CampingClimbing & HikingExtreme SportsFishingHunting & ShootingRecreational CyclingWater SportsWilderness SurvivalWinter Sports

A Prairie Gal's Walk on Vancouver Island

Updated on August 03, 2016

Joined: 6 years agoFollowers: 282Articles: 45
A piece the of E&N Railroad through the Comox Valley
A piece the of E&N Railroad through the Comox Valley | Source

Walking Was Natural

I was a walker as a child and a youth. By myself, or with friends or family, I gamboled happily through the chunks of rural and small-city Saskatchewan where I grew up. Before I even started to school I have a recollection of walking with a little friend along the highway to the village near our farm. When a truckful of labourers pulled over to offer us a ride, I was aghast when Richard readied himself to jump on the truck and had to grab him and yell to them, "No thank you, we only have a few blocks to go." Blocks? On a highway? Well, I'd been a child walker/runaway on the suburban streets of Vancouver for a couple of years while my young parents looked into the future away from the farm. The point was that pedestrian children did not take rides from strangers.

So, while our farm was a wheat and grain operation, and I didn't have "chores" per se, I did engage in a lot of physical activity. I would be dispatched to pick up groceries on my bike (for which I put a chocolate bar on the tab with the other groceries) and I frequently walked down to the little river to swim, or over to a neighbour's place a couple of miles away. Sometimes I had to walk to school if we got up late and missed the schoolbus. And I walked, skipped, and did the pre-60s version of a jog, all over the farm. Often I walked around the school at recess with friends, or around the sportsground with best friends after school. Walked and talked.

I was thin and fit and I had confidence in my ability to do a lot of things, because if I just put one foot in front of the other, well, stuff got done.

Are you a Walker?

See results

I Stopped Walking. I Got Fat. I Got Old.

I went away to College. I met a lovely man who walked because he didn't own a car. We walked for miles through the rain in our courtship, through the early part of our marriage and taking turns carrying our first child.

Then we got jobs that required a vehicle. We lived out of the city. We walked less.

When at some point my husband took up hiking and running and the odd half-marathon, our younger son remarked, "Dad, you're the Half-Marathon Man"-- a wordplay on the movie "Marathon Man" starring Dustin Hoffman, but a comment which repeated today doesn't elicit a chuckle because younger folks don't know what I'm talking about.

I walked less.

And less and less and less.

Let's Go For A Walk (Shock)

So, yesterday when I announced that I would like us to walk to town, my husband looked confused and rather shocked.

He is always up for any sort of connubial physical activity. His love language is, of course, physical activity together. I, on the other hand, prefer sitting at my computer in the kitchen facing the garden so that I can swoop outside at intervals to bring in a bucket of berries or whatever might be needed for a meal.

"Yes, I want to walk to town. I have been thinking about doing that since we moved here." Eleven years ago. And I have actually meditated on how nice that would be. If I hadn't lost those two FitBit Pedometers (one to the clothes dryer and one to parts unknown), I am quite certain I would now have been making that trip to town on Shank's Pony on a fairly regular basis.

So, off we headed. The walk down to the highway was pretty do-able. Downhill all the way. I prevented myself from obsessing about the climb up the hill on the way home.

There was a lot of traffic. It is July and we do live in a tourist destination by the ocean above the scenic route into and out of the city, so, yes, traffic is heavy right now.

He suggested that we take a slightly unorthodox route into town, along the old out-of-use E&N Railroad. And then we could take the bus home, another 'first' for me in this community.

It was a gorgeous day in one of the World's most exquisitely beautiful settings. I have no difficulty in stating that. The Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, is noted for its glorious four-season location-- snow-capped mountains, ocean, lakes, rivers, green grass in the winter. Small organic fruit and veggie farms. Ancient-growth rain forest and a healthy mix of people who have lived here all their lives, boomers moving in from all over Canada, big box stores and a cheerful little downtown that is reminiscent of the downtowns of all small towns in Canada in my 50s-60s girlhood.

