Sunday, August 8, 2021

Nile Creek Trail(s) - Two trails, a year apart.

Some days I think my mind is failing faster than my body - I wrote this entry the evening of  July 6th, had the photos all watermarked and ready to add first thing in the morning ..... and promptly forgot about it.  I discovered it, unposted,  when I came here today to do another post.  So here ya go, oh patient ones, a rather belated post of a hike from over a month ago:

The problem with not blogging regularly is that I have no permanent record of some of my previous hikes - when I did them, how tough they were, how long they took.  My writing on Facebook  tends to be minimal in these details, plus Facebook tends to arbitrarily delete old posts.  I do know that it was about this time last year that my hiking buddy and I did Nile Creek West - a hike which, for me, was one of the toughest ones I'd done in many years - log bridges,  slick boards or thin logs with (or more often without) ropes to hang on to, rustic steps and round slabs of tree to help us through the boot-sucking mud.  But it was one of so much beauty - a dozen waterfalls, so much greenery, birds, berries, creeks, trees that touch the sky and were so wide around that it would take several people holding hands to encircle their trunks.  

Sections of Upper (West) Nile Creek Trail

Some sights along the way

Waterfalls on Upper (West) Nile Creek Trail

More waterfalls....

So many waterfalls!

Our lunch a waterfall.

The previous autumn,  buried in a long blog post about many autumn hikes, I had mentioned hiking part of Nile Creek East (also called the Lower Nile Creek trail).  I had gone with someone whose pace was not well matched to mine.  It was a gentler hike than Nile Creek West, and not as dramatic, but the speed at which the other person insisted on going spoiled it for me and I swore that one day I would go back to enjoy it.  

This week my regular hiking buddy and I did just that - we explored Nile Creek East at our well matched pace with lots of time to stop and enjoy fresh berries, listen to birds, discuss unusual plants or trees or whatever else caught our eye.  

Large white fungi

Huckleberries - lots of yummy huckleberries!

Monitropa Uniflora - also known as ghost plant, ghost pipe or Indian pipe. 

One tree dies and serves as food (and a ladder!) for another. 

Okay, we did get a little confused as there were several forks in the path and very little in the way of signs.   Never mind, we had compasses, common sense, a basic mental layout of the area, and although we did hit muddy bogs and steep inclines and took a few wrong turns, we made it back in one piece. Even better, we had a great time doing it. 

Only one log bridge, with a sturdy cable rail, on the East (Lower) Nile Creek Trail

An early-falling maple leaf drifts lazily down the creek

We called this a |"Neapolitan rock" as it was chocolate on the bottom, vanilla in the middle and strawberry on the top! 

One of the highlights was a barred owl.  I've seen barred owls on several of my hikes in the past couple of years. Invariably, I hear the sound of agitated robins, and when I look carefully in the trees where the birds are fluttering about in near panic, there camouflaged by tree bark will be a barred owl. That is what happened this time. Just as we spotted it, it looked over its shoulder at us. 

The owl permitted me to take a few more shots before flying off.  A few minutes further down the trail, we heard the robin ruckus again.  Just as we rounded a curve in the trail, our barred owl drifted down right in front of us, facing us with wings outspread and lightly striped belly facing us as it gently slipped down into the sword ferns not five feet in front of us.  My reflexes were not quick enough to catch the owl parachuting down, and once in the ferns where he hopped around doing a little owl dance he was partially obscured by foliage until once again there was lift off and he flew away.  That is one image I may not have on my camera's memory card, but it is certainly in my cranial memory!  

Our plan was to do a loop trail, going further than I had walked (or run!) on my previous visit.  We found a sign directing us to the "Donkey Trail" and ascended a steep narrow path to another wider, flatter cross trail.  Along that trail we discovered vanilla plant in seed, wild blackberries and raspberries, and - a donkey.  

Vanilla plant in seed

Wild blackberries

No, not that kind of donkey - an old donkey engine.  I would have been more thrilled to find a real donkey, the kind that goes hee-haw (one of my favourite animals!), but at least we figured out why it was called the Donkey Trail.  

Donkey engine on the donkey trail

We then continued along until we were reached the point where one would go under the highway to connect to Nile Creek West, at which point we took a trail back down, sticking close to the creek whenever we came to unmarked forks.  That decision led us through some mucky mud, and entailed a bit of bushwhacking, but we found some lovely spots and ate our lunch sitting on a log beside a tree where a redbreasted sapsucker was also enjoying his lunch.  After a refreshing break, we headed on and eventually got back to familiar territory and the trail that would take us back to the car. 

Our lunchtime companion - a sapsucker

I haven't done much hiking lately - between my hiking/walking friends' surgeries, record-breaking temperatures, and covid restrictions, we cancelled more than committed to our days out.  And Maggie has had some health issues (arthritic hocks, a systemic bacterial infection that affected her paws, and a few other age-and-allergy related issues) so even my walks with her have been minimal.  So my hiking buddy and I were both somewhat out of shape. East Nile Creek (aka Lower Nile Creek)  would be an easy hike for a fit person, a moderate one (at least in places) for relatively out of shape seniors. We took 4.5 hours to go 5.5 miles ( just under 9 km).  But as I said, we take our time to enjoy the scenery, to discuss what we see, to take photos, and to break for lunch. 

