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Sunrise at Tombstone, AZ

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve

Saturday morning after we said goodbye to Dianne and Steve, Ray and I went on an adventure ... the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve.  They have their one and only day the public can walk through the preserve. We went early to miss the crowds so we could get some pictures. An awesome stroll through the property seeing the wildflowers and Garry Oaks. Less flowers this year with our long snowy winter ... but still beautiful. It was pretty windy today and on the news there were ferry cancellations. Not too bad at the preserve though.

Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve

Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve flowers, BC (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)
Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve flowers, BC (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)
Large, gnarled oaks stand guard in the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve (CGOP), weathering the wind and rain of West Coast winters. They provide shelter for gartersnakes, black-tailed deer and a variety of birds. In the surrounding meadows, bees hum around native wildflowers and plants, such as camas, chocolate lily and Howell's triteleia. Meanwhile, a small creek bears fish through a stand of mature Douglas-fir and down to the Quamichan wetlands. There, at the edge of Quamichan Lake, rest flocks of migratory birds and tree frogs nestled in the branches.
These trees were once common throughout southeastern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and down through the Puget Trough of Washington State and Oregon's Willammette Valley. However, the spread of urban and agricultural development in the last 150 years has eliminated these Garry oak ecosystems to less than five per cent of their historical extent. The Cowichan Valley is widely known as one of the last and best havens of the globally endangered ecosystem and its biodiversity. The Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve occupies a vital part of this ecological tapestry.
Since its establishment in 1999, CGOP has been a hub of activity for both restoration and research work in the Cowichan Valley. The ongoing and enthusiastic support from the local community continues to ensure the vitality of this precious conservation area.
In 2012, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), along with partner groups the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team and Cowichan Valley Naturalists' Society, embarked on a landmark reintroduction project for the western bluebird. CGOP was the first site of translocation. The groups brought this native bird back to areas where it disappeared in the mid-1990s. In the intervening years, the bluebird population has continued to rise. This has charted a hopeful course for the many endangered species in the region.

To gain entrance to the preserve you had to park on Maple Bay Road and walk the 1/2 km up a lane to reach the starting point of the tour.

Once at the end of the lane, to the left you can see Quamichan Lake in the distance. They were offering wagon rides to the wetland area. 

We just missed the wagon ride to the park's other end.  Nothing we wanted to see that way anyway.

At the beginning of the tour they have the Native Plant Nursery where you could "purchase" some plants by donation. Carrying on down the path brought us to an old barn and wildflower meadows showcasing the Garry Oaks. They had ten stations under white tents with displays of pictures of pollinators, birds that live in the preserve, history of the old buildings etc. You could wait and take guided tours or walk on your own which we opted to do.

Elkington House is one of Cowichan Valley's best-kept secrets, with deep roots in our local heritage and history dating back to the time of colonization on Vancouver Island. The 119–year-old heritage house sits in the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

Elkington House

Cultural significance

Camas flowers in bloom (Photo by NCC)
Camas flowers in bloom (Photo by NCC)
Garry oak meadows have been integral to the First Nations of the Cowichan Valley for thousands of years. Camas was cultivated in the meadows and harvested in late summer for its bulb, which is rich in carbohydrates and was pit-cooked or dried and ground up to make a flour. In order to ensure the vibrant blue-purple flower thrived, Indigenous communities worked with natural systems. At times they performed prescribed burns to limit shrubs and conifers from expanding into meadows with deep soil.

Ray doing what he loves to do. It has been awhile since we have been on an outing for pictures.
After our lovely walk, we decided to have a bite to eat at the Lions Rampant Pub in Maple Bay. It sure is windy out on the ocean. Before going in we noticed some cool wildflowers across the street.

The white water in the distance is whitecaps from the wind. We also saw an otter climb up onto the dock and get a good back scratching before slipping back into the water.

Last stop on the way home was a quick peek at the Garden Show at the exhibition grounds ... they even had a horse show going on. We did not find anything we needed to buy as we already have our landscaping done.

They did have cool birdhouses though.

Back home by 12:30 pm. A great couple of hours.

The Colibabas come to visit ... my sister from another mister!

Monday was a write-off day. Poured rain the whole time. Spent most of my day tidying up from our company and laundry. I did manage to spend an hour or so on the deck with the heaters on and fire table just to get some fresh air.

Tuesday, off to Nanaimo for appointments for Ray and I. We did a Costco run and picked up some more zero gravity chairs.  On the way back home we stopped in with Jason to see his new tile job. It looks wonderful. Back home shortly after noon and met up with our gardener's to get the three rhodo's dug into the garden and get the back lawn seeded with more grass seed. Everything's coming together. I puttered around with a few odds and ends and we spent a little time sitting in our "garden room" behind the motorhome in the sun.

