Friday, August 12, 2011

East Sooke Park by Wheelchair

East Sooke Park is the largest of the Capital Region Parks at over 3,500 acres and 31 miles of hiking trails. It rates in the top day hikes in Canada, a full ‘West Coast’ experience only 40 minutes of driving from downtown. The route I take, which is the shortest trail, has Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce (yes, the tree we saw in Yosemite and the California Redwoods). Also common are the red peeling bark of the Arbutus tree, which is found close to salt water ocean, only on the lower island and sunshine coast (accessible by boat: see the 2007 vacation, where I learn about Wheelchair outhouses: see next paragraph). These trees can be found standing atop bluffs with the sheer drops of the west coast.

The trail starts at the old Anderson Farm (from the 50’s, the lines of apple trees are still present, as are the open fields now returned to wild grasses like wild rose and blue-eyed grass). You can see the Arbutus tree at the far end of the field, closest to the ocean. There WERE some blackberries ripe but Cheryl ate them all before I could take the picture (grr!). During late summer, the hike will smell of salmon and blackberries and loam. There are two wheelchair parking spaces and wheelchair outhouses at the end of the parking lot (only in BC do we have more accessible wheelchair outhouses than downtown wheelchair bathrooms).

Since it had been sunny with weather in the 20’s for two week that meant that the trail was likely dry. This is VERY important as it is a hard enough trail without adding the horror of slippery wheels and gloves and having yourself covered in mud. The trail goes through this second growth forest, along the ocean with mini trails down to coves (for able bodied people) where star fish and sea urchin can be seen at low tide. Further along are petroglyphs (at Alldridge Point) which has made this a heritage site since 1927. The trail starts as an old road, much like most of the roads in East Sooke, two tracks with grass in the middle, grown through the gravel laid down decades ago (much like my grandfather’s East Sooke property and all the other driveways passed on the drive down).

The open field soon starts to become enclosed by trees as you can see here, where young robins were practicing flying as we went by. The trail is best for manual chairs because it requires some ‘gutting it out’ where you push over the roots of trees, which cross the four miles of trail frequently (as seen here). But other times it requires plotting how to get around particularly tall roots, or rocks, as I balanced on my Big wheels, raising my casters and footplate up so the obstacles clear underneath. Other times the trail will narrow, here, though obscured by a bush, is a 25 foot drop on my left with my wheel less than five inches away from the drop. With the roots, multileveled trail and the distance, it seemed too hazardous to take Indy. I don’t remember the roots being this bad, and we decided that usage over the last few weeks might have lowered the level of dirt, as no one goes around spreading dirt to bring the level back up (odd that).

If you are quiet and watch, there are birds all around, many pictures I took were too small for use, but a Cormorant burst out of a nest and zipped past me at head height. Frequently the trail breaks so that there are not only views of the ocean but little private coves, with the rugged rocks of granite and trees of Arbutus gripping a few bits of soil. The island is essentially the top of a mountain and so bedrock rises up everywhere.

Half way along the trail is a break to the left which is a good place to stop for lunch. I transferred to a rock ‘bench’ but since this is the tip of bedrock, there isn’t a lot of nice flat rocks and after a while my neuropathy told me as I said to Linda, “I am getting a rock enema” (yes, can’t you wait to take me home to show the parents!). I scooted toward the edge, as seen in the last blog, then finally found a full edge of the 40 foot cliff to hang over. The water, which is blue when deep, turns green and transparent closer in. While the temperature is close to freezing, the west coast is one of the top Scuba sites in the world due to diversity and clarity. While I was drinking my root beer and eating fresh cheese curds (yum), I heard the familiar honk honk and turned to see a flock of Canadian Geese circle for a landing. You can see them in a staggered line by the tree trunk, looking across at where the water and tree line meet (I recommend clicking on the picture to enlarge).
Each time I come, there is more development, but luckily much of the view is still pristine, through several ’14 acre’ or ‘124 acre’ developments are being built or planned. I think like everywhere we protect the land, we think the view will remain, but money and people take a publicly shared view and turn it into private ownership (like lower Pender island which has a Killer Whale pod that stays there all summer, literally 15 feet off-shore, but with no camp ground and rare ferry service, the attitude is less about conservation and more about exclusiveness).

We started in the late afternoon to avoid heat and get good light for pictures. The cool brought out the birds. We didn’t see other wildlife today but there are also cougar occasionally, bear frequently (including a white bear, a genetic albino), deer, hawk migration in Sept-Oct and other wildlife. The private cove which joins the end of the beach trail is particularly good for tide life when at low tide, but is not wheelchair accessible. There is a series of outcroppings, and a mini trail for those who like to climb to the very top. At the join of the trails in a bench, and I could see the snow on the top of Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, the whole Straits, which seemed private, as in four hours we passed six people, on a Saturday. There are a series of rocks which go down to the waterline, and I scooted down one, to get some pictures of the fading sun, on the rock rises (and Linda came after to get a pic of me).
You can see both of the main rock rises here at the junction in this picture and if you look closely on the left, you see the coast trail which emerges out of the tree cover. The outcropping with the three trees atop is where the coast trail ends and it is just down from there you can see the petroglyphs. There is a six mile trail that I would like to try, but I will need to trail up for that as parts of the trail this far had been literally plotting every 6-10 feet: going off trail to get around one set of roots then powering over the next root with my casters in the air. I was exhausted and the sun was heading down. Linda gave me a hand at times, as we stopped rarely, like this pictures of a bird against the sunset.
The coast road meets up with the gravel road and path which connects directly to the parking lot. The Coast Road continues on for a couple miles but this is as far as I went today. With the cool coming in with blasts you could hear rattling the trees before arriving, ravens were playing in the sky, as shown in the previous blog post. There is a set of tables you can reserve (or use if empty) here at the end of the road, and it is perhaps just under a half mile to the cars from here.

