The text and paintings on The Trowbridge Chronicles are taken from the illustrated journal of Violet Trowbridge, a shrew that once lived in a village deep in the Olympic Rain Forest. Each new post will represent a portion of Mrs. Trowbridge’s journal.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The night forest was still and silent, except for a muffled chorus of squeaky voices coming from deep under the first snowfall of the season. It was a gathering of shrews, celebrating their holiday season by making merry and singing holiday anthems.

I selected this painting by Mrs. Trowbridge because as I write this we are in the middle of our first big winter storm in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The first snow fall of the season has covered our world with a big soft white blanket. As Christmas draws near, we eagerly anticipate our upcoming holiday gatherings. Soon we will be making the trip through the snow to my hometown to celebrate the joy of family and the birth of the Christ Child.

May your family gatherings be filled with peace and joy, and your carols echo throughout the forest.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Mrs. Trowbridge painted this portion of a large bank of Maidenhair ferns which grew near the Trowbridge family cottage. She did many charcoal and color studies of the rain forest flora. This fern bank was a favorite play area for Mrs. T's children and their friends. They loved to play tag, and hide-and-seek among the fronds, and beneath the oxalis leaves. Sometimes their play would become rambunctious and one young shrew would stub their paw or bump their head on a root. They would then run squeaking and squealing to the Trowbridge family cottage for comfort and first aid. She was always there for the children and their friends.

I shot these Maidenhair ferns (Adiatum pedatum) near a boulder overhang in the Dosewallips region of the Olympic Wilderness. Maidenhair ferns are recognized by the fine black stems and fan-shaped leaflets. They are always a delight to see along the trail.

Herbalists have used Maidenhair fern syrup just as Mrs. T once did, for chronic pulmonary conditions such as bronchitis, as well as anemia, and persistent skin disorders. If you would like to brew up a batch for yourself, here's Mrs. T's recipe, which I adapted to human measurements.

2 cups (40 grams) fresh Maidenhair fern leaves (equal parts, dried and crumbled)
4 cups (1 liter) water
2 cups (500 ml) unpasteurized honey.

Boil plant in water for three minutes, cover and infuse for three hours. Strain the decoction, and then gently melt the honey, without bringing to a boil, for five minutes. Pour the mixture into a glass bottle. Store in the refrigerator and consume within two months at a rate of 1-2 tsp
(15-30 ml) diluted in water, three times daily. Let me know if you should decide to try this recipe. I would love to hear of your results.

Oxalis (oxalis oregana), or wood sorrel, is the "clover of the rain forest". The plant bears small white, five-petaled flowers, as seen in Mrs. T's painting. It grows in abundance on the forest floor in the Olympic montane zone. Oxalis is edible...I've eaten it many has a kind of tart lemony taste. The tartness comes from its oxalic acid content.

Indians ate the leaves fresh or cooked. They also used the plant juice for digestive problems. Oxalis blooms from April to August.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quiet Moments by the Stream

After devoting many years to pouring over Mrs. Trowbridge's journal, it is my opinion that Wild Rose Creek was her favorite place to visit in the rain forest. The high meadows where she and her family would spend part of the summer was also one of her favorite spots. Mrs. T spent much of her early morning hours beside the stream, painting and pondering, as evidenced by the text in her journal page above. Her ladybug friend, Lucinda, would often join her.

She would sometimes paint herself into her pictures, as in the above painting which depicts her sketching an Indian Pipe by the stream. The sun is just beginning to break through the early morning fog.

I photographed these Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) in the Dosewallips Wilderness several summers ago. A Saprophyte, Indian Pipe derive their nourishment from decomposing matter on the forest floor. Since they have no chlorophyll, they cannot manufacture their own nourishment. Indian Pipe blossoms from June to September.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Mountain heather is always a common and welcome sight in the high meadows. Its aromatic scent adds to the wonderful mix of alpine fragrances in the high country. I found this pink heather growing on the eastern shore of Deer Lake in the North Olympic Wilderness.

