Plant identification and gastronomy
Blog Collection

Blue Lake, in Colorado's Indian Peaks wilderness, is one of my favorite hiking destinations. It was first introduced to me by my friend Anne - we met at a meetup group, her agenda was to find a hiking buddy, and this was one of the first hikes we went on!


This is a moderate hike, especially hard on the lungs if you don't live at a high elevation. It starts at the Mitchell Lake trail head in the Brainard Lake recreation area at 10,480 feet in elevation. Get to the trail head early, as especially on weekends the trail head parking lot is full by as early as eight or nine am. On weekends now they have staff redirecting people to the main parking lot down near Brainard Lake, which will add over a mile each way to your hike to and from the car. There are some indications a shuttle service may start in the future. On weekdays it can be worth waiting in the parking lot if you get there at around ten or eleven, and grabbing a spot as early hikers return.


IMG_9481ethThe first mile of the trail is to Mitchell Lake. I asked poor Paul to get up at four am for the nearly two hour drive from Denver. We arrived at Mitchell Lake just as the sunshine was climbing down the mountainside to touch the lake.


IMG_9498ethFrom there the trail gets a lot more rocky and steep, though the trail levels out a little once you get up the ridge above the lake.











The trail takes you two and a half miles one way, with extra distance you can walk along the lake shore and on the steep slopes above the lake if you wish (there is a smaller lake above on an unmaintained trail called "Little Blue Lake". The lake itself is at 11,320 feet.





I recommend doing this hike during August or early September (the area closes to car traffic into the trail heads on September 15, adding another four miles one way to the trail head). I wouldn't take this trail any earlier than early July as the snow melts late up there - expect to see patches of snow even in September. At this time the wildflowers are at their peak, and you can get some marvelous displays!!


I played with some black and white photos of trees and logs on the way up:


IMG_9586e1thA marmot stood sentinel on a rock, warning his harem of approaching humans.

















IMG_9657ethHere's the REAL reason I dragged my sorry arse up there so early in the morning. I'd actually done this hike three days prior to this, with my bestest hiking buddy Anna Banana. She always has to go "just around the corner" and she did at the lake... and came back saying that I might want to go a little further as there was a nice stand of flowers.


Oh! My! I love Indian Paintbrush, and I loved discovering the three colors (red, pink, white) that I've seen on this hike previously. But never all together like this. Just.... WOW.


IMG_9680e3thHowever not only was the light not the best (it was after midday when Anna Banana and I were there) and I also discovered that the camera settings I had struggled to get set right at the beginning of the hike hadn't "stayed" somehow. I really wanted Raw images of such a gorgeous scene. Our early morning hike was rewarded with lovely cloud patterns both over the mountains and across the sun, causing stripes of sun to fall across the mountains ahead. 





IMG_9912ethThe only disappointment of the day was that the wind was up right from before we started hiking. I was hoping for a calm early day with a lake surface like glass, but from a close perspective these choppy waves were also very interesting.











Another advantage of fall is that it is very likely that you will see moose from the trail, or around the Brainard Lake area. Even though these are used to people, they can be very dangerous animals and it's best to keep a very good distance. Here's a snapshot of one I took from the car as we drove past on our way home. There were a lot of other people, some only thirty or so feet away, taking photos, but I'd wrenched my knee a bit and decided to stay in the car - and in safety.



 And finally, we drove back through the town of Ward and stopped at their general store for coffee and cookies. They have the most delightful cookies baked daily.   I took the opportunity to take some shots of the new "art" in the broken window of the truck that forms a feature in the towns main "junk sculpture".





Mmmm, a totally blissful way to spend a morning. We were home for lunch and instead of sleeping in, we had a lovely afternoon nap!


Photos (16)
Mitchell Lake
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 10 (Last: LittleOddMe · 8/26/13 7:41 PM)

I am so in love with my Canon 60D. It was so long after sunset when I took this photo - it's 3200 ISO and still less grainy and more detailed then my bridge cameras would have been at 400 ISO. 


I was surprised when A- told me this was St John's Wort, you'd think I'd have remembered it since I have a garden full of plants I THOUGHT were St John's Wort.... but now I discover they aren't. Which is just as well, as I ripped them all up.


IMG_7055 yellow th


For more information about St John's Wort used as an herbal remedy click here.

