Monday, April 16, 2018

When Rainy Days are Mondays

When rainy days are Mondays, one of my usual hiking days, I don't let it get me down.  Unless the rain is torrential, my friend Sally and I head out anyway - glad for the fresh air, exercise, freedom from mundane chores, in the beautiful outdoors of Vancouver Island. 

Does anyone else see an elephant in this photo?

Today was one of those rainy Mondays.  It was pouring heavily when I arose, but by eight it had improved somewhat - a steady rain but light and reasonably warm.   We chose one of Nanaimo's urban parks, less than an hour north,  where we knew the trails to be quite sheltered from rain and wind, and quite well maintained to provide safe footing in wet weather. Colliery Dam Park is one of Nanaimo's larger parks, with loop trails around two lakes (dogs permitted off leash around one, on leash around the other), plus numerous little side trails.  The paved, multi-use Parkway Trail also cuts through the park. 

A tranquil spot on one of the side trails

Nanaimo does a stellar job of creating urban parks that have a delightful balance of development and wilderness.  Entering the park, we encountered a small covered picnic area and washrooms, and scattered around part of the first lake were park benches, information boards about the park (maps, history,  vegetation, fish stocking program - fishing is encouraged!),  and attractive landscaping. 

Pumpkinseed fish? A new one to me!
Apparently it is another name for pond perch or sunfish. 

But shortly after crossing the bridge where the water from the lake flows down the channel, we diverged into the forest where one forgets the city is all around - tall trees, duff trails, large moss covered boulders, more rugged lakeshore. 

I have done the main loop trails several times, but this time we chose to explore some of the many side trails, some a little muddier and rockier, and our efforts were rewarded as we discovered things we had not seen before.   Where the park nears a road (heard but not seen), and just after we had crossed over a narrow rushing stream on an interesting little bridge, we saw a side trail and decided to check it out.  A splash of colour down below beckoned us, and that was when we saw a graffiti bedecked tunnel . 

As we were admiring the colourful work, we suddenly spotted a man and dog come out of the tunnel and realized it was not merely a passage for the water heading to the lake but also a pedestrian underpass.  We scrambled back up to the main trail, crossed the bridge again and scrambled back down to check it out.

The tunnel was lined on both sides with art work - this was not the swear-laden graffiti of young punks defacing post boxes and bus shelters, but graffiti created by some artists quite talented in their own genre of art.  I must confess I have no objections to this type of graffiti on otherwise boring and ugly cement tunnels.

Art in the Park - presumably done when the water was lower. 
That face above the blue was truly remarkable, with a 3-D quality to it! 

The tunnel, long and unlit, provided artistic inspiration itself as daylight and spring growth at the far end begged to be photographed:

The light at the end of the tunnel
We walked through the tunnel and discovered trails on the other side, but chose to leave them to explore another day - in part because we would have had to cross some very wet rocks to go any further.  Those trails will be better left for summer or early fall, when the water is lower.

We returned back through the tunnel and up to the main trail, and continued back on the return side of our lake loop.  Along the trail were many trillium in bloom, and down by the creeks and lake was skunk cabbage, aka bears' salad bar or swamp lanterns.


Skunk Cabbage/Swamp Lantern

We located one of the lesser traveled trails paralleling the main trail but below it, closer to the Chase River and lakeside.  It was there that a short side trip found us gazing upon large patches of fawn lilies everywhere we looked.  This beautiful cluster was on a mossy cliff above the river:

Fawn lilies - or fairy umbrellas?

Fawn lilies

Eventually, we joined back up with the main trail once again, at a point where a newer footbridge had been built right on top of the old one.  I envisioned frogs and snakes and rabbits making their way across the stream along their own private walkway.

A walkway above for humans and dogs, and one below for smaller critters? 
We made our way back to our starting point, where we enjoyed our lunch in the clean, covered picnic shelter while we gazed at the lake and the lightly falling rain.

Both glad we had come, for we were none the worse for the weather and considerably better for the hike!