Back to home and exhausted sleep. Thankfully I am not driving, just navigating. You CAN bike this, as I biked further than this and back from downtown, but recommended only for serious cyclists and please get a good map, I recommend Happy Valley Road’ for a good sets up the up and down, twists and turns that make BC roads so fun.

Hope you have a great weekend. I am recovering and doing medical’s like blood draws and other appointments for the next two weeks. But still planning on exercising, and doing wheeling, including the Kidney walk/wheel. It seems I am going to miss the Navy 5K, which occurs just before our 18th anniversary this week.


SharonMV said...

More amazing pictures. Love seeing you 3 in such beautiful surroundings. Beth, your penchant for precarious poses continues. I especially liked the picture of your dangling feet. It's really a lovely place. Seeing the geese come in for a water landing must have been a great moment and you got a picture of it too. Thanks for sharing words & photos.


Neil said...

I think I envy you that trail. Beth. It would be a lovely place to spend a weekend. And your photography is as gorgeous as always - as are the subjects. :)

We have Canada Geese in Regina, too. We have an urban park with a lake, and an accessible asphalt path around said lake, but parts of the path are liberally spattered with evidence of the thousands of Canada Geese that like the park too. Ew, the though of it on your wheelchair wheels... Yuck! MUCH better to think of the view you three have.

Love and zen hugs,

wendryn said...

Your pictures are beautiful! I wish we had trails like that here.

We have a park here that during certain parts of the year is called "goose sh** park" because there is so much of it there. I don't take the dog walking there during that time of year because she tracks it back into the car and it smells vile.

I hope you have energy to go on more trips!

Noisyworld said...

Amazing photos, as usual, especially the one of your feet dangling- I managed to keep my dinner (but only just lol) and I <3 the silhouette too :)

Wow- that must have taken even more spoons than I previously thought!

Lorna, Bob and Liam said...

Yay for blackberries, birds, beautiful trails and cheese curds!

EIGHTEENTH?? Holy schmoley. Bob and I just had our 14th anniversary on the 10th, but you long-timers you, you have us beat. Congratulations and felicitations!

In four years on the island, we have never been to East Sooke. You helped move it up to a major priority.

I am so warmed by the thought that such outings, and upcoming races/marathons, are still a part of your journey.

Love to you and Linda, as always...

Lorna, Bob and Liam

Kate J said...

That park looks really lovely... and I do love those Arbutus trees. My cousin on Saltspring Island has one just by her house and whenever I stay with her I wake up in the morning with a view of the arbutus. I'll be adding East Sooke to my list of places to visit when I'm next in Canada.
I've just got back from 2 weeks away in North Wales - doing a volunteer stint on a nature reserve there - and I'm so glad to see that you are able to get out and enjoy the scenery and wildlife. I'd love to have seen the white bear... must be a bit like those 'spirit' bears they have up on Princess Royal Island.
On my wildlife fortnight I got to see a lot of birds - including the rare Chough - as well as adders, lizards, hares, stoats and many different butterflies some of which I hadn't seen before (grayling, gatekeeper, silver-studded blue, wall, small heath, dark green fritillary...) and moths too (oak eggar, poplar hawk moth). Had to work pretty hard, though, mainly welcoming visitors and telling them about the wildlife to be seen on the reserve, taking small groups on walks, etc. Oh yes, and a bit of washing up in the cafe too.
You'd have loved it there!
I sent a postcard - hope it arrived OK.
Love & peace

cheryl g said...

East Sooke Park is a beautiful, peaceful place. I think you are really lucky to have this park just 40 minutes away. There is the meadow and orchard, the woods, and the shoreline – all together in one amazing location.

Sorry about eating the only ripe blackberries we saw. I couldn’t help myself and I thought there would be more ripe ones on the trail.

I love the dangling feet picture although I was a bit nervous about you being on the edge. It didn’t help when you said, “I should try to fall backwards if I pass out –right?”

You really got a great shot of the geese coming in to land. That’s a fantastic picture of you that Linda took. You look very relaxed and happy.

Happy anniversary to you both!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Thank you for the commments.

Sharon: I do like the dangling feet shot. Though leaning over to get a good shot was a bit tricky. I was lucky with the geese, sometimes it helps to stop and wait and listen it turns out, when taking photos of wildlife.

Neil: Yes, in Regina, I remember the geese everywhere. Thankfully the sea carries away the trace that all animals leave behind. Yes, next time people take out the the dog for a poo, think of the wheelchair user who will be coming by!

Wendryn: In Wales, I missed the combo of sea and mountain combined that we have here, though I did climb mountains and hiked in Wales, as well as went to the bay, it wasn't quite the same.

Noisyworld: Thanks for the compliments about the photos, I took 200, and edited it down to the best, I hope. It took many spoons but once on the trail, I can't exactly give up - we are already talking about a different trail or going to see the Hawks migrating.

Lorna, Bob, Liam: Congrats on your 14th! I knew Linda for a year before, but 18 years when we officially moved in together and committed. I highly recommend the park, perhaps there is a park up where you are, something like Cathedral Grove which you can recommend?

Kate J: You seem very pumped up by your holiday, I am glad you got to see and do so much.

Cheryl: I am very glad I made it back to the park, though I didn't remember it QUITE so full of tree roots.

We were fortunate to see all the birds and Linda has that knack of taking a good picture without thinking about it: highly irritating to me who works so hard - I think she works hard too, but says little as she has photography as a hobby since a teen.

JaneB said...

Lovely pictures - and it's great to see you getting out! I hope for many more trips for you...