The small creatures of the rain forest found many useful purposes for mountain heather in their everyday lives. Because it is an evergreen, they used the boughs year round in their festival decorations, especially their holiday wreaths, as seen in Mrs. Trowbridge's journal page above. They dried the flowers and used them as a potpourri, to mask the musky rodent scent in their dwellings. They even used the flowers as a tasty colorful garnish for their meals.

In addition to being a fine scribe and painter, Mrs. T was a "crafty" creature as well. She always made a traditional heather wreath for the hearth mantle at Gathering Festival time.

Monday, October 27, 2008


One of my favorite times of the day in the rain forest is the early morning when the forest is shrouded in mist. The surrounding trees take on an eerie monochromatic hue. All is still and quite. I shot this photograph as we ascended Mount Angeles early one morning before the fog had lifted.

Mrs. Trowbridge captured a magical moment with her brush, just as the sun was breaking through the veil of mist to bathe the forest floor in warm sunlight. The mail mole makes his daily rounds, his breath leaving a vapor trail as he ambles along.

The setting for Mrs. T's painting, between Wolf Bar and Wild Rose Creek, was thankfully spared from the devastation brought on by last December's "storm of the century". You may have seen the photo essay of the storm that I published on this blog last summer. Our son, Brad, and I hiked into Wild Rose Creek, where Mrs. T once lived, to survey the damage. Hundreds of years must pass before the Quinault Rain Forest can repair itself and heal its wounds.

Monday, October 20, 2008


With summer behind and fall setting in, Mrs. Trowbridge sets about getting her cluttered potting shed in order. It appears that if she painted this en plein air, it was painted just as the sun was setting over the mountian, as a golden glow briefly illuminates the rain forest.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Our recent trip into Huckleberry Hollow was indeed memorable. For one thing, we afforded ourselves the luxury of packing in meat...a treat for any weary hiker, to be sure. There's nothing like the smell of wild Alaska salmon cooking in the wilderness, even if it's canned.

We also encountered many fine examples of shelf fungus (Basidiomycola). They were used extensively by the shrews and other small creatures in the rain forest as dwellings, and were the equivalent of an expensive high-rise condo by our standards. Mrs. Trowbridge mentioned them occasionally in her journal, and I did manage to find a color sketch that she drew of her brother-in-law's new shelf fungus condo. Below is one that I photographed on the trip to share with you.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Since this blog debuted on New Year's Day of 2006, I have yet to show you actual photos of the rain forest in and around Wild Rose Creek, where Mrs. Trowbridge once lived. The photos below are the first images that I have ever posted of this special place in the forest.

My son, Brad and I had come to the Quinault Rain Forest to survey the damage from last year's "storm of the century" that hit the Washington Coast. We were shocked and dismayed to see entire forests brought down by the 100-mile-per-hour-plus winds. The entire mountain of old-growth rain forest south of Lake Quinault Lodge, where President Teddy Roosevelt once stayed, appeared to have been logged off. It was undoubtedly the biggest blow down ever witnessed in the Quinault Rain Forest.

We forgot to bring any kind of time piece on this trek, and our cell phones didn't work in the wilderness, so we couldn't use them to check the time. Have you ever gone for days without knowing what time it is? It's a strange feeling.

WOLF BAR BEFORE - Once a verdant fern glade nestled among the young Douglas firs, Wolf Bar was unrecognizable when we first came upon it. We couldn't even find the spot where we had camped in previous years. The above picture of Wolf Bar was taken in 1992. The photo below shows what it looked like last week. This is where we camped our first night.

WOLF BAR AFTER - The giant sword ferns that were once the trademark of Wolf Bar have been buried under 18 inches of silt from the raging Quinault River that passes nearby. Several lifetimes must pass before the Quinault Rain Forest will be restored to its former splendor. Some of the trees in this forest are large enough to have attained world record status. I don't yet know if some of the world record trees were destroyed by the storm.

Countless thousands of trees were brought down, some caught by the river's flood surge, and carried downstream to form chaotic slash piles all along the course of the river.

As daylight began to wane with the setting sun, the forest took on an eerie blue aura. I looked up river and wondered what tomorrow would bring. We would be exploring Wild Rose Creek, where Mrs. Trowbridge once lived, about two miles up river from Wolf Bar, where this photo was taken.

