Monday, October 21, 2013

Autumn Adventures

This is a first for me.  A link up party! There is a large passionate group of outdoor family bloggers who are inspiring and leading other families to get outside.  Each blogger has their own reasons for doing so; to stay active, to enjoy the outdoors, to provide information, to adventure, and to just have fun.
Today they have come together to share their favorite Fall Activities.  I have reposted a fall favorite outdoor activity of mine and am sharing their favorites with my readers. (at end of post) Show them some love and find some great outdoor autumn family activities you can try while your at it! ENJOY!
Autumn is a great time to adventure as a family.  The changing leaves are colorful and fun to play with, the trails are less busy, and usually the weather is consistent.  On Vancouver Island, autumn marks the end and beginning of the life cycle of the salmon.  It is an amazing sight to witness and a great learning opportunity for the kids. 

The beginning of an end.  A phrase for both a creek and salmon.  How so?  The beginning of an end is the mouth of the creek.  Where, in this case, freshwater meets saltwater.  One ecosystem begins where one ends.  The beginning of an end is the salmon spawn.  Where they give their last life for the next, ending their life to begin another.  OK, enough of that, you get the point.

There are times when the family schedule leaves me alone with the children for the weekend.  Life's responsibilities trump adventure life.  It works well because it gives me an opportunity to explore the local area and seek out those less traveled places with the children.  Today's place of choice, after Ben's morning soccer game, was the Holland Creek Estuary.  Most people living in the Central Vancouver Island area are probably aware of the Holland Creek Trail.  A beautiful trail through second growth forests with waterfalls, bridges, the creek and spectacular views of the Gulf Islands.  It is easy to see how the estuary gets overlooked.  Little do they know the estuary holds just as much beauty, especially in the fall.  You just have to look a little closer.

An estuary is a body of water formed from freshwater creeks and rivers flowing into saltwater. It may not look like much, but estuaries are the most productive ecosystems in the world.  According to the Nature Trust of BC, "British Columbia estuaries occupy only three per cent of the coast, yet are used by over 80 per cent of all coastal wildlife, including millions of migratory waterfowl."  Pretty powerful numbers. Today we are here for something more powerful than numbers.  We are here to witness the salmon returning home after an epic journey across thousands of km's of ocean.

I am not 100% sure but I believe we were witnessing the Chum salmon spawn.  The Holland Creek supports major runs of Chum and minor runs of Chinook.  Chum salmon's life cycle is between four - six years.  Emerging from the eggs around late winter, fries of chum salmon move into the estuary and feed on small insects and other aquatic organisms before heading into the ocean. Ocean migration takes up most of their life span before returning to their streams of origin to spawn,  thought to be largely guided by smell.  Here they begin the final transformation of their life cycle. 

Males battle for the right to fertilize the females, and the females batter their bodies as they dig redds in the gravel in preparation for egg-laying. When they are spent, their carcasses lie rotting along the riverbanks, providing food for scavenging birds and mammals, and cycling nutrients back into the ecosystem. In time, the eggs hatch, and a new generation of tiny salmon begins the cycle again.  I never get tired of learning about their life cycle nor do I tire of teaching my children about this amazing occurrence.  Hiking along the creeks during the salmon span is one of our favorite fall activities.

What I enjoyed about this mini adventure was the intimate experience Ben, Liv and I shared with the salmon.  There was not another soul to be seen even though the Trans Canada Highway was just behind the leaf changing maple trees.  The kids were able to do a little exploring safely on their own while I captured some shots of the area.  We stood along the edge of the pool surrounding the tunnel, which was surprisingly deep, and watched the salmon chase each other around.  Even managed to see one head into the tunnel.  We were captivated with the scene in front of us until a large splash had us turn around to see two more salmon slowly making their way up creek.  Here we were standing ankle deep in the creek with salmon swimming all around us.  It was a special moment.  Careful not to disturb the salmon and their mission, we quietly moved to the bank of the creek and continued exploring the estuary.  As you can see....sometimes exploring near water has it's disadvantages. 

What we saw

More than just the salmon caught our eye on this wet October morning.  We enjoyed seeing crows, gulls, and black oyster catchers forage for food along the rocky shores.  The forest marking the edge of the shoreline was a blend of autumn colors.  Rose hips were plentiful and three different types of mushrooms were pointed out, but not touched.  We also came across good ole bear poop.  They love to feast on the salmon here. Just a small fraction of the life found within an estuary.


  1. Someone always gets a bootfull :)

    What a great thing to take them too.

    1. It definitely was a boot full! Salmon run a bit late this year on Vancouver Island. It is a must see!