Connecting with Nature

Nature of North Central Washington

Memories of Summer in North Central Washington

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Fishing, fires, and huckleberries

July 2009, Nature of Place, NCW Green Ways

By Nancy Warner

Ask someone what they prize most about living in North Central Washington, and they’ll likely say the four distinct seasons that shape the rhythm of life here.
Gretchen Minard, Nancy Warner photo
For 107-year-old Gretchen Minard, this rhythm has its strongest beat during summer in the upper Wenatchee Valley. Born in Leavenworth in 1901, she remembers the fun she had on the family’s farm along Chumstick Creek. “We could wade in the river or in the stream. And, of course, there was pretty good fishing then, too.” She adds that, “if you wanted any fish you had to get out and do your share of periwinkle hunting.”

Using periwinkles, or caddisfly larvae, that clung to the underside of rocks in Chumstick Creek for bait was something Bud and Ray Norman also did as they came of fishing age in the early 1940s.The brothers remember learning to fish for rainbow trout with the neighbor kids. ?When we first started, it was a willow stick with a line and sometimes a hook made out of a safety pin,? Ray remembers.

Bud and Bill Norman, Norman Family CollectionRecently retired from a lifetime of logging, Bud and Ray grew up along the Chumstick helping their dad with his horse-logging business. “I was swamping for a team of horses in the woods when I was 9 years old,” Bud remembers, “cutting a trail through the vine maple so they could get in there with the horses to pull the wood out.”

“Back then,” Ray recalls, “the timber was cut mostly into short logs because it was so big.” The brothers remember watching their dad work his cross saw on ponderosa, or yellow pines, up to 4 feet around. They say most of what was marked and cut in the 1940s was either pine or fir. “There used to be quite a bit of white pine around,” Bud says. “Tons of it up around the lake and up the Icicle.”Norman brothers, Nancy Warner photo

Huckleberry season was a high point of the summer for Gretchen’s family, who would pack their berry-picking buckets and camping equipment on packhorses and hike the old Indian trail from the Chumstick Valley to Lake Wenatchee. She recalls how they spent a whole week doing most of their berry picking in a big meadow above Lake Wenatchee. “Huckleberries usually came out where they had just recently logged,” she explains. “Some years they got quite a few, some years not so many.”

While everybody who came to visit Gretchen’s family at the cabin they later built at Lake Wenatchee “had to have a trip up Dirty Face” to visit the fire lookout, she doesn’t remember seeing many fires around there until recent years. Bud and Ray say there are definitely more fires now but remember quite a few back then too. “The logger then was the first one they’d come after for fires,” Bud remembers. “They used to shut us down and we had to go fight fires.” Ray adds, “We usually had to hike into the high lake fires.”

Looking back at the changes they’ve seen, all three longtime residents agree the area is drier today. Reflecting on the wildflowers at her family’s cabin, Gretchen says “we had plenty of wildflowers and they were always bright and pretty. But the ground is changing; it’s not as moist as it used to be. When the weather changed the flowers changed, too.”

Nancy Warner is the coordinator for the Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship (IRIS).

Fishing

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Gretchen Minard talking about Chumstick Creek.

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Chumstick Creek (MP3)

Gretchen Minard talking about periwinkle hunting.

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Periwinkle Hunting (MP3)

Caddis Fly Larva, Mark Oswood photo

Wildflowers

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Gretchen Minard talking about wildflowers and weather.

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Wildflower Weather (MP3)

Columbine, Greg Shannon photoLupine, Greg Shannon photoTiger Lily, Greg Shannon photo

Gretchen Minard talking about wildflowers in place.

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Wildflowers in Place (MP3)

Loggers Using Sap

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Bud and Ray Norman remember using sap.

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Using Sap (MP3)

Norman Family CollectionNorman Family Collection

Huckleberries

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Gretchen Minard talking about the annual huckleberry picking trip.

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Huckleberry Trip to Lake(MP3)

Lake Wenatchee from Labyrinth Mt., Greg Shannon photoMarc Dilley photoHuckleberries, Nancy Warner photo

Gretchen Minard talking about following the loggers.