And even the ditches have beautiful flowers growing in them, I remark.

Even the ditches grow beautiful flowers on Vancouver Island
Even the ditches grow beautiful flowers on Vancouver Island | Source

Comox Valley, Vancouver Island

Railroad-ed

We followed Royston Road up to where the E & N Railroad crossed and turned on to the sun-swathed route that was the dilapidated railroad. My husband, political observer, frequent visitor to the Regional District office, and avid writer of letters-to-the-editors of local newspapers, was delighted to fill me in on the history of this railroad and the fact that there is apparently $12 Million earmarked to remove the old ties, lay down new ones and get it running again.

The intimacy and peace of a walk along an unused, overgrown railway in the July sunshine
The intimacy and peace of a walk along an unused, overgrown railway in the July sunshine | Source

I'm most interested in the sunny peacefulness and the absolute privacy of this walk along these battered old tracks. Everything is overgrown. The wild blackberry bushes are loaded down with berries, but their density disguises a drop-off into a trench or canyon just at the toe-line where an unwary admirer might be compelled to step in to scoop up a handful of the luscious gems. Blackberry bushes are nasty little bastards but we put up with them because of the delicious, free berries. Some of us like to pretend that we pick enough of these berries to offset the excessive food costs of living on an island. Others of us grow cultivated thornless blackberries in our backyards because we can reap a huge harvest of berries without being snagged by thorn-whipping, hair-grasping branches.

Blackberry Bushes Are Bastards

An Amazing Nature Walk

As a child in the small Saskatchewan village of Choiceland, where my maternal grandparents lived, my little friends and I fantacized about walking the rails all the way to the ("big") city of Prince Albert, about a hundred miles away. And we would actually walk the rails, not along the wood ties. We never made it anywhere very far, not even the next village. We were children, after all, and my Grandma usually served up macaroni and cheese (the real thing) for supper.

The rails along this old track had a certain arty charm, so far-gone are they. The less attractive ones are clad in old creosote, a dark brown oil distilled from coal tar and used as a wood preservative. I am interested to see that the ugliest creosote ties have, indeed, survived all the wet and fungus whereas the ones without creosote have broken down into small tinder wood gardens. I also wonder if new railroad architects have come up with a preservative less harsh on the environment than creosote. Gardeners are warned off using old railroad ties in their veggie gardens because of a Public Health Statement of the Environmental Protection Agency to the effect that the coal in creosote is probably carcinogenic to humans.

Ties to the Past

Source
Source

Nature is Therapeutic

There is so much beauty in our Valley, from the majestic indigenous cedars and firs, to the medicinal herbs, sometimes labeled "invasive plants", and the wild flowers that we are wont to call "weeds".

Here a wild bee grapples energetically to extract nectar from clover.
Here a wild bee grapples energetically to extract nectar from clover. | Source
A delicate, very bright yellow flower that I can't identify.  Do you know what it is?
A delicate, very bright yellow flower that I can't identify. Do you know what it is? | Source
What we used to call Indian Paintbrush, but which might actually be something else now that I have looked it up online...??
What we used to call Indian Paintbrush, but which might actually be something else now that I have looked it up online...?? | Source
Symphoricarpos I think.
Symphoricarpos I think. | Source
I was rather stunned to see a pile of "junked" apples at the outset of the trail. I know that certain vacant lots in our own neighbourhood become what might be seen as large compost piles--.someone's offering to the bears, deer and raccoons?
I was rather stunned to see a pile of "junked" apples at the outset of the trail. I know that certain vacant lots in our own neighbourhood become what might be seen as large compost piles--.someone's offering to the bears, deer and raccoons? | Source

