*Originally written: August 2022*
Where are they? Come on, I know they’re here somewhere. They have to be here. They couldn’t walk out on their own. How old did that make me sound? Damn it, where did I put my hiking boots?
It’s been too long since I laced up my boots and hit the trails. Oo, when was the last time I went out? November of 2021, I think. That’s way too long. That’s a lifetime! I can’t believe so much time has passed, and I haven’t visited my happy place.
And that’s what it is for me.
It’s the place I go to connect with a higher power. It’s where I go to decompress. It’s meditative, spiritual, and healing. When life feels heavy and complicated? These spaces bring me back to earth. It’s simple. It’s a goal I can actually meet. Unlike most things in my life, hiking brings a sense of uncomplicated accomplishment. I did it. One foot in front of the other. A single limping step followed by another. Slowly, steadily, I can do it.
Sigh. Exhale. Good job, me! The simplicity and beauty of the moment bring clarity and calm to an overactive mind.
Three environments will, without fail, put a smile on my face. Being near— or on— any body water (lake, ocean/sea, small creek), walking through a forest, or standing in a wide open, natural space. Throw in the sounds of birds chirping and nature humming? The tension in my shoulders dissolves, my eyes close, and I feel human again.
I was going once a week, but I haven’t been able to hit the trails in..wait, use the fingers to count it out. Two whole hands worth! Damn, that’s way too long. What was I thinking? How could this atrocity, this self-inflicted crime against myself, occur?
There was a back injury that laid me up for months. Then there were a few lung infections (yes, that includes the one that shall not be named *Shiver*), and most recently, I broke my foot. If one thing wasn’t malfunctioning, another was trying to fall off. I’ve been in a never-ending cycle of injury/illness and recovery.
The joys of living with a chronic illness! But there’s no need to wallow, not today because my need for happiness is more important than anything else. So, I dug through my hovel of a home and found my boots.
Since it’s been a lifetime, I chose one of my favorite casual trails. It’s not challenging, but it ticks all the boxes. It’s beautiful, quiet, and calm. There’s a bit of water, wide open spaces, and some trees. There’s usually a fair bit of wildlife, but we’ve been through a dry spell, so the critters were sparse. Still, the birds were chirping, a snake was slithering, and I couldn’t ask for a more perfect reentry into my happy place.
Jackman’s Wetlands is nestled in the Township of Langley. It’s about an hour, hour and a half out of Vancouver. Turn off the main road, and drive past fields growing berries or farms with horses, cows, and the occasional goat. Head down towards the American border, but stop a little short. The entrance is rather unassuming and not clearly marked.
Look for the exit to the local garbage dump, and the park will be on the right. Hold up, I know what you’re going to say because I mumbled it the first time I went. A garbage dump? Who puts a nature reserve near a garbage dump? A garbage dump! How many times can I say garbage dump in one paragraph?
The Wetlands used to be the main garbage dump for several decades. It was closed after they discovered large pockets of methane gas leaking out of the ground. It was filled in and abandoned. I mound of dirt covering a forgotten wasteland.
Thankfully, conservationists, ecologists, and volunteers came to the rescue. They converted the landfill into something beautiful and beneficial for the environment. They gave nature a helping hand and then let her take over. Oh, and she really took over.
Some evidence of the park’s old life remains. There’s rusted machinery left where it was last used. Old concrete blocks are being consumed by moss. Tires stick out of the ground, but nature is formidable if we let her be. It’s coming back, taking over with vigor.
A new life has been brought to this forty-acre plot of land. There’s a disc golf course that can be used for free. Walk past the course, and you’ll step into a peaceful reserve of marshland and the wildlife that calls it home. There’s a beaver dam tucked into some bushes on the water’s edge. Herons, hawks, and eagles swoop down from the trees, and catch small fish or scurrying critters.
On this day, the water levels were low, and wildlife was minimal, but slithering through the rocks was a small snake. My dog was very confused. He’d never seen anything like it. It looked like a stick, but sticks don’t move.
Why is it moving? Curiouser and curiouser.
In this small corner of the province, our snakes are harmless. A tiny garter snake might give you a nip, but it has the potency of a goldfish. Still, leave it alone, and it will leave you be. Regardless of the ever-present ophiophobia, snakes serve a purpose in the ecosystem. I know a few people will fight me about this, but it’s true. Just let them slither on their merry way. Good luck, little one. Have a good life.
I was there on a muggy Sunday morning, and there were few people on the trails, but I barely noticed. The trail swallowed us up, and all I could hear were the birds chatting. I might as well have been in the middle of nowhere. A million miles away from another soul and even further away from my troubles.
It’s a cliche, I know, but there’s that quote from Tolkien that says, “Not all who wander are lost.”
In my ever-so-humble opinion, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little lost. Walk through a forest, stare out at the still water, and listen to the sounds of nature. Deep breath in, exhale and feel the stress roll down the back of the neck like a bead of sweat.
Yep, it was worth pushing through the random aches and testing my recently healed fracture. I needed this more than I realized. This perfect, simple moment in my happy place.
Jackman’s Wetlands At A Glance
- A medium size parking lot that should have enough room for wheelchair access, but the lot is shared by hikers and disc golfers.
- There is a long gate in front of the trail entrance with a narrow entry on the side. Sometimes it’s open, but there’s no guarantee so, it might be challenging to get around for some.
- To get to the frisbee golf course, you walk up and down steep hills, but those paths are well-groomed.
- The trails through the old quarry are a mixed bag. Some are gravelled and well-groomed with slight inclines and a few potholes.
- When you get further into the quarry, the trails become rocky, uneven, and it can be difficult to maneuver if you have mobility issues.
- They’re also prone to flooding in the winter and can get muddy, icy, and slippery.
Amenities: Frisbee golf, toilets with disability access, and dogs are allowed on leashes.
Safe travels, friends.
Thanks for the introduction to the Jackmans Wetlands. I’m adding it to my list of places to explore.
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