish bearing stream on Fred's Trail to West (Hammil) Lake.

Crossing a section of regrowth along the Lois River north of Khartoum Lake.

Path over a log jumble on a road in an old slash above Chippewa Bay.

Washout on Jim Brown Main at the Head of Powell Lake.

If you try to find these quad trails don't be surprised if they've washed out or grown over. Mother Nature reclaims her territory at a very rapid rate. Trails remain open only through ongoing trail maintenance by groups such as the Wednesday Crew of quad riders and the BOMB (Bloody Old Men's Brigade) Squad group of hikers and ATV owners. Thank you to all of the individuals and groups who maintain our backcountry trails. Through your efforts we all can explore the best that Powell River has to offer.

Want to know more about quad riding in the Powell River Region? Check out these resources.
ATV Category on this Blog
Powell River Quad Rides Blog
Powell River ATV Club Contacts
Powell River ATV Club Video
Every Trail online 
Up the Main in print or e-book
Farther Up the Main in print or e-book
Beyond the Main in print or e-book
 Do you have any trails to share? Let us know. -- Margy