I awoke the next morning with eager anticipation. The foggy morning mist soon burned off to reveal a splendid day. Upon arriving at Wild Rose Creek, we found more devastation. The creek had been storm-scoured to the extent that a rope ladder was required to descend 25 feet into the creek bed. The dirt and rock on the bank behind the ladder was once covered with lush vegetation.

Exploring the creek further, we found large old growth trees that were effortlessly snapped like twigs by the forces of wind and water. Up to 15 inches of rain fell during this one event!

We continued upstream and finally reached a point where most of the devastation was behind us. This canyon is just downstream from what was once Mrs. Trowbridge's village of Huckleberry Hollow. I was pleased to see that the canyon Mrs. T wrote about in her journal was not severely affected by the storm.

Just as we were about to embark on the second phase of our exploration, ascending above the canyon into Huckleberry Hollow itself, we were approached by two cranky forest rangers who asked us to leave the area immediately. So our exploration of Mrs. Trowbridge's village had come to a sudden halt.

Before we left Wild Rose Creek, the ranger was kind enough to give me a souvenir to remember our trip by---a warning ticket, for trespassing into an area that had been closed-off because of storm damage.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Adverse weather can hit in the wilderness at any time of the year. A few years ago we encountered a snow storm on our way to the summit of Mount Townsend on Fourth of July weekend. People who we met on the trail coming down from the summit described "blizzard conditions" on top. One veteran backpacker told me that he'll hike in rain or snow, but he won't hike in a windstorm. So it was with Mrs. Trowbridge and Woodrow one summer night...

Friday, June 13, 2008


Some have asked if Mrs. Trowbridge had any humorous inclinations. That was definitely Woodrow's department. Woodrow, as you may know, was Mrs. T's husband. She once referred to him as "a purveyor of the pun and punchline". So gifted was Woodrow as a humorist that he was the designated master of ceremonies at most of the village functions. His "Why did the snail cross the trail?" jokes evoked snickers throughout the rain forest.

Mrs. T. devoted a number of pages in her journal to an old sketchbook that was buried in the clutter of her parlor. She writes...

Friday, May 30, 2008


The dwellings and shops of small creatures in rain forest villages were typically built out of sight and away from the dangers of destruction by the hooves and claws of larger mammals. They were often hidden under tree roots and logs. Yet their dwellings were always well-maintained, and often decorated with forest flowers. Woodrow’s shoppe was quite typical in that regard.

The name “Reflection Lake” refers to Woodrow’s place of birth, up the mountain from Huckleberry Hollow. His family moved to Huckleberry Hollow when he was a baby shrew. Woodrow was featured in the very first episode of Trowbridge Chronicles.

Several years ago our expedition to explore Reflection Lake was put on hold when one member of our party became ill, and we were forced to turn back. I have yet to visit Reflection Lake. It's a steep climb...the lake is on top of the mountain.

For those of you who would like to know the identity of the flowers in Mrs. Trowbridge's painting, they are as follows: the hanging basket in the upper right corner contains Smooth Douglasia (Douglasia laevigata); Left window box: Magenta Paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora oreopola) This flower is endemic to the Olympic Mountains; Right window box: Mountain Owl-Clover (Orthocarpus imbricatus); Ground barrels - rear white flowers, left side: American Bistort (Polygonum bistortoids); rear yellow flower: Buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis); rear purple flower: Fletts Violet (Viola flettii) Endemic to the Olympic Mountains; front barrell: Mountain Oxytropis (Oxytropis monticola); Sign by Huckleberry Hollow Sign Shoppe.

Monday, May 05, 2008


If anything is true of a shrew, it is that they are voracious eaters, as Mrs. Trowbridge comments in her Tart Chart. Shrews can be observed frantically scampering about the forest floor in search of their next snack or meal. They never stop and smell the roses. There's no time for that. They would starve if they did. Aren't you glad you're not a Trowbridge shrew.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


If, but only I could find a wormhole in the rain forest, or a wrinkle in time...I would return to the rain forest just as it was 200 years ago, at the beginning of the 19th century, when Huckleberry Hollow was a busy rain forest village. What a thrill it would be to meet Mrs. Trowbridge, and perhaps join her on a plein air painting trek! I could learn so much from her.

