Sunday, September 27, 2009

Maple Mountain

Yet another new hike today - beautiful fall days and we are making the most of it! Today started close to yesterday's hike - The Escarpment - but went in the other direction - up Maple Mountain. Maple Mountain lies between Crofton, Maple Bay, and Duncan, and has many trails and entrance points.

Our path provided a lovely shaded trek steadily upward, but not so steep as to be exhausting. Bonnie, Bob, Else and I and eight of our dogs took our time (well, the humans took their time - the dogs ran around like someone had fed them too much sugar!). We hiked through dappled sunlight, up an old dirt road with many other trails crossing our path, waiting to be explored.

We came across another cairn, this one quite symmetrical and firmly packed. No geocache in this one!

A further climb and we branched to the right, up a steeper hill to catch our first glimpse of the lake below - Quamichan Lake, just east of Duncan.

Further again ("Let's just go round one more bend....let's just go to the top of that hill.....let's just go to......") and the whole valley opened up beneath us.

On the way down, we noticed mushrooms popping up everywhere dressed in whites and oranges and even polka dots.

More sunlight stretching its fingers through the trees and onto the thick ferns and grasses below.

A great hike, another great day.

PS. Sadie says I don't have enough dog pictures in this entry and I should post this one of her resting on the downward trip.

PPS. I'm off to the mainland in the morning to visit Emma, the piggies, and my mom until Wednesday. Then photography class starts Thursday, so the blog may be quiet for the next several days.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Friday Walk, a new trail explored

This week the dogs and I explored two trails we hadn't tried before: Chemainus Lake, which is an offleash park with a 2.5 km trail through forest around a lake, and a section of the Municipal Forest Reserve which I shall call The Escarpment.

I didn't take pictures on the Chemainus Lake trail earlier this week. It is a good trail for a exercise-focused walk with the dogs but not particularly exciting. The lake can only be glimpsed through the trees from the trail, and is surrounded by swampy land that makes it inaccessible except for right by the dock. The trail approaching the dock is too close to a road for comfort, and a very stinky swamp near the dock (I swear there are bodies buried there!) made it not that pleasant. However, with the dogs on leash near the road and the swamp replenished with fall rain, it could be a comfortable outing for the dogs and me later in the year.

Today's adventure, however, was another matter. The trail climbs gently but steadily through lovely lush forest until it opens up to an old logging road affording views across the Cowichan Valley. From there, it goes steeply downhill where it eventually joins up with one of the main roads. Along the way, there are cross trails that lead to Crofton Lake - one could spend days exploring the area.

Four of us two-leggeds with eight of the four-leggeds began the trek through the trees:

At the top, we surprised a forestry worker planting seedlings - who quickly called out to make sure the dogs didn't help themselves to his lunch! Smart move! once out of the trees, the trail was hot and dusty, but the views (though hazy today) were impressive.

On the downward slope, Bonnie pointed out a pile of rocks (okay, I know there is a name for it, but I'm having a senior's moment), in which someone had hidden a geocache. The geocache is part of an international game in which participants locate treasures all over the world. Hikers are welcome to take a treasure but must leave another in its place. This treasure box contained Disney decals, a Canada pin, a crib board, a multi-purpose knife, a set of screwdriver bits, and various other surprises. We added a marble which Else had picked up on a previous hike. More about geocaching can be found here.

We continued on to where the trail began its sharp descent down the other side, but decided the climb back up without benefit of shade would be a bit much on such a warm day, and so we about-faced and headed back to the shade and seclusion of the trees.

It's a hike I look forward to doing again on a cooler day, one I'm told is wonderful on a crisp winter's day.

And finally, I got a picture of all three wolfhounds together! Bonnie has been asking for one but they never sit still long enough. On this hike, however, they were finally tired enough to sit for a photoshoot. Don't ask me which is which, but these are Blue, Mara and Brianna:

Wednesday Walk

Hiking across the delta
Wednesday was hot and dry, the weather goddesses apparently forgetting it is September. Midsummer temperatures bungie-jumped into the middle of a colourful autumn day. Four humans and eight dogs set out for a day's adventure.

