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Writer-s-Bloc

A path in the park

Winfield Creek Habitat Preserve

By Sally Quon

There are days I want to get into the minivan and drive, drive, drive. 

And then there are days I just don’t want to stray too far from my coffeemaker. Know what I mean?

I stumbled upon the Winfield Creek Habitat Preserve one day last summer and promised myself I would return. So many birds!  Given the proximity to my coffee machine, it seemed like a good day to go.

My plan was to take my coffee and my beach blanket, find a spot in the park to set up with my camera and journal, and wait for the birds to come to me. 

I remembered there was a small clearing that seemed perfect. 

But by the time I got to Winfield, I was having second thoughts. I couldn’t remember exactly where the clearing was. 

It occurred to me that by the time I put my camera in my purse with my keys and my journal, hauled out the big lens (in its own case; it’s rather heavy), grabbed the blanket and my coffee – that was a lot of luggage to be hauling around on a trail, especially with my limitations. 

I draped the camera around my neck, threw the big lens over my shoulder, and tucked my keys in a hiding spot. No journal, no blanket, no coffee. Oh, the things we’re willing to sacrifice…

The parking area was occupied by a number of California quail families, all of which scurried off into the undergrowth before I could get my act together. It was a promising sign. There were sure to be a lot of birds.

I made my way slowly down the trail. I could hear a number of different birds, but the leafy canopy prevented me from seeing any of them. 

I wasn’t worried though. I knew once I got to the clearing, I would see plenty. And the trail was lovely, winding its way through the mixed forest. 

Breathing deeply, I let the fragrance of the trees fill me. That scent is like a drug and I’m an addict.

Early signs of autumn were visible — leaves beginning to turn, bushes heavy with rose hips – but for the most part, it was still green. As near as I can tell, there are three separate ponds connected by the creek. 

  • The first pond was empty. 
  • The second pond was covered with bright green algae. 
  • The third pond was full of ducks.

Where the heck was that clearing? My legs and lungs were both feeling the burn. It felt like I’d been walking for a long time. It had to be close.

I wandered through a stand of Ponderosa pine and red cedar, turned a corner and there it was. The tall grass sparkled in the sun. Sparkled. Because it was wet. Nope. I’m not wading my way into tall, wet grass. I probably shouldn’t be disturbing the native plants, anyway. This was a nature preserve, not a park. 

I plopped myself down on the dirt path next to the clearing. I desperately needed to rest. I could probably still see the birds from here. The strange thing was, I couldn’t hear any birds. Well. This didn’t work out at all.

I sat there for a while, resting my legs and wondering where the birds had gone. Birds tend to get quieter as the day gets longer, but surely, I hadn’t been out here that long.  Awkwardly, I got to my feet, thinking about the coffee I’d left in the van. 

That’s when I saw him. No wonder the birds were quiet! 

Just ahead of where I had been sitting on the path, I saw what I thought was a pile of deer droppings.  Drawing closer I realized that the poop was made up of partially digested cherries. That wasn’t deer. 

That was bear. 

I made it back to the minivan in no time. Not because I might be sharing the park with a bear, but because the path is a loop. Had I gone the other direction when I started, I would have arrived at the clearing before my legs had a chance to say anything.  

Live and learn.

Sally Quon is a Kelowna writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in Canadian Geographic Magazine and Nature Alberta's various birding brochures. She has essays coming out in two upcoming releases — Caitlin Press BIG Anthology, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Forgiveness Fix.

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