Walking with Spirit

5 December 2021 — You bet. Spirit with a capital-S.

We’re in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, some 770 hectares of temperate rainforest in the city’s west end, neatly bordered along one edge by the foreshore of Georgia Strait. The network of trails, more than 50 km in all, lets you weave your way through mixed coniferous-deciduous stands of trees, taking in berry bushes, ferns, mosses, lichens and fungi as you go.

And that is exactly what we are doing.

Bark is a wonder, all on its own. Not just texture, but colour. And not just all the subtleties of black and brown, but, look, streaks of turquoise. Lichen is not always grey!

Last yellow leaves of a deciduous tree glow just overhead…

and, not to be outdone, other last-leaves flash bold patterns in the undergrowth.

Great webs of tree roots snake across the ground, tracing the hummocks of the long-buried nurse logs that gave them life.

Then there are the decidedly not-buried nurse logs!

Nurse-stumps like this one, crowned with its own full-grown progeny.

Tiny sprays of vivid fern, beside a fallen log ruffled with equally tiny fungi…

and a huge explosion of fern, so massive, so primordial in mood & presence that I look around for dinosaurs.

Jagged stand-alone stumps…

and the whole entangled dance of the forest: stumps & ferns & leaf mould and, overhead, moss woven around looping tree branches.

Whole entanglements within moss itself…

and the gleam of a boggy rivulet, deep and wide in this wet, wet season.

Enchanted, we follow our trail…

with its bends and twists and guiding stretches of snake fence.

On and on.

Seeking Sundew

23 July 2020 – Let’s visit Camosun Bog, says my friend, go explore its boardwalks. Let’s! I chirp happily, not that I’ve ever heard of this place before in my life. Which is motivation right there. And, as if I need more, there’s the promise of boardwalks.

I love prancing along on boardwalks …

part of the environment but above it as well, each of us safe for, and safe from, the other.

Camosun is a very small enclave in a very large park, just one hectare in the 874-hectare Pacific Spirit Regional Park on University Endowment Lands out in Vancouver’s west end. See that green knob poking out from the upper-right side of this Pacific Spirit map? That’s the bog.

Small as it is, we should be both grateful and impressed.

The story began 12,000 years ago with glacial ice, as most Canadian geological stories seem to do. Glacial ice became glacial melt, which created a depression, which became a lake thanks to streams, which became a marsh thanks to happy vegetation encroaching at water’s edge, which then became a bog thanks to really happy vegetation blocking the streams entirely.

So, some three thousand years ago, there it was: 15 hectares of open, sunlit bog. But by the late 20th c. it had almost disappeared, as nearby development drove down the water table and other species moved in.

Since 1995, the Camosun Bog Restoration Group, plus a whole mix of public and private resources, has been working to restore the bog and reverse the damage ¬†— pulling out the invaders (including 150 shade-creating hemlock trees by helicopter); digging out layers of detritus to get closer to the water table again; re-introducing bog species; and building boardwalks.

This drawing on the Bog’s website shows the result: one hectare of open bog, with its ecosystem of true bog plants and bog-friendly plants, accessible from the 300 metres of boardwalk that also weave into the edges of the neighbouring forest.

Turning right at a junction instead of left means we start in the woods. A moss-capped nurse stump rears up through the Salal …

a tree fungus throws its white stripes against the host bark …

moss glows bright green on a nearby branch …

and, middle-distance, shimmers grey-green instead. Just look at it — we may live in a temperate rainforest, but it is definitely still rainforest.

A few more turns, more curves of boardwalk, and there it is: the bog.

As promised, it is open, sunlit, and filled with bog-happy plants that thrive in standing water: ¬†Labrador Tea, Bog Laurel, Bog Cranberry, Blueberry, Cloudberry, Skunk Cabbage, Tufted Loosestrife, Salmonberry, Arctic Starflower …

And more.

The best example of more: sphagnum moss. Thirteen varieties, all of them water-absorbent & acidic, and also the foundation of the entire bog plant community, because they form the soil and create the growing conditions for everything else.

They also show you the current state of local rainfall — the wetter the weather, the greener the sphagnum.

Pale, isn’t it? We haven’t had a lot of rain, recently.

My friend pokes me. She’s been reading the signage, and she’s on the hunt. She wants to find the Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).

This is a challenge that has us peering downward over the protective boardwalk fencing, because Sundew’s tiny leaf clusters are right at ground level, and no larger than a Toonie ($2 Canadian coin). Still, they do throw up slender, reddish stalks, 5-25 cm, to catch your attention. Helpful for us; deadly for insects. Delicate, adorable Sundew is carnivorous. Sticky liquid first attracts the insects, and then traps them.

There! She peers, points, and aims her camera. I don’t even try; I know my phone-camera’s limitations.

Her camera gets the shot.

We’ve now walked the entire boardwalk, and even found the Sundew.

We can leave.

With just a tiny little side-trip into the soaring forests of Pacific Spirit before we go.

Park signage reminds us that social distancing is a fact of life these days, even when out for a hike. Still having a little trouble visualizing 2 metres?

Don’t worry.

Just grab a passing cougar, and pace it out.

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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