Minnekhada in the spring is really quite a pleasant destination. The forest is reawakening with colour and song, and the trail is just enough of a leg-stretcher to justify the drive out from Vancouver.
The trail is in excellent condition, and seems to have had more of it gravelled over since I was last there a year or so ago. Despite being very popular, it was easy to find peace (with the exception of High Knoll). The outhouse has hand sanitizer.
Flower report – there are flowers, yay! Salmonberry is out pretty much all over the place and skunk cabbage is widespread. Red huckleberry is in leaf (though how much depends on how sunny a spot it’s in), yellow stream violets are here and there, false lily-of-the-valley is in full leaf, carpeting the ground, bleeding heart is at the beginning of its bloom with many pink flowers out and many more to come, and horsetails are starting to poke up through the ground, looking like banded pencils.
We heard flickers and pileated woodpeckers, saw a red-headed sapsucker, were buzzed by a single rufus hummingbird, watched a couple of dark-eyed/Oregon juncos singing their courtship songs and displaying to the best of their abilities, heard plenty of wrens, and were entertained by a troupe of golden-crowned kinglets. Ducks aplenty on the marsh. No frogs (seen or heard) and no bear sightings – yet :-)
Distance: 6-ish km
Elevation gain: 130 m
Photos on Flickr
For a few years, we regarded Minnekhada as a bit of a non-hike: not long enough, not tough enough. Plus it felt too far to drive for such a short hike. But in recent years we’ve come to view it with different eyes. In the spring it’s one of the nicest – and most varied – parks around. It has great views from High Knoll, and the trails are not confined to deep, dark forest with plenty of open space around the marshes.
And so with us easing our way into the hiking season we decided to revisit this little park and simply enjoy some pleasant nature time. We bagged the last spot in the parking lot, and having left home “late” we simply sat in the car and ate lunch before we went walking.
Setting off under gorgeous blue skies we followed our usual clockwise route through the blooming salmonberry understory. The aroma of skunk cabbage greeted us around every bend, though in keeping with the feel of the day, it was more of a gentle scent and less of an assault on the nose. Bleeding heart was flowering pretty much everywhere, and where it wasn’t the ground was carpeted with false lily-of-the-valley although that was only still in bud. Yellow stream violets dotted the damp edges of the trail, and despite the crowded parking lot, we enjoyed a peaceful stroll.
It’s only been a year or so since I was last here but it seems that a lot of trail work has been carried out, with a good gravel footbed extending for the first kilometre and a half. It ran out abruptly as the trail climbed uphill, depositing us back on the old trail of roots and rocks. I wonder if they’re going to continue gravelling the rest of the trail? If so it’ll rob the walk of some of its charm and wild feel, although it will undoubtedly make it more family-friendly. I’m all for trail improvements, but doing the equivalent of paving a hiking trail seems like the wrong approach.
Continuing round the loop, we reached the turn-off for High Knoll and powered up the slope. At one of the switchbacks in the trail, the sun was lighting up some salmonberry blossom – the vivid pink against a blue sky was an irresistible photo (see above). As we neared the top of the knoll, we stopped to watch a pair of dark-eyed juncos sing and do a little display to attract a mate. Very cute – and totally out of character for birds that spend most of their time in the undergrowth.
We emerged from the forest to the view of the marsh at High Knoll and the hot sun. We stayed for as much time as it took to take in the view, and grab a few photos before seeking the cool of the trees again. It’s only March, but the sun is fierce, even at 49 degrees latitude! We retraced our steps back to the main trail and continued a-wandering, enjoying a remarkably quiet time (High Knoll was definitely *not* quiet…) and admiring the light on the new growth in the trees. Ferns and maple leaves glowed bright green in the spring sunshine.
We bypassed the lodge – really without even noticing it! – and slowed down as we came to the edge of the marsh. I’m always on the lookout for wildlife here as we’ve seen beavers and bears on previous visits. Nothing but ducks and geese today though. And a lovely reflection of High Knoll in the flat water.
Soon we were back at the car and driving home, feeling refreshed and relaxed. Some fine time spent being, outdoors for sure!