A Different Perspective

When you walk on a railroad track you have to watch that you don't trip on the ties. Walking requires attention, but the soft wood ties are also easier on the feet than pavement. In fact, one gets a sort of stretch and gentle massage. I suggested to my husband that it was a little like walking the labyrinth. He gave me a quizzical looked and responded with, "wouldn't your brain be a little whacked by all the linear, back and forth eye movements?" I guess I meant that like other walking, it is a reflective exercise. Thinking, planning, and ideas come out of walking and talking. There were no people engaged in Pokeman Go in sight. For over two hours.

where the tracks were switched
where the tracks were switched | Source
Here is a Log Cabin Kit-building business tucked behind this old out-of-use railroad- talk about "Stepping Back In Time"!
Here is a Log Cabin Kit-building business tucked behind this old out-of-use railroad- talk about "Stepping Back In Time"! | Source
I did try to walk the rails, but it didn't work out so you just get to see the top part of me...
I did try to walk the rails, but it didn't work out so you just get to see the top part of me... | Source

Urban Railroad

As we got closer into the city we saw a few more people-- a woman walking her dog, a couple of guys on bicycles (yes, the little trail along-side the rails was a bike trail), and eventually we could hear the din of traffic again as the railroad ran behind the Walmart shopping area.

Beautiful Millard Park

Beautiful Millard Park!
Beautiful Millard Park! | Source
Where my husband used to walk our little dog while I did some shopping... she delighted in all the trails in the woods here.
Where my husband used to walk our little dog while I did some shopping... she delighted in all the trails in the woods here. | Source
Here is a pretty ingenious weather-proof way to get back to the meadow on one side of the tracks and through the bush into Walmart (and buses) on the other side of the track
Here is a pretty ingenious weather-proof way to get back to the meadow on one side of the tracks and through the bush into Walmart (and buses) on the other side of the track | Source
A new walking/cycling trail that we knew nothing about runs just between the old railroad and the commercial in between.
A new walking/cycling trail that we knew nothing about runs just between the old railroad and the commercial in between. | Source
Here is the crossing at 26th Street where we left the railroad and headed down the hill to the Driftwood Mall.
Here is the crossing at 26th Street where we left the railroad and headed down the hill to the Driftwood Mall. | Source

The End of A Super Journey

We arrived at the Driftwood Mall about two hours after we had set out from our house and I had a big glass of water and a bun and a bowl of soup that, amazingly, satisfied me and tasted like no bowl of soup I had eaten in recent memory. Then, after my husband had read a couple of newspapers and done the Sudoku, we caught the bus home. I was so high on endorphins from actually doing the walk to town (and from a couple of astonished "wows" from people I disclosed this to) that I found hiking the steep hill from the highway to our street was hardly worth a moan.

I highly recommend you take a walk you have been meaning to take!

I Walk The (Rail)Line

This is my husband's foot.  Please hum or sing: " I keep a close watch on this heart of mine / I keep my eyes wide open all the time / I keep the ends out for the tie that binds / Because you're mine, I walk the line" (Johnny Cash and June Carter)
This is my husband's foot. Please hum or sing: " I keep a close watch on this heart of mine / I keep my eyes wide open all the time / I keep the ends out for the tie that binds / Because you're mine, I walk the line" (Johnny Cash and June Carter) | Source

Gord Carter singing about the Comox Valley Coal Miners

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • ed 6 months ago

      Whether it is traveling by rail or canoe or bus the perspective I find is quite different than he regular driver's seat angle.

      Walking the line is sort of enveloping in that there is quiet, nature and a step back into time. After all the tracks were here first and the roads accommodate the tracks.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 6 months ago from USA

      Sounds and looks like a wonderful adventure! There are some state parks nearby that we love to explore on foot when it's not too hot. Lovely hub.

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 6 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Thank you Ed for your observations-- all in all, it was a perfect day and I did indeed come away with a brighter perspective. -Cynthia

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 6 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Thank you, FlourishAnyway,for your kind words-- it really was an adventure for this sedentary creature, and it worked out beautifully. I didn't mention that I also made a new friend at the bus stop-- I'd forgotten how pleasant that can be also. I hope you some cooler days this summer to visit some of your favorite parks and have your own adventures! -Cynthia

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 6 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Excellent hub and I enjoyed walking along with you. You have included some very nice pictures , good enough to motivate readers to leave their sedentary lifestyle and put on their walking shoes.