We headed for Swallowfield, where water dogs Tess, Hugo, and Archie love to dive off the rocks into the deep pools of the gently-flowing river. A light breeze teased us into going further - across the delta to the estuary where the non-diving dogs could paddle around in the shallow fingers of cool blue water lazily wending its way to the sea.

The delta hovered between greens and yellows - not ready to relinquish summer, yet clearly hearing the voice of fall. Rosehips are everywhere, replacing the endless blossoms of wild roses of the spring and summer. The red on green gives a Christmassy appearance to the landscape. An apple-pear tree gone wild is loaded with fruit almost ready for the picking. The Hawthorne blackberries are ripening, and while not as sweet as their earlier cousins, they still provide a tasty snack.

Fall colours on the delta


Apple-pear tree

Pears against the sky

(click to enlarge for the full effect, then use back browser to return to the blog)

At the estuary, a plum tree on a high spot between two rivulets offers its globes of sunshine for the tasting. The humans are glad of the sweet refreshment, and the dogs are glad of the cooling waters.

Arriving at the estuary

Sweet yellow plums

Water play time

Wolfhounds on the berm

Charley tests the water

The Dog Who Doesn't Like Water (hah!)

It was hot, and before long, some of the dogs were ready to rest:

Beach Bum Charley

Archie, Watcher in the Woods - er, mudbank

I need a beer!

A good day of fun, friendship, fresh air, beautiful surroundings, and canine companionship.

"Ya do the hokey-pokey...."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Good looking male seeks loving companion

Could you help find me a home please?

This is Kabuki. Kabuki is a young adult neutered male from Turtle Gardens Rescue Society. He thought he had a home but it didn't work out because Kabuki doesn't like being left alone. In fact, he doesn't like it soooo much that he managed to break out through a window. And tried to chew his way through a door. And busted out of his crate. And that's a problem when his human works outside the home.

How can you resist this face????

Kabuki is currently in foster care here on the island. I transported Kabuki to the foster home, and he travelled extremely well in the car for the hour long trip. He showed interest in his surroundings (between bouts of napping) but did not try to escape his safety leash or fly around the vehicle. Nor did he bark, whine, upchuck, or demonstrate other undesireable characteristics in the vehicle.

I'm a very good boy!

He integrated into the foster home's large pack with no difficulty and is being as good as gold. His foster mom is assessing him, and so far he has managed just fine being left confined with two other dogs for a very short time. His foster mom will also assess his tolerance for being left completely alone, but our boy Kabuki would probably do best in a home with at least one canine brother or sister. And, until he shows us differently, he needs an at-home person too.

May I live with you?

Kabuki is peppy without being obnoxious - he loves to run and play, but settles down quickly beside his person or another dog when playtime is over. He is great with other dogs, and we've been told he excelled at doggy daycare. He is still working on his basic commands - he knows "sit" but needs someone to teach him not to pull on the leash. That shouldn't be too hard - he shows promise of being a quick learner, he is alert, focused, and treat motivated. And he only weighs 26 pounds.


If you know of a suitable home for this sweet boy, who longs to bond with a human and to share his world with humans and canines, please contact Turtle Gardens.

You will make me vewy happy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Walks, water, wisdom

There are times when I wish I had a tape player in my brain, recording my thoughts as I meander the trails with my dogs. Sometimes whole books write themselves in my mind on those walks, the perfect wording to be completely forgotten by the time I return home; other times my mind is bombarded with epiphanies of wisdom as little puzzle pieces of my life fall into place; and still other times I am just so awed by the nature around me, so full of laughter and joy from watching my dogs, so at peace with myself and my world, that the only recording would be one very soft, very prolonged "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

Saturday was one of those days when all those things were happening. The day was perfect - sunny with white puffy clouds, a crispness to the air, a light breeze brushing the trees. The house was clean, the fridge was full, and I had nothing on the agenda. And so the big dogs and I headed off to Osborne Bay Park - 65 acres of field, forest and beach, all designated off leash.

