Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Autumn Meanderings


There are those who dislike autumn because it signals that winter will soon be here.  And those who love it, for the very same reason.  But I love autumn for the sights and sounds and smells it brings.  Leaves crunch underfoot. Squirrels chatter in trees as they scramble to gather in the harvest that will sustain them through winter if only they remember where they have hidden the stash. The air is crisp, the sun is bright but low in the sky.  It has been a perfect autumn so far, and I hope we will have at least a couple more weeks of this glorious weather in which to enjoy the outdoors.

Top Bridge Park, Parksville BC

The fall colours provide the perfect backdrop for photos of Maggie, who anticipates my "sit, stay" command as soon as I pull the camera from my pocket.  She has become a ham, plonking herself down in appropriately sunlit-and-leaf-strewn places to wait for the click of the camera and a treat for her cooperation.

You can pay me my modelling fee in cookies, please!

I have done lots of hiking and walking lately - some with Maggie, some with friends, some with both. So come along with me, and see where we have been:

Are ya coming?

My Monday hiking friend and I returned to Strathcona Park to repeat the Paradise Meadows-Lake Helen McKenzie-Battleship Lake loop I'd done earlier with a group - I posted about that hike here.  This time we traveled it at a more comfortable pace, taking many more photos and many more breaks.

Strathcona Park

When we stopped for lunch at Battleship Lake, we were particularly entertained - and sometimes frustrated - by the cheeky whiskey jacks who not only landed on our laps, hands, and heads uninvited but also grabbed pieces of our sandwiches enroute to our mouths!  Eating lunch was an exercise in sneakiness, trying to keep our food covered and hidden at all times.


We also went to Christie Falls near Ladysmith this fall, for the first but not the last time,  as well as Spectacle Lake near the Malahat summit, and Morrell Sanctuary in Nanaimo.  Yesterday, we hiked Enos Lake in Nanoose Bay, but those photos are not yet edited.

Enroute to Christie Falls

Enroute  to Christie Falls

Lower part Christie Falls - first of three falls

Middle part Christie Falls
(We didn't reach the highest one due to some difficult terrain, and a fellow hiker told us 
the third one was pretty much dry. Two creek sources converge; the bottom two falls are fed by a different stream).

The picture at the top of this blog entry is the footbridge where the Christie Falls trail meets up with the Haslam Creek trail - which is part of the Trans Canada Trail system.

The hike at Spectacle lake, on the Malahat, was done on a rainy day, but that generally doesn't stop us. Mags came along, sporting her red raincoat:

Spectacle Lake in the rain


Morrell Sanctuary is beautiful any time of year, but particularly in fall.  I go there often, with both my hiking friends, doing various loop trails around this wonderful nature park. In October, my Monday hike explored the Alder trail, as well as the Beaver Pond trail, High Knoll, and a set of small trails designed for kids, seniors, and people with disabilities.


Morrell Lake

Morrell Lake from above


I love how the brilliant yellow of the leaves shine through the darker evergreens, making the forest appear backlit with sunlight.

My Friday hiking friend and I, who do shorter, even slower walks or 'saunters' as we call them, took the dogs to Bowen Park in the heart of Nanaimo the other week - a perfect urban park for a fall walk in leaves, a fall photoshoot of waterfalls as the Millstream River tumbles over river-smoothed rocks.

Maggie beside Millstream River

Ducks! Maggie's favourite park of any hike!

Heron in Millstream River


Millstream River, Bowen Park, Nanaimo

The falls on Millstream River

The falls on Millstream River, Bowen Park

Last week, we also went to Morrell Sanctuary, one of our very favorite places to saunter, and the thick covering of fallen maple leaves created a lovely camouflage for my friend's pom, Parker.

Trail in Morrell Sanctuary



Parker, in camouflage! 


I've done a few other hikes too.  Mags and I went to Top Bridge Park near our home, and discovered it to be an easy and beautiful hike through meadow, forest, and along riverside.  Part of the trail was closed when we had first checked it out this spring, and I am so glad we went back.  We will be frequent travelers on these trails.


