Vignette: Pacific Spirit Park, 6 Mar 2021

With an uninspiring weather forecast and a desire to see some greenery, we opted for a walk closer to home rather than over on the North Shore. We parked up just west of Spanish Banks Creek, walked west along the beach as far as the last parking lot on Marine Drive before crossing over into Pacific Spirit Park. From here, we completed our loop along the Salish, Sword Fern, and Spanish trails back to the beach, covering about 5.5 km in a leisurely hour-and-a-half.

We began with a brisk walk along the beach in the late morning sunshine – us and many other people. We were keen to get this section over and done with so we could leave the crowds behind and enjoy the quieter trails of the park. Reaching the end of the beach path, we dropped down onto the mixture of sand and cobbles and continued our walk, following the water line for another few hundred metres, hopping over logs and ducking under overhanging branches. Up the steps to the picnic area where we stopped for a few moments to simply look out to sea. The mountains were heavy with cloud but the sea reflected patches of blue sky, and the breeze riffled the surface into interesting patterns. As with some of our COVID walks from last spring, a seal swam by, its head swivelling towards the shore before it vanished below the surface.

A gap in the car and bicycle traffic saw us across the road and we joined the Salish trail in the park. Immediately I was struck by the fresh osoberry leaves backlit by the morning sun like little green candles. (Osoberry is perhaps better known as Indian plum but I think it’s inappropriate to use such names – regardless of their historical origin – so I’ll stick with osoberry. I’ve also seen it referred to as the June plum, but since they’re not really plums, osoberry works fine.). Some of the osoberry leaves were accompanied by first white spring blooms. Naturally I was unable to resist taking a photo or two.

We walked on uphill alongside the deep ravine of a creek where our attention was caught by the intense pink dots of emerging salmonberry buds. I was surprised to see a few flowers opened up – it won’t be long before the rufous hummingbirds start to return to feed on them. No sooner had I thought that than I heard the high-pitched “peep” from an Anna’s hummingbird as it flew out of its steep display dive. Down at our feet, the first soft, feathery fronds of bleeding heart leaves were poking up through the leaf litter. It was lovely to see that spring was finally beginning to show itself, and I could feel the weight of winter lifting.

Crossing the next road obstacle, our return to the trees was greeted with a chorus of creaky croaks from Pacific tree frogs, which, to this day, I have never seen. We turned onto the bike-free Sword Fern trail and enjoyed walking through the open alder forest in the hazy sunshine. I wonder about the state of these trees, though, as we saw one that had snapped cleanly at the base, the trunk falling – thankfully – away from the trail. The inner of the tree looked like the honeycomb from a Crunchie bar, which gave me a craving for that sugary stick-to-your-teeth snack.

We turned east onto the Spanish trail, which took us all the way back to the beach. We left the alders and re-entered the hemlock, cedar, and fir forest. With less to see, our senses were more attuned to the sounds around us and we heard chickadees, kinglets, nuthatches, pine siskins, and ravens in or above the trees around us. Soon we were descending steeply toward the beach once again, the embankment on our left covered in many more fresh bleeding heart leaves. A well-placed patch of perfect snowdrops allowed me to get a couple of nice close-up photos. In photographing snowdrops this year I realized that I’ve never actually looked at the heart of their flowers. One of them was tilted up far enough to get a good view and I could see the bright orange-yellow pollen-decorated anthers.

Within 50 metres we reached Marine Drive again, and crossed over to close the loop of our circuit. The sun duly made a reappearance and its warmth lured us down onto the beach where we found a log and sat to eat our sandwiches with a great view across the water. A small troupe of buffleheads bobbed on the sea, disappearing under in the blink of an eye before resurfacing a few metres away. A lone paddleboarder made their way steadily westward, the wind on their back (and occasionally across ours, dispersing any warmth built up by the spring sun!), and I couldn’t resist a quick shot as they crossed in front of a large bulk carrier. I always like these juxtaposition type of shots with something of known size next to something large. In practice, of course, the ship is much further away so the paddleboarder looks much larger than they would be if next to the ship in reality. But that’s all part of the fun of photography.

With lunch finished we walked the last 50 m to the car and returned home for a post-lunch hot drink. It had felt like a very welcome spring-like morning, with new growth and warm sun. Oh yes, so very spring-like, as we sneezed our way home and I had to work very hard not to rub my itchy eyes for the rest of the day. But I’ll happily deal with that knowing that winter is beginning to recede.

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