I had hatched a plan. This should surprise no one.
Cheryl was coming over and Cheryl is a park ranger who works in the Olympic National Park and has worked at several of the more famous and beautiful national parks. So having a “day out” to impress someone like her with our Canadian beauty was a bit of a challenge. I had an “ace” however.
Having spent my summers, my “growing up” in East Sooke, I knew that East Sooke hosts a very particular mix from jutting bedrock to Arbutus Trees (which have no bark and only grow within 200 meters of saltwater), a canopy forest which creates a loam of moss, bark and with the hint of sweet blackberry smell, as well as small coves, inlets with tide pools and the green/blue clear water that people around the world come to scuba dive in. The problem/advantage was this: a clear sunny day. So, we planned to pick up Cheryl and head straight out to the park, arriving past 11:00 before the HEAT of the day, and then get back and recover by 1:00ish. Like all plans, it failed almost immediately upon implementation.
We collected Cheryl, dropped off her stuff, took the "final pee", loaded up the medical gear and off we went, using the back roads I knew so well to arrive at East Sooke Park. It starts with a broad meadow, and the old apple orchard of many years ago (100?) which used to be part of Aylard’s Farm (long, long defunct). Most people just walk the big gravel path to the main beach (about 400-800 yards) and miss, well, everything. Beyond the broad meadow of tall, and now wild grass, were the old orchard trees, here is Cheryl under one of them.
With the sun high overhead and a clear Canadian day we wanted to come here before it got the July heat and rush of people. All three of us, of course, had a camera (“Oh Camera whores are we!”), and it was time for three lesbians to seek to the beauty of the woods (if you didn’t know Cheryl’s orientation by her haircut…well, you know now!). Of course, even before I entered the woods I had to stop for ‘just one more shot’.
Linda and I hadn’t been on this particular trail since I was able bodied. We had found it the most beautiful trails, our fav in East Sooke as it has arbutus trees, canopy woods, and isolation as well as an option to go down into a cove and up to a rocky hill top. What we DIDN’T know was “How well does the path go for wheelchairs?” It started out nicely with an old road which turned into the broad trail but with more and more roots appearing (odd how trees keep having those, particularly on the surface when there is bedrock underneath). But I was doing pretty well and we were in the tree canopy which was cool, and kept my body temp down.
As we continued on, down this couple mile trail (“Wait a minute Beth, did you say a COUPLE MILES, in a WHEELCHAIR, on a TRAIL?”), we soon arrived at one of our favorite lookouts, where you can take an off trail into an rocky outcrop of arbutus trees. As for the trail issue, I have a sort of motto (actually I have a LOT of mottoes) but it goes like this, “No risk....no gain....no glory!” Which means, I had an opportunity to not only go back to East Sooke, something I never thought I would be able to do again, but with my friend/sister and my partner of fifteen years. Was it likely there were going to be some issues (like getting the chair over a bad trail, or my health), yeah. But I had planned as much as I could and there will not be another summer. Not one where I have enough strength to wheel in the woods. No risk...no gain. (as you can see in this picture, I am enjoying the woods but my eye, from a TIA/stroke from earlier this week, when only yesterday could I open my eyelid all the way, isn’t actually tracking equally to the other eye, but still, I manage to see all right, not perfect, but all right). So I know that I am already losing parts of me, and the limitations continue to build walls around me. I had two people who were willing to try and have fun with me, to follow me down another of "Beth's Plans". So we did.
Here is Linda about to head off down the trail, the green was just so vivid and respendant, the sky and water so blue, it was a great advertisement for Vancouver Island. Cheryl and Linda after photographing things found a squirrel nest with a mother squirrel who chittered away at them relentlessly to “PLEASE go away” which only made them take movies: “Cool! A pissed off squirrel guarding her nest!” I swear they are teenagers sometimes (When I am the mature one in the group, we know everyone is in trouble!). Here is a shot at the edge of the rock outcropping of the arbutus and the bay (wish you were here!).
I meanwhile was stuck back on the main trail, and spent some time on my back wheels going another couple hundred yards. Yeah, lots of roots. I took this pictures of these two trees to try and give some idea of the variety of greens we were seeing, even in just the MOSS and MOLD on trees.This green did not including even the leaves, the ferns, the nursery trees which had fallen down and were now helping a new generation of trees to grow (they will be ready in about 80 years). Here is one nursery tree which has so decomposed in feeding the new trees is almost a mound of moss while the other side, in the shade is natures' compost covered in fallen leaves to give warm and food to the roots (can you tell I grew up in the woods here!)
I have to admit that soon the trail turned from rocks and roots to GAINT FUCKING OUTCROPPINGS of rocks. This was the worst and as you can see, once I made it past this hell trail obstacle, I was buzzed on VICTORY! The trail meandered above the weather beaten cliffs opposite the Olympic mountains, and looked down into bays with shallow transparent water, the water going from green into blue where fish and bull kelp could be seen. The cliffs, almost all bedrock with an inch or two of soil are covered with every tree or green thing that can make a grip. This is why when people tear it all down, this fragile ecosystem of survival to make an lot of condos with an “oceanside view” I feel a piece of my life, my memories and history is gone. And if I have to grunt and pull muscles and get over giant rocks to experience it again...trust me, it is worth it (and another advert of why you should come visit me! Yes, it is not just badminton, I have SO much unique on offer, and I talk too….did that sound a little dirty? It wasn’t!).