For me, hiking is all about the journey, not the speed and distance.  And a beautiful journey it was. 

A peaceful and pretty spot for a rest

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Canada Day 2021 - A day to reflect, a time to act

With open heart and arms outstretched, I give thanks to the Coast Salish peoples on whose unceded territory I hike, camp, photograph, and live. 

For the past ten years, I have written a post every July 1st, Canada Day, in tribute to this country that I love.  Each year I have used a combination of prose and some of my photos from the past 12 months.  It has always been a celebration of my country, it has always been a post full of joy. 

That is hard to do this year.  With the recent determination of hundreds of unmarked graves and the recovery of what will be thousands of indigenous children's bodies on the grounds of residential schools, celebration is hardly a fitting word. How can we celebrate a Canada that officially became a nation through a process of destroying the indigenous nations that lived here, their peoples, their languages, their cultures, and their families?

I am a settler. I arrived in Canada when I was a child of five, at a time when indigenous children were being snatched from parents and flown hundreds of miles away to residential schools. At a time when those children were beaten for speaking their native language, forbidden to talk to their siblings, abused physically and sexually,  indoctrinated into a foreign culture, a foreign religion.

We settlers have known of this abuse for years.  It has been documented for decades and spoken of by many. We heard the stories from the survivors.  I have personally  heard the stories of the survivors - from students who were survivors, from students who were children of survivors,  from a friend who was a survivor. And yet, like many other settlers, I thought "How horrific - I'm thankful that is past history!"

It is not. 

Cultural genocide and racism of many decades has implications for every future generation.  It cannot be erased.  It is our past, it is our present, and we must act to find our collective future. In the words of a friend, we must "rid ourselves of complacency and complicity, and ally ourselves in ways that will enable settler society to co-exist peacefully, respectfully, and justly with indigenous peoples."  (Karen Evans, 2021)

I write this blog from the perspective of a white, senior, nature loving, west coast, island-dwelling female settler.  Yet long before I breathed in the magic of the ocean air, 

walked barefoot on the beach, 

hiked forest trails, 

long before I came to this country, the indigenous peoples of the many First Nations of this land  shaped their own cultures, their own belief systems, their own economies, raised their own families amid their own kin groups.   So while I call Canada "my country"  and pay tribute to her through my photos, I am cognizant of the many indigenous peoples who walked these trails before me and who had their cultures, their freedoms, their traditional lands, their names, their lives stolen from them. 

These are lands indigenous children walked before being stolen from their families:  

These are birds indigenous children saw before being abused by government, churches, and appointees of same: 

These are lakes and oceans in which indigenous children swam and played and learned to canoe and kayak before being taken to residential schools far from home:

And rivers where they fished, and rushing waterfalls they portaged:

These are plants indigenous children saw and learned their names and uses: 

These are mountains beneath whose peaks indigenous children learned skills from their elders, sat round the fire with their brothers and sisters, whispered goodnight to their parents. 

And so, as you walk these  beaches with me,

And see how the seas have shaped the land, 

Remember that our histories shape our cultures,  and our attitudes shape our relationships, our politics, our laws. 

We cannot undo the past, but going forward we have an opportunity to be our best selves.

May we stretch our wings,

May we stick together

Even when we stand alone.

May we overcome obstacles,

And travel our journey thru life beside one another, in peace:

May we come together,

And protect the children of the world.

We must persevere.  We cannot turn our backs and hide.

May all have plenty to eat,

A place to rest when we are tired.

friends with whom to share with joy,

music to sing, 

family to love.

We will get there, Canada,

When all have clean water, safe homes, enough food to eat and some to share,  a means of economic support,  good physical and mental wellbeing, friends of many nationalities working cooperatively, respecting each other, supporting each other,  

Then perhaps we will be able to say we have done our best.

So as we celebrate today  the rising and setting of the sun,

The flight of the birds,

The ebb and flood of tides,

The many coloured palette of nature,

The wildlife around us.... we marvel at these natural wonders of our beautiful country, let us look to the future with hope, with compassion and understanding, ready for action.

Let us be prepared to work, individually and collectively, for a brighter tomorrow for all.

Let us define progress not by the size of our homes or the number of 'smart' devices, not by  wealth nor the power the wealthy may hold, not by the advances in space travel,

but let us define progress by the people who are loved,

the environment that is tended, 

the water that is clean, 

the air that is pure, 

and most of all, 

by the communities of people who are healthy, strong, and working together. 

That is my dream.  That is my challenge - to myself, and to you my readers. 

Weep for the children of the past whose little bodies are being recovered now,  and take action for those living through the trauma of the past and for the children of the future. Then, once again, we may be able to say "Happy Canada Day!"


Here are some resources to help you on your journey: