Thursday, September 13, 2012

Grace Road Park

Hi! It's me again!  After blogging very sporadically for the past several months, I seem to be blogging every day now.  That's partly because I have a backlog of photos from last week when my Camera Wizard apparently went on vacation.  And it's partly because I'm going on vacation myself next week and really want to get these posts up because I know I'll have tons more photos when I return.  But mostly it's because I'm procrastinating on some tasks I need to do (a grant proposal, a family project, a column to write) but can't quite get my head around.  I'm waiting for the creative juices to flow, the neurons to fire, the people waiting for the stuff to yell at me.   And so I edit my photos and I blog. If you haven't been here for a few days, you have a lot of catching up to do! :)

Three years ago I picked up a glossy brochure about Grace Road Park, just a short ten minute drive northwest of Crofton.  For some reason, I never went there. Two years ago,  I ventured close by while searching for a lost dog, but faced with no signage and long lonely paths, I felt uncomfortable going further on my own. On Saturday, my friend Margaret and I decided it was high time we checked it out. We downloaded information from the North Cowichan website and off we went.

(For local readers:  The directions and description on the North Cowichan website are somewhat confusing, as additional gates have been added well before reaching the ones described on the website.  It may be that the first set of gates will be re-opened when fire season ends, but they were also there when I checked it out in the spring two years ago, so I think the municipality's info is just out of date. There is no signage; nor are there any facilities at this park. ) 

We met behind Russell's Market, Margaret on her scooter and Eddie and I in the van.  Margaret was about to get in the van when traffic was halted by a large flock of birds.  At first glance, we thought they were turkeys - but they ran like quail (VERY large quail!) and had the same little feather sticking from the tops of their heads.  If they were quail, they take the record for the biggest ones on the planet - and better watch out come Thanksgiving! They don't look so big in this photo, but the adults were about 2 feet tall and plenty round.

Birdies out of the way, we headed up Mt. Sicker Road.  The website describes two entrances to the park - Grace Rd and Cranko Road.  They don't tell you that there is no road sign for Grace Road.  We think it is the paved road near the hydro right-of-way, but there is also a gravel road with the signature yellow gate across it on the east side  before  the right-of-way too.

So, lacking further direction, we continued to Cranko Road, which is marked.  We turned as directed and travelled a little ways down until we came to the yellow gate across a gravel/dirt road.  We parked the car and off we went. There are no signs telling you it is a park, no maps, no trailhead post.  Just start walking.

The road forks after a short distance, but a log across the left  fork suggested to us we should keep to the right. Soon we passed by a field of cows enjoying the morning sun.

One was particularly friendly or curious and came right over to say hi!  Eddie was thankfully still on leash - he did not think much of this very big dog and got quite excited!

A small path on the left provided a rather precarious vantage point for looking down at the canyon - it was a long way down, and a very small, unprotected spot from which to look.  Margaret and Eddie stayed on the road.

Look down.  Look waaaaay down. 

We continued on and then came to the power lines and two more yellow gates, one to the right and one to the left. .  This appears to have been the parking lot mentioned in the online park information, though theearlier set of gates prevents vehicle access to it long before it becomes visible.

Again, no directional signs, but we headed on towards the river.  At this point, we were down along the shoreline, with very high cliffs towering above us on the other side.  I think this is Copper Canyon, which I have only accessed from forestry roads above Chemainus Lake.  We didn't find  the "Boy Scout Day Use area mentioned in the website, nor Banon Waterfall - though it is possible the waterfall had just dried up from lack of rain and runoff.  The river was very shallow, clear, and sandy - a perfect spot for wading about and cooling off in hot weather.  I suspect such would NOT be the case in the spring, or even after a rainy fall. But on a warm day in September, the sunlight and the crystal clear water made for some beautiful reflections:

It was lovely walking along the shoreline, sometimes on sand, sometimes on rock, often on little trails through   the trees.  Best of all,  there were none of the expected signs of teen parties, campers, litter, or other signs of a human presence.

