By David Manning
Image by Dave Manning
We need not look or think very far afield to notice the many disturbing planetary conditions, even here on Pender. We each do our part to counteract these situations.
One avenue I’ve found to remain balanced and peaceful is Nature, whether looking out my bedroom window or walking along an island trail. I intend to write a series of articles at this site to help me, and hopefully you readers, source more contentment in these challenging times.
I’m calling this series, “Walks With Dave—Trailheads to Inner Peace.” Join me here over the next months as we explore together some of the unhidden charms of our island.
Thoreau once wrote, “We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure….If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free person, then you are ready for a walk.”
An exaggeration, of course, the point being—treat each walk as if it will be your last experience on Earth. It could be. You will have to adjust your walks according to whether you walk alone, with friends, or kids. On the walks to follow, we will saunter along, proceeding as inspired.
Walking in Nature should free us from our obligations to society, allowing us to leave the world behind and focus only on what we encounter on each walk. You might consider bringing along a binocular, camera, snacks, water and a bit of plastic to sit on damp spots.
The trails to follow are all public places. Where else would we walk if not for these protected areas? And remember to respect private property.
I have to confess that as I grow older, I spend less time outdoors, spending more time on indoor pursuits. Sometimes I must force myself up and out, knowing this to be the better part of wisdom. If your body doesn’t move easily outdoors, enjoy Nature from your deck or out your windows. For those of you who can walk, turn off your computer, radio or TV, get up out of your favourite chair and amble away, determined to be at home everywhere.
For more specific information regarding trailhead locations, you can purchase the Community Trail Guide at the Pender Island Conservancy Nature Centre at Hope Bay.
We will break down our walks into the four seasons, beginning with a winter waterfall walk. Let’s go!
1. Buck Lake to Schooner Way
Trailhead: Buck Lake on Spyglass Road
This trail is rather short, twice as long if you make it a round-trip walk, coming back up the same way.
Before beginning your walk, gaze across Buck Lake to see if you can spot any ducks. Bald Eagles sometimes perch in the trees around the lake, looking for a snack or drying off after a bathe.
A few meters after you leave the trailhead, you’ll see a large boulder on your right covered with moss. Stop. Examine this beautiful object, particularly the colours. As you stand, eyes open or closed, take about one minute of quiet to clear your mind of everything but just this moment. We will do this Take One practice at the beginning and end of all our walks.
As you carry on you’ll soon see some salal plants along both sides of the trail. The last two times I walked this trail a song sparrow on the right side was talking at me from the shrubs. These birds reside on our island in year-round territories—you may see or hear this same sparrow on your walk. In the spring it will nest somewhere in this general area; if you walk the trail then, you may hear its lovely song, one of the brightest and cheering songs of all our island birds.
As you descend some steps, you’ll begin to hear, then see, a waterfall. Shortly thereafter you will almost rub shoulders with a large Douglas-fir tree. Attached to the tree is a round metal tag with the number 088. This tree has been entered into the Pender Island Big Tree Registry. If you know of some big trees on Pender of any species, contact our Conservancy to see if it might be a candidate for the registry. Standing here, note the waterfall below to your left.
Image by Dave Manning
Continuing on you will soon cross a boardwalk with railings and see a second waterfall cascading over several layers of stone. After descending some more steps, you’ll have some fine photo opportunities of the waterfall. Admire the view for a while. I got right into this waterfall by focusing my binocular for several seconds on one spot in the falling water.
A little later you will come to a nurse log with a cut-out section to walk through. What plants can you see growing on this log?
As you walk across a second boardwalk you will come very close to another tree, a huge Western red-cedar, commonly found in damp areas. This tree species has been extremely important to the northwest coast First Nations peoples, having many uses, from canoes to clothing. It is also B.C.’s provincial tree. It burns easily and I use it as kindling to help ignite our wood stove fires. Lean your back against the tree and see if you can feel its strength. What other cedars do you see growing in the area?
Next you will visit an elfin village nestled at the base of two cedars and a Douglas-fir; let me know if you see real gnomes or elves. After squeezing between a cedar and a Douglas-fir, you’ll spot another lovely cedar growing from the creek.
This portion of the trail ends at Privateers Road. Cross the road and continue on the trail.
A few meters along is another large cedar on the left looking down on the stream. Across from this cedar on the opposite side of the trail, upslope on the right, examine some of the exposed root system of a smaller Douglas-fir. A few meters later you will encounter another Douglas-fir up close, just after which a short side trail takes you to a bench overlooking another waterfall descending steeply. As you sit there with your eyes closed, allow the sound to refresh your sense of hearing.
Return to the main trail and continue on. Watch your step on the wet rocks and roots.
Eventually from a little knoll, look down to your right at a grove of red alder trees, amongst which you’ll see numerous unwanted invasive plants, daphne, a shrub that was not seen on the island just a few years ago. Originally only growing in private gardens, it has now spread far and wide across the island. It is poisonous, can create a severe rash on the skin—I know because it happened to me once!—and never burn it since the oils can cause lung damage. And you don’t want kids or pets messing with it. Unfortunately, it grows in wet and dry, high and low, sun and shade environments, crowding out native plants. Take steps to remove it from your property, asking Pender Conservancy for the best way to deal with it.
The trail ends at Schooner Way but you may want to walk a short distance east (left) to the Boat Nook trailhead and walk the few meters to a lovely ocean overlook with a bench, two chairs and a binocular.
This is a great place for a rest and a snack as you look out to the Salish Sea.
In the water below I recently saw a lone harbour seal repeatedly darting about underwater, then surfacing to watch me.
A Belted Kingfisher flew across the bay giving its loud rattling voice, then perched on a rock a few meters above the water. It’s a year-round resident and is always looking for small fish, its primary prey. It habitually dives directly into the water, often surfacing with a fish, returns to a perch where it beats the fish on a limb or rock, then tosses it in the air, swallowing it headfirst.
In the distance are some little islets, a resting place for species like cormorants, gulls, black oystercatchers and harbour seals. To the right of these rocks is a kelp bed.
Before leaving this lovely spot, Take One again to reflect on your entire walk.
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