Meditation in a Bog

23 July 2018 – With thanks to Sally, who provided this photo, with this title, which shows Frances (R) and me disappearing around a bend in the boardwalk, among towering trees.

We are indeed in a bog. Burns Bog.

Located on the delta of the Fraser River, and originally some 10,000 hectares or so in size, it is now reduced to about 3,000-3,500 hectares but is still the largest raised peat bog on the west coast of the Americas. The Joho Maps website has a diagram that situates it nicely — and provides a lot of other information as well in its excellent guide to the Bog.

Though, inevitably, now much disturbed by mankind, Burns Bog  is a globally unique ecosystem, a major regulator of regional climate, a stopover for more than 400 species of migratory birds, and is still home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife.

And trains.

Freight trains run along one edge, which is also the side that, in the Delta Nature Reserve, affords the only public access. As we descend into the Bog proper, we hear and then see a train train start rumbling by.

It takes a while, freight trains being the length they are.

Clatter-clatter, rumble-rumble, thump-thump, squeak-squeak…

Then all those other sounds of train-in-progress give way to the squeal that signals either (A) a 4-year-old throwing a tantrum, or (B) a very long freight train grinding to a halt.

There is no 4-year-old in sight.

The freight train stops. Blocking our cross-over access to the Bog and its trails.

Mature, philosophic adults that we are, we stand about in some handy shade and admire the boxcar artwork.

And then, squeal-rumble-rumble, the train shakes itself into action again and rolls on its way.

We take the now-available access path, and hop over the tracks.

I promise you, Sally (L) and Frances are athletic and nimble of foot. I consider them my personal trainers (along with much else), and I am grateful for the on-going stimulation and physical challenge.

My camera just happened to catch them … ummm … like this. Sort of a Lindy Hop, as performed by the Marx Brothers?

Over the tracks, and now across a stream. “It’s called the River of Dreams,” says Frances, who is a veteran of many Bog walks over the years and effectively our tour guide today. The water is so astoundingly clear that, in a photo, it is transparent to the camera. All you can see is the thin line of reflected sunlight …

but water does fill the riverbed, bank to bank.

Moments later, I think we are stretching our greedy fingers toward wild raspberries, but Sally knows better. “Thimbleberries,” she says, and she’s right. (Rubus parviflorus, if you want to get all official about it.)

Soon after, Labrador Tea blossoms (Ledum groenlandicum — curiously attributed to Greenland in the Latin). So delicate, and so sturdy! So tall, also — the shrubs tower over our heads.

At one point there is a choice of loops. We opt for the one promising us a sunken tractor and Skunk Cabbage Meadow. I think of my dear Ontario-based friend DJ, who has a thing for skunk cabbages, and can’t wait to see a whole meadow of them, alive-alive-o.

Can’t miss ’em, once you’re among ’em.

Wowzers.

I send DJ this photo and, thanks to her reply, I now know one more difference between The East and The West.

Aha!  This, my dear Penny, is indeed skunk cabbage, but the western one (Lysichiton americanus) with a big yellow flower, followed by HUGE leaves, as your photos show!  The eastern one is Symplocarpus foetidus — a smaller, shyer version with purplish flowers and smaller leaves.  They’re both in the arum family and both smell skunky in bloom to attract flies and beetle pollinators, hence sharing the common name.  Thank you!!

On past the half-buried tractor, left over from days when peat was being harvested and equipment often met with misadventure.

Bog beside our feet, towering trees overhead.

And, always, boardwalk beneath our feet. Kilometres of it — installed, watched over, patched and replaced as needed by volunteers with the Burns Bog Conservation Society.

Sometimes the Boardwalk Gremlins wisely leave a gap. No need to argue with tree roots.

We head back out …

climbing past homes on the bogside slope and somebody’s welter of birdhouses as we go.

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5 Comments

  1. Love this one! (I’m biased, I admit)

    Reply
  2. A great post of an unexpected landscape. The photo of your friends crossing the track is priceless. I’ve seen water of that clarity only once, on Fraser Island, a sand island off the coast of Queensland. You’ve photographed it beautifully. You even managed to find a bit of train art – and the train stopped strategically so you could spot it. I’ve never seen such an enveloped railway line!

    Reply
  3. Ah, a bog blog!

    Reply

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