      I enjoy walking in the morning or evening. It is so rejuvenating to see those lovely green plants and trees all along.

      Thank you for the reminder through this well written hub!

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 6 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Oh, how I miss the Pacific Northwest! With its mossy rainforests, snow-capped volcanic peaks, beautiful semi-precious gems you can find in any gravel lot, salmon bakes, contra dances, blackberries, huckleberries, blueberries, northern lights displays, and HOT SPRINGS!

      Speaking of hot springs, check this out: it's in your neck of the woods.

      http://www.tourismtofino.com/tofino-activites/hot-...

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 6 months ago from Europe

      Great article and beautiful photos. I enjoyed reading your article very much!

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 6 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      ChitrangadaSharan, Thank you for your encouraging words-- I'm going to put my walking shoes on again and see what adventures happen somewhere between here and Costco! Enjoy your own green and rejuvenating rambles! It would be interesting to see some pictures from a walk you take! All the best, Cynthia

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 6 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Hey Yoleen, it sounds like you know the joys of the Pacific Northwest pretty well! This year at the annual Camp Meeting of the church I belong to, I noticed they are recycling actual moss-covered logs on the steps leading up to the platform where the main presentations take place-- along with big potted ferns. It looks very "Rainforest" and quite stunning. I'm glad that my hub brought back some of that nostalgia for you. My question to you is: What do you find more appealing, the Pacific Northwest or Hawaii? Thanks for stopping by! ~Cynthia

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 6 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Buildrep, thank you for stopping by and checking out the article! I appreciate your reading through it-- it did come out rather long, but I had difficulty trimming it down more than I did (kind of like my old age predicament with 'recycling' my piles of belongings). Glad you enjoyed it! ~Cynthia

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 6 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Techygran - I greatly prefer the Pacific Northwest! In fact, when I retire, I am going to return to it.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 6 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      P.S. I miss camp meetings, too!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 6 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Cynthia,

      What a soul refreshing walk it turned out for me as well, just by reading this hub and watching those excellent pictures!

      It is a kind of walk I do with my dog. Btw, they have turned many unused railway tracks in Britain into national parks and hiking trails. I have not done any railroad track hike since 2013 and it is about time I did one too.

      It felt so great to accompany the nature lover in you on a kind of walk I like immensely.

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 6 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Hi Suhail, what high praise I receive from you-- thank you, my fellow nature lover (although you are braver around the wild animals than I).

      I appreciate your information about the Brits having turned many unused railroad tracks into hiking trails and wonder if that is a consideration here. I may have to check!. Hiking / walking trails would be located in a beautiful setting and would allow for more direct access to town than our current ocean-side trail does (because some property owners have denied the trail developers access to their properties through the sale of a small portion of their land). You have given me some ideas! Thank you for dropping by! ~Cynthia

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Cynthia,

      Thanks for taking me on that virtual walk with you and your husband into town on that abandoned railroad track. The pictures you shared were beautiful. These days my hubby and I get our exercise walking in air conditioned malls. Just too hot outside in the Houston summers for us. I look forward to walking in more of our parks when the weather cools down again. Typically that will not be for several more months. We also have greenbelt paths in our subdivision if we care to stay close to home. Nothing like walking outdoors to enjoy Mother Nature!

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 6 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Hi Peggy,

      Thanks for dropping by and your kind comments about the pictures (taken with a phone and there were so many more but I thought, who in their right mind has time to spend looking at all these photos of the backwoods?). I like the climate here, I guess it is called "temperate" and it really doesn't change too drastically from one season to the next, although the past two summers have been a little hotter and dryer than what I recall when we first moved here. Stay cool until you can get back into walking outside! ~Cynthia

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a lovely article, Cynthia. It describes two of my favourite activities - walking and observing nature. Thanks for taking me on a virtual journey. It sounds like you had a very enjoyable walk.