Monday, April 9, 2018


Selfie of the lazy blogger?

No, it's not me!  Sure, there may be days when I move at about the same speed, and certainly there's times when I want to do nothing more than munch away all day long.  But that wasn't the case today.  I photographed this slug while on yet another amazing hike.  The seeds he is chowing down on were put there for the red squirrels by a volunteer at the nature sanctuary where we were hiking.  More to come soon!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Welcome our new bunny!


(My mama made me do it - Maggie)
Happy Easter from Jean, Maggie and Allie.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Just Do It

You know how, sometimes, when there is a big messy job to do, you just put it off and put it off because you don't know where to start?  Well, that's what my month of blogging has been like.  I've been going on hikes and walks (beyond our usual daily walks around town and on the seawalk) several times a week for the past several weeks.  Different people.  Different dogs.  Different places. Most times I take the camera.  Most times I come home too tired to do anything more than post a few photos on facebook.  And then I stare at computer as the days and days of photos pile up and think "How the heck am I going to weave these into a decent blog post?"

Well, sometimes you have to scrap the big picture and just do one tiny piece.  So, instead of going with my original plan to integrate a bunch of hikes, I'm just going to start where I'm at right now - and maybe we'll get back to the others and maybe we wont.  Sometimes ya gotta "Just Do It".

Yeah, mom, cuz your readers wanna see my HAPPY face!

So... today Pat and the poms and Maggie and me did an easy walk at the Cowichan Bay estuary - a flat trail of a little over a kilometer each way, dogs allowed on leash only (most obeyed, though we did see a handful of people who sadly hadn't learned how to read the many signs).  It is a refuge for birds, and there were many there this sunny day.  The first to welcome us were the redwinged blackbirds - harbingers of spring, vocal chatterboxes, calling for their mates.

Then there were various ducks and geese, swallows and kingfishers, and of course the pretty little hummingbirds that stay on our island year round:

Maggie is quite a serious little dog, so it always thrills me when I capture her happy face, and I did that twice today - the photo that started this entry, and this one which caused me to laugh when it came up on the screen.  I swear we must have been sharing a wonderful joke!

Didya hear the one about the sheltie and the two poms who went into a bar?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Just wait......
Darn, I forgot the punch line!

I always love walking near water - creeks, rivers, the ocean - any kind of water - as the magic of nature is echoed in the reflections on its surface.  Today was no different, with  blue sky and fluffy clouds both above us and below us:

It was a lovely day for a walk with the dogs, a beautiful day on my beautiful island.  I hope you find some time this week to enjoy the great outdoors.
Till next time....

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


In my garden, this first day of spring.
Early tulips, late crocus, daffodils, periwinkle, lavender.
And there are cherry blossoms just down the road. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Maggie says.....

My mama has been too busy hiking with me (or too tired afterwards) to blog.  That means I'm more important to her than you.  So there!  Love Maggie. 
(Mama says that was rude, and to tell you she'll post sum pictures of our outings soon). 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The new dog in town

I've been too busy lazy to work on a post lately, though I have lots of photos and adventures to share.  But here on Vancouver Island, spring keeps beckoning me - get outside and enjoy nature when the sun is shining, stay indoors and spring clean (or at least declutter and organize) when it's raining. 

My plan yesterday was to put together a post on our rather unstable weather of the last couple of weeks, and what we did and where we went in rain, sun, snow and wind.  Instead, I went down to the park in the sunny but cool weather and did a photoshoot of a good friend's newest family member, Blaze.

Blaze is an American Cocker Spaniel, nine years old.  At one time he earned his championship.  Not all dogs who are adopted at an older age come from shelters or rescues.  Breeders, even the best breeders, age like the rest of us, or succumb to serious illnesses, or both.  And sometimes that means they can no longer look after the dogs in their care.  When that happens, the breed club often steps up to the plate, arranging fosters and eventual adoptions.  Working through breed clubs is a good way to find an adoptable older dog of a breed that isn't often found in shelters in Canada - or at least, not in my area of Canada. 