Photos (1)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 6 (Last: LittleOddMe · 6/12/11 6:14 PM)



This is a wild geranium, also known as cranesbill (referring to the shape of the seed pod). That's the leaves of the plant in the photo. It could also be a Meadow Geranium, but I'd have to look under the flower to be sure (the hairs on the pedicels are glandular - weren't you just dying to know that?) One of these days I'm going to have to remember to bring samples home with me when I'm doing precise identification.


As always, I'm fascinated by the herbal medicinal properties of the plant. From the website linked above:


Wild Geranium is valued as a useful astringent and hemostatic. The roots contain large amounts of tannin, which is a bitter-tasting polyphenol produced by the plant. Polyphenols bind and precipitate proteins explaining its properties as both an astringent and styptic. When applied topically, an astringent binds to the mucous membrane causing it to constrict or shrink. This process serves the dual purpose of both protecting the area to which it was applied and promoting healing. A hemostatic is any agent that stops bleeding through mild coagulation of skin proteins.


Early Native Americans recognized the value of Wild Geranium and used it as an ingredient in many medicinal treatments. Chippewa Indians used dried, powdered rhizomes mixed with grape juice as a mouthwash for children with thrush. A poultice from the base or pounded roots of the plant was used to treat burns and hemorrhoids. The leaves and roots were used to treat sore throats, hemorrhages, gonorrhea, and cholera. Like many other tannin-containing substances, Native Americans also used Wild Geranium as an anti-diarrhea treatment. A plant- infused tea was made to achieve this purpose, though some sources say the tea could have had the opposite effect, causing constipation.



And of course, um, this is .... uh... grass.

Photos (2)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 8 (Last: LittleOddMe · 5/19/11 5:42 PM)

An old post from when I lived in CT.


A- introduced me to rock tripe today. She broke off into the woods and showed me this fantastic cascade of lichen down the face of a large boulder.

rock tripe 1

I took a piece home with me. It's sitting on my kitchen bench now, daring me to prepare and eat it.


Here's what I have discovered about rock tripe. The Encyclopedia Brittanica says:


...lichen of the genus Umbilicaria, sometimes used as emergency food by soldiers or explorers. It contains about one-third more calories than equal amounts of honey, corn flakes, or hominy; however, this lichen cannot seriously be considered as a food crop because of its slow growth rate. Rock tripe was boiled by Washington’s troops at Valley Forge. In Japan U. esculenta, called “iwa-take,” or “rock mushroom,” is sold as a delicacy and eaten in salads or fried in deep fat. Species of rock tripe are also used as dyes.


rock tripe 2The Hiker's Notebook has an excellent entry on Rock Tripe.



 adirondack almamac - asks me to report on how it was when I ate it. I'll have to remember to do that.


I just did some research on the Chinese medicinal properties. It is supposed to be good for virility and for bleeding of the bowels and prolapse of the anus. Also I found a couple of sources that stated its antibacterial properties.


So... time to test it as a food. To prepare my sample, I washed it for a couple of minutes in cold water, removing any grit. I cut off the stem that had anchored it to the rock. Then I boiled it four times - each time boiling it for ten minutes then discarding the water, refilling and repeating. As you can see the black backside stayed black (and feels very slightly furry on the tongue), but the tan inside turned an interesting shade of dark green and feels a little rubbery.


As for the taste? Well... there really isn't one. With the small boiling time, I expected some bitterness, but there wasn't any. The texture was very pleasing to me, not at all rubbery or gluey which is what other articles have lead me to expect from this. It reminds me a little of eating certain types of cooked seaweed.


Would I eat it again? Definitely. I haven't finished this whole piece just because I want to be cautious about digestive upset, but as long as it all goes well, then I could see it as an interesting addition to a stirfry for sure.



iwatake harvesters The history of it as an asian food delicacy and chinese herbal medicine has apparently led to quite a business of harvesting it. I read on one blog (which unfortunately I can't find again) about an old japanese saying that you should never let a room to a iwatake harvester as chances are they will die before paying the rent. Seeing this print of a harvester hanging off of a cliff I can believe it.


It makes me wonder .... is there a market for selling rock tripe to Japan? Maybe that's my next career - rock tripe exporter extraordinaire. I'm unlikely to do that though - it would seem a shame and a waste to harvest a plant that has taken a hundred years or so to grow to an edible size.

Photos (4)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Lori · 9/9/13 10:18 AM)
Powered By