The many colours of autumn
Top Bridge Park

Englishman River, Top Bridge Park


Trestle in Top Bridge Park

We also frequent Englishman River Estuary Park, a wildlife management area, at least a couple of times a week.  The ever-changing views of river and ocean, and a network of wide and narrow trails are always enjoyable.

Englishman River Estuary Park

Maggie on the leaf-strewn trail

On all our walks and hikes this fall, there has been an amazing show of wild mushrooms of all colours, shapes and sizes.  I photographed but a fraction of the hundreds of species we saw.



Last week I checked out the lower section of the Nile Creek trail, north of Qualicum Beach.  Though an easy trail (the upper section is more difficult though but beautiful with many waterfalls, apparently), it was not well signed, and I was not well matched with the fit and fast person I explored it with so I had little time for photos or observations of the beauty around us.  I'll do it again another time with one of my regular hiking companions. 

Log bridge with cable handrail over Nile Creek

My idea of an enjoyable hike is a leisurely wandering with frequent stops to admire the surroundings, take photos, check out a side trail, observe a bird, discover a mushroom or flower or little critter alongside the trail.  I find few people whose style and pace matches my own. I'm so thankful that my Monday and Friday hiking buddies from my former home down island have been willing to continue our hikes/walks even though it frequently means long drives for one or both of us.

And then, of course, there is the beach in fall.  Mags and I go there almost daily on at least one of our two or three daily walks.  The flocks of sandpipers and ducks have come back for the winter, as well as a smattering of eagles and a handful of herons.  The sunrise creates mirror images of far away trees and buildings in the pools between the sandbars, and of the waterfowl that search for snacks in the shallows.  And one morning an otter entertained us as he feasted on his morning catch.

Maggie watches a flock of geese flying noisily across the water

Heron on Parksville Beach, early morning

Reflections between the sandbars

River otter having breakfast on the beach

And everywhere we go, we see the beautiful fall colors - all shades of browns and yellows and orange and red.  How can one not love autumn?




The End


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Days and Nights at Saratoga Beach

[This is the second blog post of my recent vacation at Saratoga Beach on Vancouver Island.  The first focused on sunrises and morning walks;  this one focuses mainly on daytime images and sunsets.]



While sunrise is always my favourite time of the day, and sunrise walks on the beach my favourite activity, a vacation at Breakers Resort on Saratoga Beach isn't just about sunrise.  Even those who prefer to sleep until noon get to witness some beautiful sights.  Of course, they may also miss some marvellous sights, like this seal swimming in a pink and blue sea:


Or the light mist rising as the breaking sun emerges after a stormy night:



But once the sun has risen, one can still see interesting wildlife  - a heron, perhaps, or even some crows fighting over a washed-ashore fish head:




The weather was variable during our week at Saratoga Beach - some sunshine, some rain, some storms.  The glassy-flat water of the first morning and evening gave way to choppy waves  and pounding surf by day three.  While it's nothing like the surf on the west coast of the island, the rhythmic swoosh and splash of waves, Mother Nature's metronome, soothes my spirit like few other sounds.




When the day is calm, Maggie and I enjoy watching boats in the bay, or walking through greenery along the shore a little further afield, or checking out a nearby nature park, or walking the edge of the channel used by boats emerging from the small marina at a nearby RV park:





Maggie, of course, would be happy to spend all day wading in the water or posing on the sand - her favourite sensation is water or sand underfoot, and she has become quite the pro at posing for the camera:



Is this my best side, Mom?


Occasionally, my eye will be drawn away from the water to the beauty of some natural object, like the striated colours in a lovely old stump, or the blush and shine inside an empty shell:



The days at the beach contain their own measure of magic, for sure.  But come evening, the beauty of the morning returns again as the setting sun reflects across the bay and sets the distance clouds afire:





The water calms once again, and paddleboarders and boaters head out for an evening's cruise, sliding silently through the sunset's reflection on the water:




I watch until the light is no more, and then continue to watch as the moon rises above the trees and casts its light upon the water too:


And then I go to bed, lulled to sleep by the sounds of the waves and the scent of the sea air, to dream of another sunrise, another amazing day at Saratoga Beach.



G'night, from Maggie and me.