“One o’clock on Tuesday. We’ll meet at your place,” Susan said.
A good hike together was long overdue. Our trek up the back side of a mountain would be new to her, I hoped. However, we could both claim a handicap sticker for being directionally challenged.
Susan and I cover a lot of life on our stomps. We unwind and update as we stop to catch the colors in the view over other islands and across Georgia Strait to the mountains on the Mainland of BC. We wallow in the aroma of Cottonwood leaves in Spring and listen to different bird songs. No creature lives on our island that can harm us. Even the odd Black Widow or Brown Reclusive Spiders offer no threat to our safe wanderings. Freedom is supreme in the two track roads and narrow deer trails that crisscross our island home.
Tuesday arrived and we parked in front of a gate at the entrance to the trail. A home-made sign said no dogs and no vehicles were allowed on the property. About 300 meters (roughly 900 feet) up the crude road, we discovered a small clearing where a man was using a gigantic saw to cut tree trunks into lumber. We immediately introduced ourselves and asked if the car was okay by the gate. No, it wasn’t, he said, but it was okay to leave it there this time. Islanders appreciate respect. It goes a long way toward being deemed trustworthy; an honour I want to keep.
He smiled warmly at us, waved us in the right direction and turned back to his labour.
That’s when I noticed an incredibly bright red/orange bark:
Each piece had a very mild aromatic scent like a gentle, refreshing rain.
If my research is correct, the bark is from a Cascara tree which is pictured here. Its properties are both interesting and healing:
- Fresh bark can cause severe nausea (Oops, guess we were foolhardy to be sniffing it so readily!)
- Inner bark is a bright yellow and the sapwood is orange.
- The bark is aromatic and has an extremely bitter taste.
- A relative of the Pink Ivory tree in South Africa. (Some bird completed a transcontinental flight pretty quickly!)
- Skagit people produced a green dye from the bark (Green?? Amazing.)
- Nuu-chah-nulth people used the wood to make chisel handles
- Coastal people knew it as a tonic and as a laxative
- Used as a wash for sores and swellings, treating heart and internal strains and lately, as a wash for cold sores.
- Used to flavour some products and in the production of yellow and green dyes. (Yellow, too??)
- Produces berries appreciated by birds, bear, and raccoons.
“Let’s pick up some pieces to take home on our way back.” I put the bark down and brushed my hands on my pant legs. (My subsequent research claimed that people working with Cascara wood are very careful to not put their hands on their faces in case of severe nausea.)
Further along the trail we came across some animal scat. “Someone must have been riding horses up here,” one of us said. However, the texture and shape of the scat was unhorse-like and certainly was not from a deer. Then we noticed an “old but not aged” pile of fur. It looked like goat fur to me, but domestic goats don’t roam the hills freely.
Susan and I finished our hike and returned to the pumpkin orange pieces of wood. Each of us chose a piece which we set on Susan’s car so we could continue some trail investigation further along the gravel road. When we reached the end of the road, we were in the midst of an enchanting goat farm. The nannies had been busily birthing their wee kids and we stood in the middle of the hopping, racing, climbing, feeding, and…well, you see for yourself:
After dozens of shots, Susan and I left the goat farm feeling blessed to be included in such a family affair. Thank you, Kumi. Your mother, you and your whole family are beautiful inside and out! You made us feel a part of your life for a welcome while.
And now my intrepid readers…there’s a reason I mentioned Cascara berries, scat, bear and goats in one post. However, I’ll have to explain it in the next post. I have no doubt you’ll share my awe. See you anon.