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 6 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Hello Linda, Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. I imagine you have had similar walks to this in your neck of the woods. BC is so rich in wild (or 'gone wild') flora and fauna living cheek and jowl with urbanites. It WAS an enjoyable walk and I'm pleased that you enjoyed your virtual journey-- join in anytime! ~Cynthia

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Quite an adventure! Happy for you that you enjoyed it. Your passion for physical activity and the outdoors come through. The pictures make it easy to imagine you on the path.

    • June Hubbard-Nuisker 5 months ago

      Wonderful walk in the area...this is why I love it here all the lush under growth and evergreens so aptly portrayed in this article. Here in the Comoz Valley it is easy to find placed to walk and explore ...I am sending this to my Husbands friend ...he is an old timer

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 5 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Thank you so much for your kind words Ms. Dora-- my friends everywhere are amused at your comment that I have a passion for physical activity-- perhaps by writing this I will gain such a passion?

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 5 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Thank you June Hubbard-Nuisker-- I appreciate your kind comments knowing that you have a fellow-feeling for the beauty of this area. Thank you for passing this on to your oldtimer friend. That's high praise! xxCynthia

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 months ago from North America

      On June 3 this year, I tripped and fell onto one knee on a patterned concrete sidewalk. The knee swelled pretty quickly to 2.5 x normal size, the kneecap looked broken, and the whole leg felt on fire.

      I bought a 10-pound bag of ice and buried the knee in it. A friend laid hands on and prayed the next day and in the morning, all swelling was gone and I could walk without a cane.

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 5 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Hi Patty-- So sorry to hear about your injury, but happy to hear that all the swelling is now gone and you can walk without a cane. May I recommend that you walk more on the cushion-y old rail ties and less on nasty concrete sidewalks? I'm being silly, I know, but do keep walking-- I'm happy you can!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 months ago

      I enjoyed your post on walking. We have parks here with lovely walking paths. My hubby and I love strolls in the fall and winter at these parks. Thank you for reminding me how beneficial it is to one's overall well being.

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 5 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Hi teaches12345,

      And thank you for your kind comments. Yes, walking in nature is beneficial for more than one's figure or dyspepsia (as old English Mystery writers would have it), it IS good for our whole being. Continue to enjoy your community's walking paths with your hubby-- walking is good for the relationship too! ~Cynthia

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 5 months ago from southern USA

      Oh, Cynthia, I love this hub! Thank you for taking along with you and your hubby on your interesting and lovely walk on Vancouver Island via the old railroad tracks. Your photos are amazing too.

      I really enjoyed the little back stories you have shared and you and your husband sound a lot like me and my husband back in the day and now. We are overdue in taking such an adventurous walk.

      Sharing this gem

      I hope you and yours are having a peaceful weekend.

      Blessings

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 5 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Dear Theresa, Thank you so much for dropping in with your kind words! I hope that you and your hubby get a chance to take a nice walk together very soon! ~Cynthia

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 months ago from San Diego California

      I am a mailman, so of course I walk a lot, but I like to walk for free as well. My aunt used to joke with me if I had ever heard the one about the mailman who used to go for a walk on his day off. After I waited patiently for the punch line she would say - That's the whole joke.

      This was a splendid article, delightfully written with beautiful pictures. Vancouver Island looks like a wonderful place.

    • techygran profile image
      Author

      Cynthia 2 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Nice to meet you Mel! And thank you for your kind words! I have always thought how healthy the traditional postman's job is, but, alas, don't see many of your kind up here much any more. Banks of mailboxes here and there with people in cars contracted to drop the mail off is our standard delivery service in many parts of Canada.

      Heading over to read what you offer! -Cynthia

    Click to Rate This Article