Through asking for recommendations of responsible breeders, then networking, being patient, and engaging in phone calls and emails asking and answering questions, my friends were able to find the kind of dog they wanted.  And I was able to have a new subject to photograph on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Welcome to Crofton, Blaze.  I hope I'll get to see you (and your new mom, of course) a whole lot.  Maggie and I know some great hiking trails you may enjoy!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The lowly seagull

I grew up in a seaside town, where seagulls were an everyday part of our environment.  We saw them so often that we seldom gave them any notice, except perhaps when they flocked down in droves as we sat on a log on the beach eating handcut, gloriously browned french fries with salt and malt vinegar, from cardboard containers wrapped in newspaper.  Dare to toss one of these delicious morsels to a lone seagull, and soon a hundred gulls were flapping and flocking and squawking all around us.  As Richard Bach wrote in that delightful fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull, "For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating."

There are no take out fish and chip shops along Crofton's waterfront, and the gulls here eat clams or starfish or mussels or young crabs far more often than fries.  Unless, of course, they have access to a smartphone.

Hello?  Salty's Fish and Chips?  Do you deliver to Crofton?
You do?  Oh, good, that'll be two extra large sides of fries, please! 

On my morning and afternoon walks with Maggie, I find it relaxing and fascinating to watch the gulls as they dive for crabs, tear mussels from the side of the wharf, wrestle with starfish bigger than their beaks, or drop clams from on high to the rocks below to crack open those tightly closed shells. 

Come here you darn sea star!  It's dinner time, and you're it! 

Now, where did I put my beer?

I've noticed they nearly always seem to wash their food - or, at least, the shell fish - dipping them at the water's edge or dropping them into shallow water before retrieving them and flying high to smash them on the rocks below. 


Mussels for breakfast!  Clean, fresh mussels! 

The other morning, I saw a gull spend a good twenty minutes locating a small crab amidst the rocks, catching it, washing it, and then prying each part open to suck down the insides.  By the time he was done, all that was left was a very clean, intact back shell and a few crumbs of shell from the legs.

C'mon, you, I know you are in there! 

Off to the water's edge to rinse him off!

Yum!  Fresh crab!

They are clever, crafty, and often beautiful birds with full and interesting lives, and seem to live quite harmoniously with the ducks and herons and oystercatchers who share their environment.

Gulls and heron on the wharf

I think she's talking about us!  Is this our fifteen minutes of fame?

One thing I have learned from watching the diversity of birds on Canada's west coast: there is no such thing as an 'ordinary' bird.  Each is unique, and remarkable in its resourcefulness, skill, social interactions, and problem-solving ability.  And even the lowly seagull brings great joy to my life.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Heart Tree

On Friday, I returned to Moorecroft Regional Park, previously mentioned in my post on the halcyon day in January.  This time, I went with my friend Pat and we took our dogs.  The scenery - bays and beaches, forest and meadow and swamp - was just as beautiful as ever.

Pat and the poms check out the swampy little lake -
which was deeper than the dogs expected!

The dogs like the beach the best - Cosmo and Lexi, the poms, eager to get into the water, and my Maggie always scanning the water for ducks.

No ducks here....let's move on!

Ha ha ha - can't catch me!

Maggie wasn't too upset at not getting to herd ducks, though.  She has become quite the little hiker now - content to follow the trail, content to wait patiently while I take photos or rest a bit.

Happy Maggie at Vesper Point

Each time I return to a park, I see something I didn't see before.  Like this dried fern protruding from a stump, looking just like someone had given the stump a french braid:

Or this arc of dead or dying trees against the sky:

Or this.  One tree split in two when just a sapling, or two trees whose roots entwined, but now covered with moss and gracefully curving apart and together.  It made me think of a heart.

See what I mean?  Happy Valentine's Day, Mother Nature.  I love you.