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 12, 2011


Though I'm separated from Mrs. Trowbridge's forest world by over 200 years, sometimes I almost feel like I know her. She seems like a long lost aunt that I knew when I was a child. When a tiny shrew darts through the tall grass near my berry patch, she flashes though my mind for a brief moment. Is this little shrew that lives in my berry bush one of Mrs. T's descendants? 

Then I snap back into reality. I'm content to know her through the record she left for us in her tiny illustrated diary. What if I hadn't broken off the North Fork Quinault River trail and hiked upstream on Wild Rose Creek eight years ago? I would have never found that little gold box on that mossy ledge beside the stream that contained her precious diary. What if... 

See my new Toad Warrior movie poster at

Sunday, November 20, 2011


You may recall that I posted Mrs. Trowbridge's sketch of her neighbor, Mrs. Maberry's cottage for the last Trowbridge episode. In this, the 125th episode of Trowbridge Chronicles, I decided to show you her painting of the cottage. She always did value studies of her subjects prior to the painting, which is what you saw in the last episode. 

This was one of her "night paintings". In order to get the strong light and dark contrasts in her paintings, she would work outdoors at night, working by candle light.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Fueled by inspiration from her majestic natural surroundings, Mrs. Trowbridge created an impressive body of work in her brief shrew lifetime. Most of what I have posted have been her wonderful watercolor paintings, but she also created a large body of sketches, such as what you see below. Perhaps on my next post I will show you the painting that resulted from this value study.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


During the summer of 2009 when my son and I hiked into the Quinault Rain Forest to explore the Huckleberry Hollow area where Mrs. Trowbridge once lived, we witnessed firsthand the destruction that severe winter storms can bring to a rain forest. The storm had struck the area the previous winter, bringing with it savage hurricane force tornado-like winds. Thousands of old growth trees in the rain forest were blown down. It appeared that much of the area had been logged off.

Mrs. Trowbridge knew well the force of winter storms, for she spent her entire life in the Quinault Rain Forest, on Wild Rose Creek. This page in her journal speaks of the first winter storm to hit the area one winter long ago.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


I have hiked into the Wild Rose Creek region of the Olympic Rain Forest a number of times over the years. This is a lush, mysterious area of the rain forest where Violet Trowbridge once lived. She kept a beautifully illustrated diary of everyday life among the small creatures in the rain forest village of Huckleberry Hollow. I happened upon this diary about eight years ago while hiking cross country up Wild Rose Creek. The diary was contained in a tiny, ornate gold box that I found on a mossy ledge alongside the creek. The precious box may have been unearthed after two centuries by a gopher. When I opened the box that night in my studio, I was amazed to find a little book inside with the title The Trowbridge Chronicles inscribed on the cover. The book was yellow-brownish in color, the cover appearing to have been fashioned from toad skin.

On my last trip into Wild Rose Creek I was caught by a forest ranger and scolded for hiking into an off-limits area. Wild Rose Creek had been closed off, due to severe storm damage. In my enthusiasm to visit Mrs. Trowbridge's realm I ignored the tape barrier. I was fortunate to not be given a citation by the ranger. This is my photo journal entry of that trip:

For those of you who would like to pinpoint this destination on the map, Wild Rose Creek is located in the Quinault Rain Forest in Olympic National Park in Washington State. The creek plunges northeastward down the mountain, emptying into the North Fork of the Quinault River. The village appears to have been located about one quarter mile upstream from where
Wild Rose Creek joins the Quinault River. The river winds in a south-westerly direction, emptying into Lake Quinault, then it flows westward from Lake Quinault into the nearby Pacific Ocean. If you have been reading Mrs. Trowbridge's journal for some time you may recall some of her journal entries relating to their summer treks to the sea. Here is one of them that I remember well:

There are now 122 episodes of the Trowbridge Chronicles. Feel free to peruse through past episodes in the archives at your leisure.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Like the Native Americans who have occupied the rain forest for thousands of years, the small creatures used the native plants for a wide variety of medicinal purposes. They used both annual and perennial wildflowers to fill their medicine chest. Most plants were dried in the summer sun, then ground into a fine powder. Others were dried and used as herbal teas.

The oxalis that Mrs. Trowbridge painted above is one of the most common of the forest plant foods. I've actually eaten it many times. It has a mild peppery taste. The small creatures used it as a staple for their salads.

Monday, June 06, 2011


Mrs. Trowbridge loved spending summer days painting in the high meadows. The Olympic Mountains loom in the background. The area that she painted is the high country, near the headwaters of Wild Rose Creek, above the vast Quinault Rain Forest.

You'll notice that the trees look dwarfed and stubby in Mrs. T's painting. In the subalpine zone the trees are dwarfed from lack of oxygen. As you gain altitude, and climb above the tree line you enter the Arctic Alpine zone. At this altitude there are no trees, just rocky terrain and snow fields.

This is one of the most spectacularly beautiful areas in the Olympic Mountains, the high meadowlands between Cameron Pass and Lost Pass. This was perhaps my all-time favorite day in the Olympics. Both of the mountain zones are represented here, the Subalpine zone in the foreground, showing the stunted trees, and the Arctic Alpine zone in the distance, showing the rugged snowy peaks.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


During the longer warm summer nights, one of Mrs. Trowbridge's favorite pastimes was to journey with her family to a nearby village to attend their annual Moonlight Music Festival. Under the full moon, they would swing to the music of tuxedoed grasshopper fiddlers, bow-tied snail crooners, or everyone's favorite: the Ladybug Duet. I'll bet those ladybugs would put the Chipmunks to shame. Sing it, ladies!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Mrs. Trowbridge's miniature toy world in the Quinault Rain Forest was lovely indeed. But it was also fraught with risk. There were hungry hawks circling above the forest canopy in search of their next meal. And there were the forest trails which were sometimes steep and slippery, especially at the bridges. Many loads...and some lives...were lost during bridge crossings.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


This is a sketch that Mrs. Trowbridge drew that never turned into a painting. She did very refined sketches, preferring to have everything nailed down before she began applying paint. This is a portion of the trail that leads from Huckleberry Hollow to the Quinault River Valley below. All of the small creatures used this trail to get to and from the river valley to the high meadows. It passed right through Huckleberry Hollow.

One thing notable about this section of trail is that the hollow snag just behind the big tree in the foreground was inhabited by a swarm of bees. It became the primary source of honey for the small creatures around Huckleberry Hollow.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

MRS. T and the DRAGON

Some have asked how the Trowbridge shrews passed their time during the long cold winters in the rain forest. Mrs. Trowbridge would be quick to point out that the winters were as busy as the summers, with numerous wintertime tasks to keep them occupied.

This is the time that Mrs. T reserved for darning and mending well-worn items of clothing for her family...a sweater or socks for the children, an overcoat for Woodrow. She used thistledown, spun into thread, for all her sewing and mending tasks. A scarf made with thistledown was soft, warm and cozy.

Today's page is among my favorites from Mrs. T's easel. In this painting she records her first encounter with a dragon while on a trip to the high meadows with family and friends.