The last day of February

Where did the time go? Well, some of it went to walking in the woods.

winter alders
Light and shadow and it’s still wintery enough for the light to be all golden.

Continue reading “The last day of February”


A walk in the wet

boots in water

It’s been raining quite a bit recently, which means that sometimes rubber boots are better for hiking than anything else, at least on some trails. And as we’d had some particularly heavy rain recently, yesterday I thought, ah yes, a perfect time to go off on a side track that I know leads into a low wet area! I won’t see a soul on it! (Not that it’s unusual to hike without seeing a soul, but yesterday I was feeling a tad misanthropic.)

big puddles on trail

And… yes, clearly rubber boots were a good plan. There aren’t usually big puddles on this part of the main trail.

overgrown trail and dog

Now the side trail. It’s not heavily used, so bits of it get a little overgrown.

drowned trail, dog

Golden retrievers don’t mind puddles. (And yes, this is the trail.) Which is fortunate, considering that the puddles extended on either side of the trail, so they weren’t really possible to avoid.

dog splashing through drowned trail

Golden retrievers looooovvvve puddles. Especially big ones filled with chewable old wood. (This is also trail.)

digging implement hanging from tree

This is not a puddle, but a surprise, hanging handily from a tree. What could a gardening implement be doing hanging by the side of a half-invisible singletrack mountain-bike trail through government lands?

drowned trail

And yes, that is the trail. Actually, at the arrow, it was changing from deep pool to stream. And I will just mention that at their deepest, the puddles came to within scant inches of the tops of my boots, requiring a sort of cautious gliding motion rather than exuberant splashing.

turkey-tail type fungus on a log

But water and mysterious trowels weren’t the only things we saw. There were some lovely funguses.

maple tree and mossy stump

There were even some relatively dry parts. And lots of dead leaves and moss.

Altogether, it was a lovely walk. Or splash. Whatever.


A couple of friends and I went up to Extension Ridge this week. They’d done it before in winter and said it was extremely beautiful; we figured it would be a good leisurely day hike.

trailhead by powerlines

The trailhead wasn’t terribly prepossessing, I must say.

Luckily I’d looked up the trail before we went, so the fact that a big chunk of forest next to it had been clearcut this year (it crosses private timber license land) was not a surprise. But as clearcuts always are, it was, well, pretty barren.

arbutus trees in clearcut

I’m not sure why they left the arbutus trees standing. I guess they’re not considered salable? Their forms against the sky were quite beautiful, though.

arbutus trees in clearcut

First point of interest: the Abyss. This is an earthquake fissure, though one source I found said that it was likely to be the result of a collapsed mine tunnel triggered by an earthquake. Either way, earthquake, and I’m glad I wasn’t there when it happened.

the abyss - a rock crevice

the abyss - a rock crevice

The view looking away from the clearcut wasn’t half bad.

view looking away from clearcut to mountaibn

More clearcuts, but higher now, so we got a view of the city and Gabriola and Protection Islands beyond and the Coast Mountains beyond that.

view across clearcutsmall dog between big stumps

The path, once we got away from the clearcut, wandered along the ridge through fir and arbutus trees—far more of the latter than I’m used to seeing. It really was beautiful, and completely worth getting through the shock of the clearcut. We wandered on for a bit and then had some snacks and carried on.

arbutus silhouetted against sky

Arbutuses really are quite indecently beautiful.

closeup of arbutus barkmanzanita

And there was manzanita!

sacred circle

And there was… a thing. A roundabout of sorts in the middle of the woods. I looked it up afterwards. This is apparently known as the Sacred Circle: “A large rock compass that holds offerings from riders and hikers past. Always ride around the shrine counter-clockwise three times!!!”

(This whole area is riddled with mountainbike trails, some of which went over what I would call small cliffs. Eep.)

sacred circle offerings

Some of the shrine offerings are more respectful than others. Though I did like all the dragons.

small dog on top of ridge

Getting closer to the end of the stretch of trail we were doing, we found a lovely lookout, complete with a metal bench. It was a memorial to Astraea, a much loved boxer dog. A great place to sit and nibble some more. I personally did not, alas, have dog treats, despite the hopeful looks.

end of trail

And another unprepossessing trail end. This is where we turned around and headed back. We figure it was about 10 kilometres return, so a nice walk for a September day.

arbutus trees standing in clearcut, silhouetted against clouds

And one last arbutus skyscape, taken on the return trip.


Well, not all of them are odd, but certainly there were some on a recent walk.

split tree trunk

This was the first one. Why had someone chiseled 3 holes into this tree trunk? It was done by humans, not animals; I know pileated woodpeckers peck rectangular holes, but they aren’t quite as rectangular and smooth-sided as this. And it looked like it was a few years old, and dug in rather than being a simple blaze.