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Following Loggers (MP3)

Gretchen Minard talking about Dirty Face

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Dirty Face (MP3)

Memories of Spring in North Central Washington

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Memories of spring in North Central Washington

April 2009, Nature of Place, NCW Green Ways

By Nancy Warner

Spring moves like a wave over North Central Washington each year as the days grow longer and the ground thaws and warms.  The chirp of the returning robins and the crocus flowers poking up in our gardens tells us it’s coming. We know it?s here when we push our heavy coats to the back of the closet and follow the urge to dig in the dirt, ride bikes, play marbles, and take a deep breath of fresh air.   

Sagebrush Buttercup Like everything else, the way you experience spring in North Central Washington depends on when and where you stand.
 
According to longtime Waterville resident Nadra Rivers, “Spring arrives late and with a good deal of wind.”  Most wildflowers are scarce until late April or May, but Nadra and her daughter Kathi Rivers Shannon remember the big V-shaped flocks of Canada geese flying over on their way north as an early sign of spring. “It was a big season changer,” Kathi says. “But now more geese stay around the area so it doesn?t have the big effect it used to have.”
 
For Withrow-area farmer Randy Uhrich, spring was a hectic time preparing the fields for planting. “The ground would have to dry out enough to plow — this would start from the first to the middle of April depending on the season. Dad always said it was going to be cold until the snow is off Badger Mountain. That basically still holds. So you’d get out in the fields as soon as you could to work the ground, but it would be cold. Things wouldn’t germinate as fast.”
 
John Thoren grew up on a ranch in the northeast portion of Douglas County where each spring his mother “used to watch for the buttercups coming out on the south side of the hills.”  He remembers how all kinds of ducks, including mallards, would come into the potholes across the ranch, after the thaw, along with tadpoles and salamanders. “Some people used to use lakes on our place to catch salamanders or waterdogs, which they used for fish bait.” 
 
He also remembers how they’d see sandhill cranes in March to early April. “I would guess there was 100 to 200 that would migrate through that area,” he says, an event that sparked interest in nearby Waterville. Nadra Rivers recalls how “the word would go through town that the cranes are out by Mansfield — and we’d pile the kids in and go out and look at the cranes.”
 
In addition to ducks and cranes, the Thoren family wheatfields attracted migrating Canada geese in the spring. “We had one field — and if that field was in fall wheat so it was green in the spring, the geese would just decimate it. It was just grazed off just as slick as the tabletop. Hundreds of geese — maybe even thousands. They would come in off of Banks Lake to the ranch and, on a quarter section, they could look almost black — there could be that many geese on it.”
 
Further north at the Sinlahekin State Wildlife Area in Okanogan County, manager Dale Swedberg says, “It’s possible to see marmots (ground hog or rock chuck) as early as April when fishing season opens up. As soon as the first green vegetation appears you’ll see them out foraging.”
 
Mule deer and mountain goats also feed on the fresh green plants that come up on the south slopes of the Sinlahekin Valley. “Buttercups, yellow bells, bluebells, spring beauties, and balsamroot will come up around then. And, if it’s a particularly wet spring, some of the hillsides will be literally blue from the lupine.”
 
Nancy Warner is program director for the Nature of Place, a program of the Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship (IRIS).

Sandhill Cranes

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John Thoren talks about sandhill cranes in the spring.

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Sandhill Cranes (MP3)

Sandhill Cranes

Spring on the Waterville Plateau

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Nadra Rivers and Kathi Rivers Shannon talking about spring on the Waterville Plateau, March 14, 2009.

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May Baskets (MP3)

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Wildflowers (MP3)

Project Budburst is collecting climate change data on the timing of leafing and flowering in the area.
www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/budburst/index.html

Larkspur Oregon Sunshine Bitterroot

Collecting Maple Sap in Stehekin

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Billy Sullivan from Stehekin talking about collecting maple sap to make syrup in the spring, January 15, 2009.

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Maple Sap (MP3)

Photos of North Central Washington

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See photos of gray squirrels and more, as mentioned in Nancy Warner’s recent Wenatchee World article Memories of Winter in North Central Washington, at photographer Rod Gilbert’s website:

http://www.pbase.com/rodg/animals

A sampling:

Squirrel 1 Squirrel 2

IRIS