They say you should stop and smell the roses if you want to enjoy the journey. I’ve discovered my own interpretation of this that helps me count the blessings of the beautiful Comox Valley: I stop and visit local parks.
I’ve never been to a park as aptly named as Paradise Meadows. It’s located in Strathcona Provincial Park, about thirty minutes from Courtenay via the Strathcona parkway. On our first visit there, the pristine air, unmarred sub-alpine landscape, and the serenity, astounded my husband and me. Silence interspersed with a birdsong serenaded and soothed us as we wove our way between other hikers along the well-cared-for boardwalk.
This park is indeed a slice of paradise.
We’ve savoured it and shared it with others since our first taste of this earthly heaven. Each summer since then, my husband and I pack a small lunch and hike our way to our special picnic spot. I tend to pause, click, and run my way along the boardwalk as I take an average of 250 pictures per visit, and it’s not an easy task choosing my favorite shots. Each time we go to the meadow, I think “I couldn’t possibly find more pictures to take” and each time I click more shots than the visit before. Beauty abounds there.
For those of you who may not be familiar with this piece of peace, allow me to share a few facts I’ve gleaned from experience and online:
· Strathcona is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia
· It’s a 250,000-hectare wilderness of wonderfulness
· Snow can appear before the end of October and last into summer
· It’s home to a large variety of birds including Canada’s new (and very friendly) national bird, the gray jay or Perisoreus Canadensis
· Wildflowers, creeks, ponds, and lakes are prolific and visible from the trails and boardwalks
· Maps of the trails are available online and at the information center and vary from easy to challenging
· Outhouses and benches are available to hikers along the main trails
Of all the trail loops to choose from, my husband and I favour the walk into Lake Helen Mackenzie because we tend to go in the heat of summer. I have made it a tradition to go swimming in the icy water while my husband dangles his feet in the coolness of the shallows. We eat our lunch and drink our coffee on one of the giant rocks nestled against the lake, where sometimes the gregarious gray jays show up to beg some trail mix from us or other hikers. Once while swimming, I looked up to spot a hawk carrying a fish it had just caught from the lake. The still wriggling dinner clutched in the bird’s talons, tried to wiggle its way free while I mourned that the camera was out of reach. I suspect I’ll remember the magic of that majestic moment better than any photograph could have recorded it. And besides, no wilderness story is complete without a tale of the one that got away.