But here’s the other thing—the tree originally caught my eye because it was so obviously 2 trees nestled together; the trunks stood out because they were differently coloured.

top of treetrunk that's not split

Except they weren’t. Higher up, they were clearly joined, and in fact the split doesn’t go through to the other side of the tree.

old burned out stump

This burned out stump wasn’t an oddity, particularly, but the hole was like an eye to the rest of the forest.

tree stump hanging in air

Another oddity. When trees fall over I’m not used to seeing the end with the roots suspended fifteen feet up. (It had fallen into the space between two other trees and jammed fairly high off the ground, and the weight of the crown had pulled the root ball into the air.)

mushrooms on treetrunk

And this isn’t an oddity at all, just some nice fungus.

details of underside of mushrooms

And a detail, because I can.

Today I walked a new trail.

dog on very overgrown trail

This, however, is not it. This is an old trail that I walked first. It’s, erm, a little overgrown at the moment.


Does Our Dog care about that, though? Nah!

dog foot in moss

Gratuitous photo of Our Dog’s foot in moss, just because both are so pretty.

trail through moss

And okay, here’s a picture of part of the new (to me) trail. It’s a pretty one.

A discovery

One of the things I like about having a 700 acre park to explore is that you keep finding new trails even after some years of intensive exploration. Yesterday some of us found a new-to-us trail; I’m not sure how long it’s actually been there. I suspect it’s fairly recent or I’d have noticed it before. Anyway, Our Dog and I came back today to walk it in the other direction.

two trails

Not all trails are very noticeable. (Yes, the arrow indicates the trail we found.) I tend to follow what look like deer trails off the main trails, just to see if they turn into something more substantive; I’ve found quite a few trails this way.


Ah yes. The mountain bikers have been working on this one. I ride my bike on trails by preference, but not on those trails that require me to go up and down big piles of wood or over big rocks (or negotiate drop-offs—my bike’s suspension may be capable of it, but my personal suspension is past its best-by date).

light catching jelly fungus

And I found a photographic treasure today; jelly fungus catching a wee bit of light.

Frosty needles

And a few other things.

closeup of fir needles with melting ice drops 1

The dew on the needles had frozen overnight and was just starting to melt, so if I bumped into a tree I got showered in tiny ice pellets.

closeup of fir needles with melting ice drops 2closeup of fir needles with melting ice drops 3

There were also pretty stumps…

stump with plants and lichen

And broken trees…

split tree trunk

This broken tree trunk was so interesting I took a black and white picture too.

split tree trunk in black and white

An altogether satisfactory morning walk.


forest trail in fog 1
Setting out. A bit damp, but awfully pretty.

“Where shall we go this foggy morning?” I thought. Well. Where better than a forest?

forest trail in fog 2

forest trail in fog 4

forest trail in fog 3
Looking up—layers and layers
forest trail in fog 4
Dog on log in fog.  —I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.
Dog on log in fog. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Explored a new trail today

salal and alders
This is the trail. Yes, this. Right in front of me.

An awfully pretty trail. It’s considerably better than a deer trail, having been made by single-track mountain bikers, despite what the above photo looks like. There are not many places where it’s confusing about what is trail and what is not.

It was also much brighter in there than these pictures show, but I didn’t want to flatten out the intensity of colours and contrasts by lightening them too much.

I was thankful to reach the connection to trails I know well before it started getting dark, though.

salal and alders with sun peeking through them
This, on the other hand, is not trail. Even though it looks like it should be.


Anyone home?

door in tree

The reward for finally getting around to following a trail we had somehow never explored before. (It’s a lovely trail.)

New trails

green flagging tape hanging from a branch
The important thing about hiking on a new trail seems to be a good ability to spot green flagging tape.

This has been our week for exploring new trails. A few days ago we hiked the new trail in Cox Park, and today I decided to take Our Dog out on the new trails in the Haven Woods, which just opened up to the public with the acquisition of a GALTT trail licence.

We’d already been on trails there a week or so ago, and had explored quite a bit. But there’s a side trail marked on the map that would make a good loop, so I went looking for it. I didn’t find the end closest to King Road, but I found the other end.

woodland trail with flagging tape in the distance
See the tape? Yes, it’s about that easy to see in real life.

It’s very pretty. In this part it’s actually fairly easy to see the trail itself as the trail had been cleared a bit.

Other parts aren’t quite so easy to follow, though the trail is usually more or less visible once you see where the flagging tape is pointing you…

woods with flagging tape and no apparent trail
Er, trail?

Eventually the trail decanted me into a clearing with some lovely big old maples.

bigleaf maple

After that came fifteen minutes of looking for the next piece of flagging tape; I did find it eventually, but the route had degraded into an overgrown deer trail and it was clear that major bushwhacking would have to happen. I considered doing it, but within 50 feet fell flat on my face in dense salal because I couldn’t see where I was putting my feet. (Luckily dense salal makes a nice bouncy floor to land on.) So at that point I decided discretion was the better part of valour and retraced my steps.

I understand there’s a GALTT workparty to clear the rest of this trail this coming weekend. I’m looking forward to exploring the whole thing once it’s a little easier to navigate. It’s a lovely walk.

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