As we crossed the open fields and entered the trail through the woods, I had my first epiphany - I have missed solitary walks! Most of the time, the dogs and I walk around town and along the seawall - pleasant and interesting, with frequent stops to chat with other people and dogs. Other times we walk with friends in off leash areas - often a dozen or more dogs at a time and lots of people chattering. I love both those experiences, I really do. But walking the fields and forest and beaches of Osborne Bay Park I realized that one thing I have missed from my former life on the mainland is the pasture walk to the top of the hill where I sat on the bench looking over the valley, meditating and drinking in the beauty while my dogs romped and explored around me, with not a soul in sight.

View from the fields

From forest to ocean

I have avoided lone walking in more remote areas here because of a natural caution of hiking alone - the fear of two legged or four legged dangers that might be out there. But really, the risks of something happening are pretty small, I am outdoors-wise (I used to teach wilderness survival to youth many years ago), I carry pepper spray and a whistle (among other things), and the places I want to explore are quiet but not that isolated - little pockets of beauty within a few minutes from town.

And so the dogs and I walked and jogged and rested and explored and sat and meditated and just enjoyed the day. We saw two people and a dog just leaving the park as we entered it, and we saw two people, no dog, just entering the park as we left it. For the three hours in between, we were totally on our own with nature.

The fields and forest were alive with fall colours. The trees and shrubs bore brilliant red berries and rosehips and seedpods waiting to burst:

Sometimes the dogs would forge ahead while I stopped to photograph something, and other times I was in the lead as they stopped to check out an interesting scent. Suddenly they would note I was out of sight and come barrelling around the bend together:

Wait for us, Mom!

Someone - perhaps a school group or some campers from the nearby children's camp - has placed bird houses high in the trees along the trail:

Soon we reach the bluff where the ocean is visble and the path starts to slope more steeply down to the beach:

And then we are there. Our own private beach. Other islands in the distance, beautiful shells and seaweed and logs and stones. The call of birds large and small, the gentle splash of small waves on the shore. We walk for a while along this stretch of heaven and then rest on a log and I hear my mind exhale....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!. I take deep breaths and let the sounds and sights and scents massage the soul - Mother Nature teaches meditation and relaxation as no other can.

I love the look and feel and smell of wood - from living trees to rotting wood to smooth white driftwood with gentle curves and fascinating shapes. The beauty of the wood at Osborne Bay Park begs a blog post of its own, and I'm saving some photos for a seperate entry, but can't resist sharing this beautiful ocean-washed root:

Or this amazing slice of wood embedded in the sand and shells and stones (click to enlarge and see its full beauty, then use back browser to return to the blog):

The beach is fun for the dogs to explore, and they seem to have an innate sense of what is okay to check out with one's nose and what is not. For example, they both steered clear of the jellyfish that still line the shore :

but had no hesitation to try snacking on this empty crab shell:


Sitting on the log on the beach, I had a second epiphany - if the market hadn't crashed last year, I probably wouldn't be here in this beautiful place. I'd always loved the island and had often thought I'd like to retire there - someday. For a year or more, though, I had been looking at places to buy on the mainland - after all, my family is there, many of my closest friends are there, and I grew up there. But even before the recession, most housing was priced out of my reach and so I was looking in communities and neighbourhoods that weren't really where I wanted to be.

When the market crashed and I lost over 30% of my savings I had two choices - either delay retirement to maintain my income and give my savings a chance to recover, or find somewhere with less expensive real estate. And within a very short time I had made my decision, handed in my retirement notice, and bought my little house in this restful little village. For me, it was exactly the right path. And I think Sadie and Charley agree:

I have always believed that things have a way of working out exactly how they should - that what is scary, frustrating, or saddening one day can turn out to be a blessing the next. I can honestly say, on a day like Saturday as I sat on the beach with my dogs and thanked the Great Spirit for so much beauty in my life, the economic events of last year were truly a blessing for me.

For this woman and her dogs, at least, the universe is unfolding as it should.