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.

Monday, December 27, 2010


The residents of Huckleberry Hollow had their own winter celebrations, just as we do. Their custom of hanging a wreath on their front door is similar to ours in the Western world. They often used fir or cedar branches, weaving dried bright red serviceberries (Amelancheir alnifolia) into the evergreen boughs. The tips of the boughs hanging from the top of Mrs. Trowbridge's painting are coast Douglas-fir needles (Pseudotshuga menziesii). They are commonly found in the Olympic Rain Forest.

It is my hope that you are having a blessed holiday season with your family and friends.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Mrs. Trowbridge met her friend, Fern, one day when Fern was passing by on the path to the village. Mrs. T was at her mailbox, retrieving her morning mail. Fern had just moved to Huckleberry Hollow from a village in the North Woods. They chatted at the mailbox and soon became fast friends.

Fern cherished her portrait. Mrs. T wrote in one of her journal entries that Fern proudly hung her portrait over the hearth in her parlor. It would undoubtedly have become a family heirloom.

There's nothing like friends and family to enrich our lives, especially at Christmas time.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Winters were challenging for the small creatures of Huckleberry Hollow. But afterwards, there was always the spring and summer months to enjoy. In one of Mrs. T's previous pages, from November 7 2006, she explains in greater detail the process of creating shafts in the snow in order to vent the smoke to the surface. Here is that episode, from my birthday in 2006. Today is my birthday in 2010. Wow...four years ago. Where has the time gone?

Friday, September 24, 2010


Mrs. Trowbridge was very fond of her brother, Thaddeus. He was a skilled wood craftsman, using only time-honored, old-fashioned methods in all of his woodworking tasks. It was Thaddeus, you may recall, who provided his roomy cottage in the village for family gatherings. As he grew older, he took a bad fall on his back porch and severely injured his shoulder. That unfortunate event dampened his enthusiasm for climbing ladders. From that point he began to seek out other less hazardous ways of using his skills, preferably indoors.

The Indian tribes that inhabited the rain forests for thousands of years, specifically the Makah and the Ozette people, used sphagnum moss for plugging holes and insulating their lodges. I found it not surprising that the small creatures of Huckleberry Hollow used the same ancient forest wisdom as did the Indians that lived nearby. Mrs. T's painting above shows how the Trowbridge shrews used sphagnum moss as a roofing material to keep their dwellings warm and dry through the winter months. I shot the above photograph just a few miles west of Huckleberry Hollow, near Irely Lake in the Quinault region. It is a of grouping of shelf fungus cloaked in a thick layer of sphagnum moss. An interesting footnote: We who live in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States are more than willing to pay someone like brother Thaddeus good money to keep moss off of our roofs.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Most of the Trowbridge family reunions were held at Violet's brother's cottage in Huckleberry Hollow. His name was Thaddeus. She often spoke fondly of him in her writings. Thaddeus' nest went deep underground, allowing plenty of room for fun and revelry, and making his nest ideal for large family gatherings.

The flowers in the window box of Mrs. Trowbridge's painting (above) are the Western Bog-laurel (Kalmia microphylla). The yellow flower in the clay pot is the Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), a member of the rose family. Finally, the Nootka Rose (Rosa Nutkana), pictured above. We've encountered this lovely flower often in open areas of the forest on our way to the high meadows.

The hips or seed pods of the Nootka Rose are edible but a little bitter. They are said to be delicious after being frozen and thawed, which seems to destroy most of the bitterness. Many of you may have enjoyed rose hip tea. Mrs. T was immovable in her fondness for rose hip was her favorite drink on cold winter mornings.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Mrs. Trowbridge had a special love for the lush rain forest world that surrounded her, near the village of Huckleberry Hollow where she lived so long ago. She loved drawing and painting her tiny world, and writing about her busy life in Huckleberry Hollow. On warm summer afternoons she would watch the wind blow through the high meadows, causing the wild flowers to sway to a breezy rhythm. On clear summer nights she loved staring up into the black night sky, star gazing with her family.

She also loved sunrises and sunsets. She painted the above sunrise scene while sitting in a steep mountainside meadow. This scene reminds me of our long trek down the steep mountain meadow from Grand Pass to Cameron Creek on our cross-Olympic mountain trek.

I noticed that Mrs. T included in her painting the familiar flower that we have seen so many times in the alpine meadows, the bistort. These little white puffs dot the high meadowlands by the thousands. Those who know the plant know its nickname: the "dirty sock", because its pungent order resembles a ripe gym sock.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Among my favorite of Mrs. Trowbridge's paintings were her moonlit night scenes. The lighting effects that she created were so soft and natural, unlike some of today's hyped-up fantasy illustrations that display more artificial lighting effects.

In her notations, Mrs. T mentioned that their favorite table is the one just under the chimney pipe. Any of the tea shop windows provide a commanding view of Wild Rose Creek as it cascades through the village of Huckleberry Hollow.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Many of Mrs. Trowbridge's journal entries and richly detailed paintings were done in the early morning hours, before breakfast, often down by the stream. Then she would follow the pathway that led from her cottage into the village of Huckleberry Hollow. There she would meet with her friends for tea at the tea shop and bakery owned by her husband, Woodrow.

Her elaborately detailed journal entries left us with a rich legacy of life as it was among the little creatures of the rain forest over 200 years ago. When I first viewed the painting above I was reminded of the similarity of the root dwellers to our modern day apartment and condo dwellers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


In this age of speed-of-light satellite communications, it's hard for us to imagine the simple life that the residents of Huckleberry Hollow lived. But they enjoyed their simple life immensely, as demonstrated by the children's summer fun and games.

