It was a beautiful sunny spring day in Port Alberni, so a picnic hike along the CPNR trail was the agenda. Here is the ACRD’s brochure and map of the trail: http://www.acrd.bc.ca/cms/wpattachments/wpID213atID603.pdf
The start of the trail is at the entrance to China Creek Marina. This is the highest part of the trail but it offers an excellent view south at Underwood Cove and across the inlet.
This trail is an old railway bed from a century ago that never was finished. Chinese labourers built it, but construction was stopped at the start of WWI. At some point, someone thought it would be a wonderful hiking/running trail and cleared it. Now its a spectacular easy scenic oceanside trail, perfect for a sunny day.
After the descent to Underwood Cove, where I worked on a fish farm in 1981, the trail goes to the northern terminus point of the rail line, where construction stopped, which is this concrete bridge,with the year 1913 cast into it. The trail goes right over this never-used bridge, which is in pristine condition even after a century of water flowing through it!
We stopped for a picnic including a bottle of wine. Our kind of lunch!
Coming back we stopped at Underwood Beach to laze around in the sun.
Dave and I are back from Guadeloupe – my daily race reports are already up on SleepMonsters, and I will repost them here (with more and bigger pictures) soon! But it’s nice to be home, too. We just did a hike up our usual backyard route – up Copper Mountain from the south end of Anderson, then down to the Boy Scout Camp on the inlet, then back up the mountain and down to the parking lot again – for a total cumulative elevation gain of about 500 m.
We have done this route a zillion times, so we know it well. And we notice the changes as the seasons flow past: different birds, different plants, different side-trails we pick to get more sunlight on us. This spring day we noticed so many beautiful little things, from the clusters of blooming Calypso orchids, to the interesting and delicate little fungi. Here are some of those highlights…
Read Jackie’s race reports, posted “live” daily from the course (internet connection permitting) on SleepMonsters.
Dave and I have just spent the last nine days on the island of Basse-Terre, part of the archipelago that makes up the islands of Guadeloupe, in the southern Caribbean. Basse-Terre is the largest island of Guadeloupe, and also the most rugged – it’s an active volcano (last explosion about 500 years ago, but with sulphuric gases emanating from its slopes and peaks), covered in thick tropical rainforest.
This will just be a quick post for now – the internet connections here are not great. Use the link above to follow our live reports on SleepMonsters during the race (March 30 to April 7), and check back here when we get back for some AMAZING pictures of our hikes this week.
So, yes, we are down here to run a race – a six-day ultramarathon called Guadarun, with a total distance of about 150 km. So each day is between 15 and about 35 km in length – not too long, but long enough that you have to take care of your body well (in the heat and dampness) each day, in order to be ready to go again the next day.
In the meantime, we have been doing some amazing hiking here on Basse-Terre. We’ll do a much more detailed post after the race, with more info about the routes – for now, here are some beautiful pix of this beautiful island.
Dave and I used our cross-country skills and knowledge of the local trails to participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count this year, this past December 30th. This was the 113th annual Christmas Bird Count in North America, and the 25th year that it has taken place in Port Alberni.
The way it works is that each location (usually a town) has a circle with a 15 km radius drawn around it: this is the area in which the count takes place. Someone needs to organize the count, to make sure that different groups don’t go to the same places (so the same birds do not get counted twice).
Dave had taken me out to the Somass Bird Sanctuary, an estuary with lots of marshland, grassland, bush, forest, and open water, at the top of Alberni Inlet (straight across from town) the day before the count. He’s been saying for over a year he wanted to take me there – I’m glad he finally did! We saw so many species there – there is a raised boardwalk over the marsh, which makes for great viewing. A highlight was a short-eared owl, circling low over us, hunting (we kept a close eye on little Tank!).
So that evening we contacted Sandy McRuer (operator of Vancouver Island Nature Tours/Rainbird Excursions), the Port Alberni Bird Count organizer. He had most areas around town already covered, so we offered to go hiking further out of town, along our “usual” route up Copper Mountain. This would take us up to the high country, then down to the inlet, then back up through the forest, then down again – through a variety of habitat.
We didn’t see as many birds on the inlet as we had hoped – we had expected a variety of ducks, as well as cormorants, loons, and perhaps some shortbirds. But, even so, we saw a total of 23 bird species that day, including two that no one else in Port Alberni had seen on the count (a sooty grouse, and a brown creeper – so we contributed two of Port Alberni’s total 89 species counted for December 30, 2012). We’ve become so fired up about birdwatching that we headed back to the estuary the next day, too – all together we saw 50 different species over four days (and a very cute raccoon family).
So here are a few of our pix from the last week or two – most of them not amazing quality, but very useful for us as ID shots: taking the photos home, so we can look up and identify the birds we saw that day, and get better at identifying them in the field.
We are totally into doing this next year. Sandy has already assigned us our route. We told him we wanted something tough and remote, something that is hard to get to but where we are likely to see species that the other counters are not likely to find. So he is sending us to an estuary across the inlet, in search of shorebirds (mainly birds from the sandpiper family). We can either hike in, or kayak in. Fun!
We decided to spend a couple of days in Ucluelet before Christmas to relax a bit as I am working through the holidays. We stayed at Water’s Edge Resort and the temperatures hovered around minus 1 C with a fresh sprinkling of snow which didn’t melt during the day so the Wild Pacific Trail was white and crunchy. Since the wind shifted to blow out of the West the skies opened up and the sun shone in, a real mid-December treat!
After we ran the South portion of the trail, we pulled on nice clothes and ran in to the Blackrock for a yummy lunch and beer!
I liked the Phillips Brewing Co from Victoria ‘Dr. Funk’. Jackie liked ‘Slipstream cream Ale’.
After lunch we decided to walk the North trail. We could see a big black cloud dumping rain and heading this way.
We headed out on the trail and tried to time the oncoming darkness and the oncoming rain.
We were heading back and the sleeting rain started as it got dark. Another awesome day out!
With the days shortening to the winter solstice, its dark by 4:30. Thus creates the opportunity for a night headlight run, hottub and potluck dinner! A little rain just to keep the pace going and we churned up the Copper mountain trail, down Spur 10, and back the gravel road to the parking lot. There was even a deer standing at the roadside watching us run by.
Dave and I appreciate living in Port Alberni pretty much every day. How many places in the world could anyone live with such a network of varied and beautiful running trails right at your doorstep? But these trails didn’t come from nowhere, of course: people built them.
Fortunately, Port Alberni has quite a healthy population of people who enjoy the outdoors and the trail systems: runners like us, but also hiker, mountain bikers, and dirt bikers. All of these groups get out there and build new trails, as well as work to maintain the old ones.
And Dave and I do our bit, too. There are some old disused trails that Dave has shown me, that we’re going to get out to clear – get those trails back in circulation.
But even the heavily used trails need some clearing from time to time – especially now, in this wet weather. Running through vegetation gets you cold and wet pretty quickly. I was out on the Alberni Inlet trail last week after a rain, and I was fine for most of it – but once I hit the section along the water, my feet immediately got soaked from all the water dripping off the overhanging ferns. So Dave and I went out yesterday – Dave pulled the ferns by hand, and I used clippers to cut the berry bushes back.
It takes a community, both to build and to maintain these trails!