By David Manning
Trailhead: South Pender, Spalding Road, west entrance/leg of the Enchanted Forest Trail, beginning just left of a private driveway at a sign saying “Waterfall and Viewpoint.”
A few steps into your walk, Take One moment to center yourself. Remember, you’re going to pay attention only to this walk, not allowing your mind to wander elsewhere.
Early in the walk, can you see what I call Quintet Tree, where 5 tree trunks appear to emerge from one place in the ground? Continuing on you’ll see a gnome house door in a Western redcedar, indicating what kind of a stroll this might be—enchanting. How many gnome doors can you find on this trail?
Above this door you will see the workings of a Pileated Woodpecker. These rectangular excavations are frequently seen is this particular tree species all around our island; the bird is searching for bugs to eat and not creating a home to raise a family in. Their nest cavity entrances are elliptical in shape and we may spot one on another walk.
Note the different tree species along the trail. How many can you identify? Before long you’ll hear a waterfall. If you’ve never hiked this trail, imagine what the waterfall might look like before you see it. The trail drops down to a bench where you can now watch it. To my eye and ears this is the best waterfall on the island. The water drops several meters into a pool. Enjoy the view. Close your eyes and just listen to its unique voice. Breathe in deeply the vibration of the waterfall.
This waterfall is the most natural one on Pender—there are no dams to inhibit the stream’s flow to the Salish Sea. We all own this waterfall and the trail leading to it. I’m personally grateful for these public places of beauty and peace. We so need them.
When you’ve soothed your soul sufficiently at this special place, continue on. You’ll come back by this waterfall again. The trail now descends, on the right the sound of the creek, on the left a lovely rock wall covered with moss, ferns and other vegetation. Can you identify any of the plants?
The trail ascends on some stone steps and then drops gently to end at a bench on a bluff overlooking Bedwell Harbor and Beaumont Marine Park. Sit and enjoy the view as well as the vegetation surrounding you. There are several Arbutus trees, a most attractive tree in our Coastal Douglas-fir zone. One might be inclined to call this Arbutus Knoll. Also note a number of low-growing Oregon Grape plants as you listen to the stream down to the right before it enters the ocean.
As you stand or sit, listen and watch for Bald Eagles, Ravens, Gulls, Cormorants and, in summer, soaring Turkey Vultures. A Great Blue Heron flew across the bay below the last time I was here. The high prominence on the right is Mt. Norman and in the far distance is Medicine Beach.
On one of my visits here, I saw a somewhat derelict-looking boat anchored below. My binocular revealed its name to be Exodus. I trust the skipper’s “going out” has resulted in the freedom they seek.
Do you see the invasive Daphne and Broom plants, down slope in front of you? Can you see a former woodpecker’s home? It won’t be used this spring by a woodpecker for nesting since they don’t normally reuse their cavities. However, what other birds and animals might use them?
On your way back along the same trail, hug some trees. How many species did you see? How many gnome doors did you spot?
Last time I walked this trail, a song sparrow talked at me from the sword ferns near the end; it should be nesting somewhere in this area in March or April. Finally, remember to Take One while standing at the end of the trail.
I will be writing about the other trails in Enchanted Forest, when it is a bit drier.