We did not see another person along this trail in the THREE plus hours we hiked on it (that was part of where the plan when BOOM, remember being BACK by 1:00...er, try 5:30). As for why it was just us, on a Saturday, I don’t know why. Because it is mind blowing beautiful! This is the cove which further along the trail had an access down. I was left up top with a manga book, and some tunes while Cheryl and Linda headed down the trail to the beach (not accessible). Down there they found crabs and kelp, a few fish and these Sea Anemone which are lined up above a rock of barnacles, taking in the food of the rising and lowering tides.
After 30-45 minutes they returned, drank some, ate doritos and took a pic of me before heading off again to climb the rock outcropping. (am I some 'rest stop' in this trail? Seems so) Cheryl not only has crushed discs in her back but also a bad ankle where a tractor ran over it and not all the pieces went back into that puzzle, if you know what I mean. So I told her the best route for the half way up, after that, I left it to her judgement. Well, she found a pretty good route and here she is, only a slope away from the top. Sorry no pictures from the top because, well, it is just more coves and sea. This part is NOT wheelchair accessible.
When they came out of the tree line 30 minutes later I could tell Linda and Cheryl had been having a good time. They were walking down with a visable high and felt proud of their rock clambering skills as they strode down slope with the swagger of tomboys who have hung upside down from the top tree branch on a dare. It was the look and feel of confident women who overcome challenges to be with nature....so beware, dykes in the woods today! (no, we were not about to take off our clothes and ‘run with the wolves’). Good friend, good times. Well, except that my right hand was sort of double sized and I could make Silly Putty like imprints with my fingers which were the colour of white/purple (minor details and another part of the plan going a little Boom). I was told to drink up as this was a major sign of being dehydrated. We continued on and Linda took these pictures of two sisters who are both lesbians but not actually related by birth out having fun. As we continued on she took this nature picture of the rock, the lichen, the yellow Sedum and the green leaves below which showed how every where we looked, both in the big picture and small, there was beauty today.
Yeah, during this I was getting a little messed up in the “not able to use my right hand department” and pushing with my wrist, and I was on oxygen but it was STILL worth it.
We joined up to the wide gravel trail to the beach, and used the wheelchair outhouses there (go early in the season just after they are CLEANED out, then you can only smell them four feet away instead of 40). And I met a couple who I convinced in about 15 minutes to take their next vacation to Japan. Cheryl said that Japan Tourist Board should hire me. Unfortunately all the talk talk make the oxygen go lower which made Beth go stupid and hands and body funny. We got back to the van (parked in the shade thanks to the volunteer patrol officer who helped us) and I was poured into the front seat where I found that my reading as well as coordinating seeing was gone (one eye good, other other okay, both eye together....not okay). I kept drinking water and we headed off to have lunch at Six Mile Pub. There is Six Mile Pub and 17 mile Pub, named from the old road markers out of Victoria. Six Mile Pub was built and operated in 1855 and is the oldest Pub in British Columbia. The neon signs were not there then but you can get the idea.
I had a beer so I would sleep well and we ate a big lunch then headed home (25 minutes away). Of course, now that I was home and not talking or being distracted the pain hit me so hard and bad I was moaning pretty much continuously. I also started losing speech and sight and had problems making sentences, calling Cheryl “Smoking Joe” for example (she doesn’t smoke but she uses a C-pap for sleep apnea so air goes in and out via a face mask) and the lip balm for sleeping the “kiss stick.” I told Cheryl (Smoking Joe) before she headed off, that, “It was worth it!” Well, I think I said something else, which made not a great deal of sense, but that is what I MEANT and she understood. In fact, she had at some point, maybe with a rocking of her foot on a tree root fucked up her ankle and was compensating with her back (which was fucked up as well) so both before and after the nap, pain pills were more popular the M&M’s around us ("Have another, why thank you, I think I will!"). But I think she counts it as worth it too, just means a slow day tomorrow, maybe indoor stuff (or wheelchair racing…who knows! Why are you glaring at me like that Linda?). I was AGAIN woken from my nap by a pain hallucination, which is a BAD sign since I woke yesterday by the screaming moan I was giving off, waking me and Linda both; which indicates that my body is in BAD pain. Didn’t change the plan of today but it is concerning.
What worries me is that this massive pain is coming from my quads (legs above the knee), which I can still feel. Now, I feel almost nothing below the knee and what can be felt requires a firm hold or a thumb squeeze and produces agony. Since I sat in The Chair in my office all day yesterday, why do my quads hurt so bad? I am worried this means that my nerves in my upper legs are now dying. And apparently not quietly.
Still, saw the sea, saw a hawk, saw the woods, smelled the loam and sweet of old blackberry vines, wheeled in the tall grass, through the woods. The lesbian crew was out in the woods and we had a good time. And yes, you play…you pay (except Linda who as an able bodied person is essential to rescue me when I am about to wheel over a cliff! By accident!). I know I am not going to have weekends or days like this much for the rest of summer. So here I present it to you in all of the glory, I hope you can enjoy it even second hand. It WAS worth it.
PS – the wheelchair racing might be a bit of a joke, if I can get through the night without screaming...a lot, up, that will be my major accomplishment. But I LUST for life, for memories, for experience. And yeah, I hate pain, but that comes anyway (“Well Beth, maybe not so OFTEN and as INTENSE if you didn’t..” Yeah, yeah, that’s what they all say!)
8 hours ago