Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bushwacking. A walk on the wild side


It’s the beginning of February on Saltspring Island and the first green leaves are beginning to break bud. So far we have had a mild winter and this morning is warm and bright: time for a walk with my camera at Burgoyne Bay which is a fifteen minute drive across the south end of the island. Partway down the gravel road I pull over near the foundation rocks of an old building and begin to photograph the ruined rail fences and big maples against the looming cliffs of Mt. Maxwell. I have been spoiled recently by cloud-filtered light and find this glaring bright sunlight difficult to work with. The camera cannot handle the range of darks and lights anywhere near as well as my eyes do and the photos will be overly light and overly dark. Adjustable later on the computer to some degree of course, but I regret the filtered light of semi- cloudy days.

There was a light frost last night and as I walk across the fields of this heritage farm ( now a provincial park) the shady grasses are still white. The frost emphasises every detail. As I crest a rise and am about to enter another field I notice a path branching off to the left. A path never taken! Just follow it until I can see where it is going, I say to myself and begin an uphill course through the deep woods. In fifteen minutes I come to the park boundary and a private posted road blocks my progress into the unknown. Will I retrace my steps? Hardly! I find a sketchy trail that follows an old logging road and push through the broom and new young firs on a downhill course. Somewhere ahead is the top of another field. The trail peters out and I have another choice to make. Too late to go back now!

Soon I am wading through waist high salal, testing every step carefully, pushing through brambles and winding around old stumps. This is logged-off land and the new growth is really taking off. Deeper and deeper into the briar patch I wade. Looking up I can see that there are no treetops ahead so the field cannot be far off. The last hundred feet is a mess of young May trees with their sharp thorns and I am glad of my heavy canvas work jacket. I awkwardly step over an old wire fence and am out at last. This kind of off-the-beaten-path venturing really should not be rewarded with success. I am likely to do it again soon.

I walk across the fields to photograph in an alder swamp, visit with ducks and gulls on the shore of the bay and drop in on the old barn on my way back to my van. I get several good photos but I will mostly remember this morning for my little stroll on the wild side.

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