Halcyon days: a period of peace and happiness; an idyllic time; also, a period of calm weather during the winter solstice. ( Dictionary.com)
The day began like any other. I dragged myself out of bed at 5 AM, to the persistent mewing of a hungry cat and the excited chattering of a sheltie who needed to make sure I knew the cat was calling me. I shuffled around doing the usual early morning chores: let dog out, let dog in, feed animals, make coffee, check facebook, make bed, scoop litter box, have shower, get dressed, and, as it was Monday and one of my regular hiking days, pack my lunch and thermos into my backpack alongside my emergency supplies. The weather forecast was for a nice day - a welcome relief in a sometimes stormy, sometimes foggy, and often grey and wet month.
My friend and I planned to explore a park about an hour's drive away - one we had not been to before - and because I was not sure what the terrain would be like I opted to leave Maggie at home. Handling trekking poles and a dog leash on unstable or slippery or muddy ground is a recipe for disaster for this falling-apart-at-the-joints body. So before I could head out hiking, Mags needed a good walk. And as we stepped out in the breaking dawn, magic began to happen.
The fog that had encased us the day before lifted, layer by layer, and the skies and seas turned orange and yellow with hints of purple and blue.
I love our island sunrises - they are frequent and beautiful and they chase away the winter doldrums like nothing else can do. Well, maybe like 'almost' nothing else can do, because the day just went from beautiful to outright fantastic.
Maggie fully exercised, fed, and toileted, I threw my gear in the car, picked up my hiking buddy, and off we went to Moorecroft Regional Park in Nanoose Bay. Once a girls camp, then a United Church camp, it is now a beautiful ocean front park with well maintained easy trails, a meadow, a small swampy lake, an old cabin, rocky shores and small bluffs....and never ending views of tiny islands.
We tromped around the beaches for awhile, admiring driftwood and windswept trees, and watching cormorants on a rocky outcrop. They reminded me of tourists watching the surf at Tofino - standing there admiring the view until that surprise sneaker wave rolls in and drenches them completely.
Then we took the trail through a lovely forest with lots of bright sword fern. We checked out a few side trails, then crossed through the meadow and stopped by the lake to admire the mirror-image reflections of foliage in water.
Returning along the loop trail, we found ourselves back near the ocean, where we enjoyed the view of the snowy mountains on the mainland as we ate our lunch to the sounds of ocean waves, bird song, and the rustle of leaves.
It was only early afternoon, so rather than head home, we decided to check out a second but smaller regional park nearby - Beachcomber Regional Park. There we followed the short trail down to a rocky beach with plenty of flat sandstone and shale rocks and tidal pools, and more incredible views.
We heard eagles calling, and turned to see a pair high in a tree above us, their eyes scanning the waters for fish
We watched the colourful Harlequin ducks, who look like someone has meticulously painted their feathers with intricate designs in grey and white and black and brown.
We chatted quietly as we admired the nearby mountain (Mt Arrowsmith, I think), and a bare tree clinging to a small rocky bank, and the many geological formations, one of which we likened to an anvil.
And then, as we were trying to decide if that was a seal or another rock beyond the Anvil Rock, the sea lions that had been barking in the distance for much of the morning suddenly gave us the show of a lifetime. First one, then three, then groups of five and six and three more and another five, on and on they came - an endless stream of sea lions slide past us not 30 feet from shore, some even closer as they skirted the overhanging rocks. And they raised their heads and barked at us, barked at each other, splashed and fished and played and dove and barked some more. Dozens of them, all coming from across the bay, down the shore, and congregating just beyond the anvil rock.
I live within sound of a sea lion colony and hear them often for their voices carry far, but never have I seen them up close, and even my best telephoto lens can only capture their general shape. For the eight and a half years I've lived here, I've wanted to see them at a distance more amenable to photographing their faces.
All it took was a halcyon day in January and a serendipity stop at a little regional park an hour from home.
Life doesn't get much better than this.