Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cougar Creek Scramble

When we have only time or energy for a quick walk, we go to Cougar Creek Park and look at ducks. But once or twice a year, we get ambitious and visit the canyon, just a few blocks downstream. This last Sunday, we were ambitious.

Cougar Creek is a small, shallow creek, running about 5 or 6 miles from its headwaters to its outlet into the Fraser River. By now, the upper part is practically paved over; it runs under several malls and ever-expanding housing developments. It is, however, still home to several species of fish, including trout and salmon, both wild and hatchery.

Local residents have taken on the responsibility of preserving what remains; among other projects, they've cleaned up the canyon, and it has almost recovered its original character. There is a trail, narrow, rugged at times, muddy in the dips, sometimes treacherous. Otherwise, and except for the odd stray shopping cart (how do they manage to get down there?), it belongs to the wild things.

Cougar Creek, terrain map.

The Canyon is the area between the two tree icons. My Google map has more detail.

We entered the ravine this time from the downstream end, just before the creek turns to go into Burns Bog. We took the trail for a while, as far as "Big Tree",

Big Tree, about 4 metres in diameter.

then turned off to walk, instead, on the dry stones of the creek bed. At first, it was fairly easy going, and we dawdled, examining the pools for fish and insects (more on these, later).

As the ravine narrows, things get a bit rougher. We had to cross the stream bed repeatedly, from one bank to the other, as the stream meandered. The rocks we crossed on are loose; a couple of years ago, one threw me into a pool. Not this time, though. We both came home with dry feet, even.

Dry feet and scratched legs. And a couple of slivers. All along the creek, trees have come down, some recently, some decades hence. We had to climb over many, duck under others.

Duck under this one.

And this one, stopping to look at the huge fungus on the bottom.

We were confined to the banks. The bush here is like I remember it from my childhood up north, thick, tangled and scratchy.


There were a few plants of Devil's Club, pretending to be harmless thimbleberry; careful what you grab onto for support crossing a log!

Checking out the Devil's Club

This tree was easy; we went around the roots, on the flat.

The Canyon is about a mile long. By the time we got to the narrow end, where it turns sharply upward and the only way out is on hands and knees*, it was late, so I cut across to the trail to save time on the return.

Partway down the trail, I learned why Laurie had opted for the creek bed; the mosquitoes were out in force along the trail. And they were hungry! Every time I stopped to look at a tree, or take a photo, or watch a bird, they attacked. They bit me through my clothes, they bit my arms and neck, they bored into my bare legs. No buzzing or whining, either. No time for that. Not with supper "on the hoof"!

I haven't run from a mosquito for years. I did on Sunday. I raced down the trail, with a cloud of savage beasts behind me all the way back to the road. Laurie came along after a bit, asking what was the matter. The monsters hadn't bothered with him; one victim at a time.

But we saw things I'd only read about. And got some good photos. And laughed at crows and watched a hummingbird. No pain, no gain.

Next post: mating water striders and a horde of caddis flies.

*A couple of times we have climbed down the upper end of the ravine. It is so steep that kids have strung a rope from top to bottom. We hung onto it most of the way.


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