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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

You can’t always trust Google Maps!

We had a fantastic Christmas Dinner last night after chatting with my son Josh, his girlfriend Alicia and her parents on Zoom. Isn’t it nice to still be able to interact with people, even if its virtually?

We’re looking forward to amazing leftovers this evening!

After a Facetime call this morning with R+L, we decided we would go and hike the Nile Creek Trail (West). At +6C and barely raining, the moderately rated trail, 3.9km, out and back, seemed perfect for today‘s adventure. I punched the directions into Google Maps and away we went down the coastal highway to Cochrane Road.

We turned onto Cochrane Road and next thing we know Cochrane Road turns into ”Pothole Road”.

These were some of the “milder” pot holes! Something didn’t seem right about this road as we didn’t see any traffic at all, or cars parked at Trail Heads.

Next thing we know we see Dunsmuir Hydro Substation and the road abruptly ended! We can’t find Nile Creek Trail (West)! So I get out my iPhone to look at Google Maps again and sure enough we’ve gone the wrong way! To get to Nile Creek Trail (West), we would need to go all the way back to Fanny Bay (20 minutes) and get on the main Highway and start over, heading to Nile Creek Trail (West). Good thing there are a lot of trails on the Island, because we were quickly able to find another trail close by we could do instead of back tracking to where we started from. This is where you learn to appreciate lots of roads, and different ways to go, which we have back home!

We found ourselves at the Qualicum River Trail which is a 10.5km, point to point trail on a gravel road, all along the Qualicum River. The Trail Head starts at the Qualicum Fish Hatchery and goes 10km to Horne Lake. There was no way we were going to hike the entire trail because of its length, but we figured we would go as far as I felt able.

Since the trail starts at the Big Qualicum Hatchery, there was a lot of interesting things to learn about salmon hatching, before we commenced our hike.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. I like how this illustration explains the cycle of the salmon fish or Pacific Salmonids as they are called.

Salmon hatcheries play a key role in the Salmonid Enhancement Program’s efforts to conserve weak salmon stocks; provide recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fishing opportunities; and support stock assessment. Fisheries and Oceans Canada operates 23 hatchery facilities and spawning channels, which release hundreds of millions of juvenile salmon every year to supplement wild stocks and sustain B.C. fisheries.

In a hatchery, juvenile salmon survive at rates many times greater than in the wild. Hatchery staff capture adult salmon as they return to their streams of origin. Eggs are taken from the returning spawners, fertilized and incubated at the hatchery. After the eggs have hatched and the young salmon called “alevin” have absorbed their yolk sacs, the juveniles are moved to rearing ponds and fed for varying lengths of time, depending on the species, before they are released back to the stream.

Juvenile salmon rearing ponds.

Spawning channels provide high-quality habitat for adult salmon to lay their eggs and for eggs to incubate. Hatcheries and spawning channels provide increased fishing opportunities and comprise an estimated 10-20% of all salmon harvested in B.C. The Salmonid Enhancement Program contributes approximately $90 million dollars of direct and indirect economic benefits. The Big Qualicum River Facility commenced operations in 1963 and at current production capacity contributes approximately 300,000 chum, 200,000 chinook, 340,000 coho, 3,000 steelhead and 1,000 cutthroat salmon every year to B.C.’s fishing industry.

Big Qualicum River project has a unique flow and temperature control system along with an artificial spawning channel and hatchery program.

After we were up to speed on the Salmon hatchery, we hit the trail for our hike. It was a gravel road trail which was very easy to walk or bike on.

Cyclists on the Qualicum River Trail.

We saw a sign for another 2 trails which looked a bit more interesting than walking on the gravel trail, so I said to Richard “Let’s check out these other two trails.”

More trails to try out.

Now this trail seems more interesting than the gravel road trail.

We came to a very slippery, narrow bridge which crossed the Big Qualicum River and decided to cross over and continue along the Cuthroat Trail.

Lift bridge over the Big Qualicum River along Cuthroat Trail.

Just as I was about to walk across the bridge I saw something that made me stop dead in my tracks!

Salmon carcass.

Another salmon carcass.

And one more not fully eaten salmon carcass.

That was it! These carcasses looked pretty fresh and I said to Richard “Let’s get out of here!” The more interesting trail was closer to the river, but also closer to the forest and there had been a sign back at the fish hatchery to “WATCH FOR BEARS!!’ So we quickly found our way back to the gravel road trail and didn’t eat our turkey sandwiches we had brought with us, while we walked along the trail! Richard kept assuring me that if there were other people with dogs walking along the trail we would be fine! I’m not sure I was really reassured, but it seemed like a reasonable assumption!

Every 60-80 yards in the Big Qualicum River were small water falls. The hike was all up hill following the up hill of the river. The River had the perfect conditions for the salmon to swim upstream in the fall.

We could hear birds calling to each other and Richard being the “bird whisperer” that he is, told me those are either hawks or eagles. Sure enough, we saw we saw more bald eagles!

This guy was sitting at the top of a dead tree, calling to his buddy, who was flying around and landing on another tree nearby.

Bald Eagle, Big Qualicum River.

I wasn’t able to get any closer to this bald eagle, as the gate was locked at the fish hatchery and this is as good as my current zoom lens would let me shoot. It was still pretty cool to see these two bald eagles just hanging out in their natural habitat!

We said we would hike the trail for 2km and then hike back for a total of 4km, but we pushed ourselves and hiked for 6km. Richard said I was going at the “old Ruth McBride” pace, where he had to almost run with his shorter legs to keep up. It felt good to be able to keep that pace again, as I find that working out with the strength and rehab trainer and my cycling in Newman, is definitely helping my leg get stronger!

Rainy day shooting. Great goretex coat though!

After our trail hike, we sat on a picnic bench at the fish hatchery and ate our turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches. YUM YUM. We had seen this bench on our hike but thought the bears might find us if we ate too close to their hunting ground!

Bench in the forest at Big Qualicum River.

Driving home, exhausted after our hike, it started to rain harder and we saw it was snowing at the same time, in the mountains. We still have no snow in Fanny Bay!

Snowing on the Vancouver Island Mountain ranges.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll find our way to Nile Creek Trail (West) and Google won’t lead us astray! The weather looks like rain except for Monday, for most of next week. Newman’s roof is NOT leaking which is great, as the repair seems to have worked!

Happy Boxing Day everyone!

One of the few Boxing Days in recent memory I haven’t been shopping!

We’re looking at planning a trip to Tofino in January to see the big January storms. I’m also hoping my new camera does come on December 30th, so we can take it with us to capture some big waves and spray! Now I’m off to investigate places to stay in Tofino in January!

There is no chance of getting “island fever” with so much to see and do here!

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