Eddie said the water was to his liking.  With no encouragement at all, he started paddling around in it.  However, after a few times of paddling then looking back at me and finally running up to me and performing a very nice 'sit', I realized what was going on.  A few days previous, Gail had bribed him into the water at Crofton Lake with treats, and rewarded him with treats for going in.  That too-smart-for-his-own-good boy had put two and two together and figured he should get a treat each time he goes into water.  Of course I obliged.  He kept up the game until the treats ran out, and then he decided it was time to head home.

Splish Splash!

Is she watching me?

I get a treat for that, right?

Do I have to come get it myself?

Get treat, repeat, get treat, repeat.....

I'm a quick learner!

Other than the turkey-quail and the cows, we didn't see any wildlife except for birds, like this young varied thrush:

And a Red-striped  Ribbon snake (a member of the garter snake family):

But if you decide to go this time of year, do watch for bears (especially around the blackberry bushes) and cougars.  Both are known to inhabit this area. Sing a song, talk to a friend, make a noise and they shouldn't bother you.

We had a lovely walk, on a lovely day, and discovered a beautifully peaceful place to play with a dog, cool our feet, share a picnic, or read a good book.  We'll be going back there for certain.

P.S.  I have disabled that silly "prove you are not a robot" test to make adding a comment easier.  I may have to reinstate it if the spam gets too annoying (so far, only two in twenty four hours), but we'll try it this way.  So comment away - it's not hard.  Don't worry about registering with Google or those other things if you don't want to - you can use 'anonymous' and then just put your name after your comment  (or not, if you prefer to remain anonymous).  As before, your comment will not be visible until I read it first and 'approve' it. 


georgia little pea said...

Blogging every day this week eh? ;) thank god my spurt is done. I'm knackered!

The park looks so pristine and empty. I would be nervous to walk there on my own I think. Isn't Eddie the smarty! Georgia is the same. When there's a treat, she suddenly becomes a genius.

I noticed you did away with the verification thing. THANK YOU! I've always wondered why they have to make it so hard to read. Surely being able to type out random numbers and words would be proof enough without having to ruin someone's eyesight in the process. Anyway, hope the spammers don't act up too much. I delete them every day so they don't build up.

Have a great weekend! X

EvenSong said...

What a lovely little river! The rounded rocks of all sizes were particularly photo-worthy.

I think your big birdies may be guinea hens. I've only seen them a few times, but just skirted a much smaller flock on an alternative route home the other day.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a wonderful place to hike, and I'm envious! (@@)^^^^

Jean said...

EvenSong - I think you are right! I just googled 'guinea hens' and that's what we saw. Thank you!

GLP, you can't be done. Your readers have been enjoying your memory-lane trip so much!

(@@)^^, next time you visit, we'll go there!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful park. I agree with Evensong the birds look like guinea fowl there are 2 that look exactly like that at Hat Creek Ranch.

Congrats on your picture awards, but then you always took good pictures.


Black Jack's Carol said...

Hello Jean, Those guinea hens are wonderful, as were all the other photographs of your beautiful hike. I love it that Eddie has you (and life) figured out so perfectly :) What a gorgeous dog! And, congratulations on those prize-winning photographs. I'm a bit late commenting but I have a (fairly) good excuse. My post is finally published to record our visit with you and Eddie. Thanks again. What fun we had!

Mama Zen said...

What a gorgeous place!

Barry Knister said...

wonderful images. It's truly valuable to be provided with so much evidence of the meaning and beauty of the non-human world. It serves to restore my sense of balance.

ChrisJ said...

Love all these photos. Seems like an ideal place. Eddie is definitely a smart dog!. Different place for water, different person giving treats. But treats are a great motivator.

Anonymous said...

LineoSeelovv the pics..those guineafowl are wonderful watch dogs..they make a real racket if you drive up to a home that has them..people actually have them for that reason alot of times
Eddie is so he not large for a sheltie tho?


Jean said...

Cheryl, he is large for a sheltie. He is 18" at the shoulder, whereas the breed standard is 14-16" for a male. (That's probably why the breeder didn't keep him - silly standards would eliminate him from Conformation competitions and lower his value as a stud dog. Thank Dog!)
He was 50 pounds when I adopted him, but is now a svelte 37.5, about right for his height. Mostly he is just floof and fluff! :)