Wednesday woke to sunny skies. A great day for Dianne and Steve to visit. I spent the morning getting ready prepping for dinner ... barbequed turkey. They arrived around 2pm. Yeah ... so nice to see them in person after a year.

It was a beautiful afternoon so we had a campfire as it was too windy to sit on the dock.

At 4 the sun went behind a cloud and the wind kicked up so me moved to the sundeck and turned on the heaters.

Dinner turned out great, turkey with all the fixin's. Ray put away the food and Steve and Dianne did the dishes. Thanks a bunch guys.

Thanks for doing the dishes guys.
After dinner we watched a movie and everyone was kind of in a "turkey coma", including Freya. lol

Off to bed at 10pm.

Friday all of us were up by 6:30 am having coffee. Foggy out first thing this morning but within a couple of hours turned out to be a beautiful sunny morning. Breakfast was "monkey bread".

Steve helped Ray move his wood storage in the basement in preparation for making a new shelving system under our furnace to give him more space for his saws.

Dianne and Steve took us out for lunch at Jake's at the Lake, our favourite watering hole. Most of the rest of the day was moving between seating areas depending on the wind. We sat on the dock, the deck and on the front driveway intermittently. Steve tried a little fishing on the dock and did have one on but lost it. lol

This parking lot was covered up to the stairs in water in December.

Lunch at Jake's at the Lake

After lunch the gang jumped into the hot tub. Dianne was very appreciative as her knees are killing her.

Oh that is hot! says Dianne. lol

Next up was relaxing on the dock.

Dinner was a piece of cake ... leftovers in the microwave ... finishing off the evening on the deck under the heaters. With all of the fresh air, we all went to bed at 9 pm. Ray and I watched a little TV and then it was lights out.

Steve's picture of our sunset at the lake.
Friday morning we were all up again at 6:30 am to a beautiful sunny morning. A little breezy out though, but not as cool as yesterday. 8C at 7:30 am instead of 3C. After our leisurely morning coffee, I made us breakfast ... french toast and bacon. Once my Kitchen Angel, Dianne, had the dishes done and I had our turkey sandwiches made, we were off on our adventure to Kissinger Lake.

Steve and Dianne have camped down at the other end of Lake Cowichan for years before they chose to take their life on the road. We intended to check out the forest service camping spots down the lake but they were all locked up and not open yet. The road is now paved quite a ways past Youbou before it turns to gravel. It is a working hauling road, so we did encounter a few loaded logging trucks. Not much room to move out of the way.

Kissinger Lake is a pretty rustic camping spot and will fit units the size of ours or Steve and Dianne's (away from the water in the group sites), if you put up with the more than 10 miles of gravel road. Good place for kids to learn to fish though. There is a camp host there. This electric only fishing lake is stocked in April and November with 10 inch plus trout. This is one of our son-in-law Jason's favourite fishing spots.

After taking a few pictures we decided to go back home via the other side of the lake. Back on the road we stopped at the Heather Campsite at the end of Lake Cowichan for lunch. Lots of memories here for Steve and Dianne as they camped here with their boys. This also has a camp host and looks like it just opened recently. Another rustic camping spot under a heavy treed canopy.

Steve tried a little shore casting with his fishing rod but no luck. A great place to sit and enjoy the view eating our lunch.

Back on the road down the other side of the lake. Quite a few forest campsites, but they are all locked up at the moment. We stopped at a viewpoint that used have a great view of Youbou (according to Steve) but the trees have grown too tall since he was last here, to get the "expansive view".

Once back home it was time to get our Prime Rib dinner prepared as we we're having Pat and Darryl (our neighbours) over for dinner, so my old besties can meet my new besties. lol Once the beast was on the barbecue, we sat on the sundeck under the heaters chillin.

Darryl and Pat came over about 5 pm. Steve and Dianne found that they have some mutual friends with them, ... small world. At six I served the beast with scalloped potatoes and yorkshire puddings. I think dinner was a success. Lots of laughs and lots of wine drank.

Pat and Darryl went home about 8pm and the rest of us were in bed with lights out by 9:30 pm. Another awesome day.

Saturday morning we were all up again by 6:30 am. Sunny and windy out, in fact there are ferry cancellations. A sad day for me as my "sister" is leaving today. We had a great time catching up with both of them and look forward to their next visit in May. The boat will be in the water so Ray and Steve can actually fish from the boat. Ray and I are sure glad that the weather has been great for their visit.