In today's post, Mrs. T speaks of the joy she finds in her daily journal time...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


After a sojourn in the South Seas, we return to the rain forest and find Mrs. Trowbridge reflecting on the past winter months. The lives of a Trowbridge shrew family depend completely on their success at food gathering through the summer months. Mrs. T. explains it best...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Because shells aren't very heavy, we found evidence on our recent South Seas expedition that the shrews of old used large conch shells for portable or temporary housing. A group of shrews could move a conch shell for a short distance in order to move the "shelling" (shell dwelling) out of the hot sun or the torrential rain. This is one of several shell paintings that Mrs. Trowbridge created resulting from her many hours of research at the Huckleberry Hollow library.

Friday, February 22, 2008


I have received multiple offers from numerous individuals who invest in rare commodities to purchase the original Trowbridge Chronicles journal that I found in the Quinault Rain Forest several years ago. I declined them all. I fully intend to keep Mrs. Trowbridge's journal in my possession, and to share it with you, the readers of her journal.

This is another one of her tropical flower paintings. She spent many hours at the library in Huckleberry Hollow studying the flora, fauna and lore of her South Seas ancestors. This painting is a Bird of Paradise (Heliconia psittacorum). I am continually amazed by the mastery of the watercolor medium that Mrs. T displayed in her floral paintings.

Friday, February 08, 2008


As some of you know, Mrs. Trowbridge's mother taught her watercolor and scribing. I have sometimes wondered what her mother's paintings looked like. There is no record of any of her mother's work in her journal. It is sometimes difficult to choose which of Mrs. T's tropical flower paintings to choose from, for they are all so lovely, but this week I chose another hibiscus that she painted in honor of her South Seas ancestors.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Mrs. Trowbridge was fascinated by the tales and legends of her shrew ancestors in the South Pacific. Though she painted other subjects from South Seas lore, the exotic tropical flowers, like this Frangipani (Plumera obtusa) were her favorites.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Since the last post featured my Trowbridge expedition to the South Pacific islands, I thought this might be a good time to display some of the tropical flowers that Mrs. Trowbridge painted in her journal. She had a strong interest in Trowbridge history, from its origin on some remote Mongolian plain to the North American rain forests. She was especially intrigued by the flora and fauna of the South Pacific islands, where Trowbridge culture thrived in a past age.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


I'm back at last from my South Seas Trowbridge Expedition. It's been a bit of a stretch between posts this time because of my extended research trip. I'm happy to report that our expedition was very successful, though we encountered our share of hardships. Each afternoon the temperature would soar into the 90's. That, coupled with the tropical humidity, made our treks through the steaming jungles quite unpleasant.

After several days of disappointments, we checked out this small motu, called Taakoka, in the southern Cook Island group. I took this shot from the kayak that we used to reach the islet from the research ship.

The water in the lagoon was like a warm tropical aquarium, filled with colorful neon-bright fish. It was a refreshing break from the frigid Puget Sound waters that we left behind in America's Pacific Northwest. We waded around the entire motu, looking for artifacts or petroglyphs along the shoreline.

We called this small island our "mother lode" motu. We found no less than 83 black volcanic rocks that had been scribed with Trowbridge petroglyphs. Curiously, we found no Trowbridge artifacts on the islet.

Some of the petroglyphs were right at the tide line, as seen here. If you look carefully you'll see the petroglyph on the rock just behind me.

Because the symbols are so small, they're barely visible at any distance, so here's a close up look. Maori team member, Paiere Unuia, from the Northern Group island, Manihiki, examines the petroglyphs at close range with the magnifying glass.

The written Trowbridge language is comprised of 25 pictographic characters, as shown above. With the wealth of petroglyphic data that we uncovered on Motu Taakoka, I'm even more convinced that my theory of a trans-Pacific migration of Trowbridge shrews is what brought them to the Americas.

By the way, Happy Anniversay to Mrs. Trowbridge! Her journal will is two years old today.