Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finding a new path .(1).

I have spent a lot of time this summer and fall dutifully doing what does not come easily to me, - maintaining: rebuilding and cleaning up around our property. It seems that the thirty-five year mark is the point that all things fall apart. Now that all is bright and shiny again and ready for the winter rains it is time to take myself for some exercise, some re-creation, along the shores and trails of our island. Fall is a lovely time of year as nature itself strips down for winter action. Change is in the air!

One day I stroll along the familiar trail at Indian Point, stopping to re-photograph trees and shorelines I have photographed before. A different mind set, different angle of sun and misty air produces all new and interesting images. The next day I drive further to Ruckle Park and walk down across the valley, past the farm buildings and stop before I take the normal right turn down to the bay. Above me looms a rocky cliff half hidden in the trees. In all the years I worked here as a Park Ranger I never climbed up there. The whole central rocky core of my usual coastline circuit is terra incognita to me. Time for a change!

I am walking on my own because Heather is away for a few days looking after grandchildren. No one knows my trip plans, and indeed I didn`t know I was leaving the beaten path until just now. I have no cell phone if I should need help. Do I dare or not? My life experience gives the answer: yes, but with caution! At first I take a faint trail that fades to a wisp of a deer track as it winds up the slope behind the cliffs. Big firs, grassy meadows. As I climb I am thinking that I will simply find the top of the massif and then follow the path back to the road again, Simple, safe.

This is exciting, discovering new landscape, and eventually I emerge onto a large grassy hilltop, the highest edge of which forms the steep cliffs that I have seen all these years from the valley below. I gaze my fill and then cannot resist looking to see if the sketchy trail picks up again on the far side of the meadow. I look carefully over my shoulder to set my return path in my memory, and wander off down the slope toward the morning sun that indicates south-south-east and gives a slowly shifting reference point for direction finding. Way down there I find some yellow survey tape fluttering from some branches and beyond, deeper in the tangle of vegetation, is another. A marked trail or a false lead?

There is a faint and intermittent trail beneath the tape markers that trends toward the sun and so off I go ducking under Garry oaks and fallen trees. What I worry a little about is breaking a leg or twisting an ankle and needing to drag myself out of here. It is not going to happen but it doesn`t hurt to proceed with caution. After half an hour of following the marker tapes through masses of vegetation and mossy rock outcrops I have dropped altitude and can occasionally glimpse the sea ahead. Soon I am stepping out from the dark forest into the grassy and familiar camping fields beside the sea.

My little adventure has worked out fine, but how long is it since I have stepped off the beaten track? Once, while we were living the sailing life, there was no track and life was all discovery. Time, high time, to sniff some of that heady aroma of freedom again.


Ernst Göran Westlund said...

Interesting how one can find a completely new path on a familiar place. I have to discover that myself. But not until summer.

Bill said...

The interesting thing is that even familiar paths can present different personas from day to day and month to month. Try walking a path at night, in fog etc.