I was struck by the paisley-design flag that the frog is holding. The teardrop paisley design originated in India and Persia, and is based on the mango fruit. But I have traced Trowbridge shrew culture to the Mongolian Steppes. It leads me to wonder if there was some cultural connection between the shrews of Mongolia and India, though they were separated by the Himalayan mountain range. Hmmm...perhaps another expedition is in order.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


Just up the trail, upstream from Huckleberry Hollow was a calm spot in Wild Rose Creek that served as the swimming hole for the shrew children. They would while away many summer days frolicking in the swimming hole.

If you look carefully at Mrs. Trowbridge's painting, you will see some orange flecks of color on the rocks. This is lichen (pronounced "liken"), a composite organism made up of fungus and green algae. Lichen that grows on rocks is called crustose lichen. I photographed the example above on the summit of Blue Mountain in the Olympic Mountain Range.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Mrs. Trowbridge was fearless in defense of her friends. And she had many friends throughout the forest community. The page above describes her chance encounter with an old school chum. Friends and close family ties are indeed a great blessing. I was reminded of that today as we sat on our back patio on this sunny Sunday afternoon visiting with our family, including two new daughters-in-law.

As a veteran rain forest trekker, I usually recognize the flowers that Mrs. T painted in her journal pages. White rhodedendron and pink mountain heather carpet the landscape as she passes over the crown of the hill on their way to the village of Huckleberry Hollow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Many have asked how Mrs. Trowbridge's tiny journal pages found their way into a blog . Here's the short version.

It all began with a solo trek into the Quinault Rain Forest about eight years ago. I was hiking up Wild Rose Creek in search of one of the world's rarest flowers, the Albino Pipers Bellflower. Climbing over a fallen snag, I caught a sudden glint of light from the corner of my eye. The source of the flash was coming from the other side of the creek. My curiosity piqued, I crossed the creek, scrambled up a small scree slope until I reached the source of the light flash...a small gold box on a mossy ledge. I dropped it into my back pack and continued on with my quest for the Piper's Bellflower.

That night in my studio I examined the tiny box, and discovered a minuscule key protruding from the side of the box. The key was so small that a pair of tweezers were required to grasp the key. After a few failed attempts at turning the key, the lid of the box popped open.

What I saw inside the box took my breath away. It was a tiny book, with the words "The Trowbridge Chronciles" scribed in an exquisite Old English calligraphic style on the cover. The book was a brownish-green hue, appearing to be made from a delicate paper-thin hide, perhaps toad skin.

I was utterly amazed by the contents of the miniature book, which required a magnifying glass to read. I stayed up most of that night, transfixed by the beautifully hand-scribed text and tiny delicate watercolors. It was the personal journal of a Trowbridge shrew, named Violet Trowbridge. She lived in a village inhabited by small creatures on Wild Rose Creek, a tributary of the Quinault River.

It required considerable detective work to locate a lab that would carbon date the book. I found a facility at the University of Washington in Seattle and learned that the the journal is about 200 years old. That dates the book back to the time when Lewis and Clark were arriving at the western shores of the continent.

I put the book away in a drawer in my studio, where it remained for about three years. Then, one day I decided to share Mrs. Trowbridge's journal with the world, one page at a time, via a blog. The Trowbridge Chronicles debuted on January 1, 2006.

When I tell this story at my school visits the children are always amazed and spellbound. It pains me to disappoint them and reveal that it is only a made up story. But then I use it as an illustration of how they too can be creative and write similar stories themselves.

You might be interested to know that I did find, and photograph (above) the Albino Piper's Bellflower. This truly is one of the world's rarest flowers. There are only a few dozen plants known to exist, and only a select few wildflower enthusiasts like myself know its location. An endemic plant (found nowhere else on earth), it grows in crevices of boulders in the subalpine region of the Olympic Mountains.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Mrs. Trowbridge mentioned the great hole several times in her writings; the reason being that the husband of one of her dear friends was severely injured in a fall during an exploration of the hole. A rescue was attempted, but he expired.

Through the course of my numerous treks into Wild Rose Creek, I was never able to find the fabled hole that she wrote about. To my knowledge Mrs. T never entered the hole, so she must have created this painting from descriptions combined with her brilliant imagination.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


The Trowbridge shrews of Mrs. Trowbridge's day were indeed brave little souls. They faced constant threats from all around and above. At any given moment their nest could be trampled by a herd of Roosevelt elk, or thrashed to shreds by a hungry raccoon. Of course, a shrew was always at risk for being snatched away on the way to market by a hungry hawk.

Mrs. T faced life's challenges and uncertainties by spending time early in the mornings beside the nearby creek. It was here that she would meditate, write and paint. You may have to look carefully to see her perched in front of her easel on top of the boulder beside the stream.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Some have asked about the Trowbridge shrew's mating habits. They propagate year round with a short pause during the winter. The pregnancy period is relatively short - about three weeks - and there are five to ten animals in each litter.

Many shrews are lost to birds of prey and accidents, especially the young ones who may venture too close to the rushing waters of a mountain stream. Wild Rose Creek cascades through the village of Huckleberry Hollow, which flows into the North Fork Quinault River. This, in turn, empties into Lake Quinault. This is where the mishap occurred in our story.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Banana slugs are commonly found in the Quinault Rain Forest. They are usually bright yellow, like Scooter, although they may also be green, brown or even white. The Pacific banana slug (Ariolimax columbianus) found in the Quinault Rain Forest, is the second largest slug in the world, attaining a length of almost ten inches.

Mrs. Trowbridge wrote many stories for her children and grandchildren. She was careful, never clumsy in her choice of words for her stories, and she taught her offspring the craft of writing as well. Sometimes she would create a first page of the story, as seen above, then allow her children to write their own finish for the story. It was a wonderful way of passing the gift of creativity down to her offspring. How would you finish the story?