Vignette: Jericho-Spanish Banks beaches, 12 Nov 2021

A gap in the rain means time for a walk on the beach!

We are moved on from our first parking spot by a film project that had reserved the lot just west of Spanish Banks Creek, so we park up in the westernmost lot, beyond the film crews and among all the dog-walkers letting loose in the off-leash area. We walk east, into the breeze – my usual approach, so that we end up with the wind on our backs as we return to the car – which turns out to be negligible anyway, even when the rain returns for a few moments.

The path is quiet, the tide is high, and the city ahead of us is grey. So grey. Cottonwoods are hanging on to the last of their yellow leaves, adding a spot of colour against the monochrome sky. An eagle sits among the topmost branches, a sentry on guard for food opportunities. A lone vine maple fends off the dullness with a fiery display.

Seagulls gather on the sand under the watchful gaze of another eagle perched high in a Douglas fir. The bare net-posts of the volleyball courts are reflected in the puddles. There are puddles on the path too, most of them shallow enough to walk through even without boots.

A third eagle flies overhead and cruises the shoreline, the tide high up the beach, before alighting in a cottonwood. A fourth calls from another nearby tree. The rabbits don’t care, though, and they continue to graze the grass, or accept whatever treats they’re offered by people who see them as wild pets. To call them feral rabbits sounds strange, like they’re crazy wild rather than simply not tame. If they were bears, we’d call them conditioned, which would probably spell the end of them.

The pond is high and our original route blocked by floodwater spilling out over the grass. We walk over the bridge, the water barely a foot below the underside of the arch. The beavers must be happier now, though their lodge is barely above the surface. I hope they have built plenty of chambers. They’re definitely still active, a half-wired tree trunk partially gnawed at the waterline. A fallen willow has been trimmed just enough to keep it off the path, yellow tape encircling the branches now draped across the ground.

The ducks are certainly in their element, as are the invisible tree frogs which creak at us. Mallards, widgeon, and coots occupy the base of a bench marooned by the encroaching pond. We turn back westwards, walking out onto the beach to get around the rivulets snaking across the sand, like a rising tide from the wrong direction. Picnic tables and benches sit with their feet in the cold water.

We return to the path and meet up with more rabbits. As I crouch to take a photo to show the sea and the city, a rabbit hops up to the front of the lens, its nose almost touching the glass. Too close to focus on! I scare it off so I can take my photo. Three times it returns in search of offerings. Conditioned.

High tide is less than an hour away, the detritus from the last high water mark lines the beach close to the path in front of the sailing centre. We walk along the smoother sand near the water line. We wonder why the pier is empty, the answer revealed as we step up onto the boards where a pair of steel gates stand chained together. Presumably this is because of the high winter tides, the king tides. The water is lapping the underside of the pier; a lone coot sits on the very tip of one of the posts, barely above the surface.

Sandbags line the path by the roadside, a now annual ritual to hold back the ocean during the spring tides either side of the winter solstice. I’m sure this didn’t happen 15 years ago when we first moved here.

Back to Spanish Banks and the creek is running high, a seagull perched on a rock at the mouth – on the lookout for returning salmon? We haven’t seen any salmon here in years but today that changes. A few fish heads dot the bank, a single whole chum salmon lies on a sandbar, its eggs retrieved by local volunteers, while a carcass upstream is caught on a branch. The volunteers we spoke to said that about 30 salmon had returned to this tiny creek, and all within the space of a day or two. Easy to miss.

We look back and see the city has emerged from the grey. Mostly. We pass the film support vehicles and tents again, and return to the car almost exactly two hours after we set out, in which time 7.5 km has passed under our feet and many sights have figuratively flooded our senses.

4 thoughts on “Vignette: Jericho-Spanish Banks beaches, 12 Nov 2021

  1. I sort of love those soggy days when you can have a relaxing walk along the beaches. :) I am always a fan of meeting those bunnies too.

    Woot woot for the salmon! It may be a small number, but it’s a good start…

    1. Yeah, the beach is definitely a life saver and has been ever since we moved here. It’s such a treat to have it more or less on our doorstep!

      It’s been quite a few years since we last saw salmon in that creek so we were really pleased to see that they’re still returning!

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