I spent a good portion of a day in John Dean Provincial Park this week. Friends of mine live on its border and I am ashamed to admit, even though I have spent countless hours and weekends with them, outside of a few times jogging on the lower trail near their home, I have never actually ventured into those woods.
Ashamed I say. For it is a beautiful and tranquil place.
What drew me to venture into this cedar and Garry oak haven was research. A significant portion of my current work in progress takes place in this forest. I decided it was time. I took the hour long bus ride to the bottom of the hill and walked up into the forest with camera and notebook in my backpack. It was a beautiful day; sunny and warm, and the canopy of green offered a filtering shade.
My intention was to make sensory notes. What would my characters see and hear as they spent time in the woods? What trails would they take? What and whom would they encounter?
Earlier in my life I spent varying periods of time in the wilderness. I have gone hunting with my brother as well as camping with friends and even solo. I have been a summer camp counsellor where we took teenagers on horseback into the wilderness for ten days at a time. Sadly, in the last twenty years I have spent precious little time communing with nature, and this day in the woods reminded me of what I have been missing.
It has been a hot and dry summer and, despite having some rain the day before, the forest floor was dry. It takes a prolonged hard rain to reach down through the forest canopy. Several times I stopped to sit on a moss covered log or rock. It was so peaceful. I met a few dog walkers and joggers, but over the course of the few hours I was there, I was relatively alone. I was surprised at the frequency of the sound of aircraft overhead from the nearby airport. I stopped counting at about twenty-six.
The tall cedar trees which grow closely together moaned and creaked in the wind as if engaged in a hushed, woody conversation. The golden, aged leaves from the towering Garry oaks floated down to their final resting place on the earth, their descent occasionally broken as they became cradled in the young cedar boughs near the forest floor, young cedars just beginning their climb to the sky. Within this canvas of green and gold, dead cedar bows hung like heavy copper filigree, highlighted in the dappled sunlight, foretelling riches beyond this life.
I walked the ups and downs of a trail riddled with roots and rocks determined to trip an inattentive rambler. And trip I did, a few times, but I never fell. Next time I will remember to dig out my hiking boots from the bottom of the closet as I did go over on my ankle a couple times. After a lovely lunch break, I noticed my ankle bothering me and by the time it came time to walk down the hill to catch the bus, it was quite troublesome. My ankle was aching all the way home on the bus, and during the evening it was slightly swollen and I could barely walk on it. I applied cold and Arnica ointment and was walking fine by morning with no more swelling and little discomfort. Thanks to my massage therapist for introducing me to Arnica Montana for bumps and bruises.
This research thing is deceptively hazardous. First motion sickness (read about it here), now a slight sprain; hopefully this is will not be a recurring theme in this writer’s life.