Sooke and salmon and so much green

The sun came out today. It’s a week since I rolled into town, and this is the first extended sun I have seen. So … what did I do with it? I drove out of it. I made the brilliant decision to head west to Sooke and beyond. An adventure. As a bonus, I got to experience the predicted afternoon rain much faster than Victoria.

Not that it mattered. Oh, did I have a walk today. It was an accidental find, which often lead to the best experiences. I stopped in at the Tourist Information centre in Sooke, mainly to get a road map, only to refuse to pay $5.

Diversion rant: I understand cutbacks, but come on (many) provinces. We spend hundreds or thousands getting to and staying with you. We pay admission to your parks and entertainment. We pay for parking. We buy T-shirts and books and trinkets at your gift shops. We pay you sales tax on … everything. Can’t you pony up a map? These little, and not-so-little, user fees place a burden on those who scrimp and save to be able to travel.

Map policy aside, the young woman who helped me get acquainted with the area, did a bang-up job. Not only did I get the feeling she was happy to help me, she listened and adjusted her ideas as I reacted to her previous suggestions. I ended up with enough want-to-do activities, I’ll be back three or four times. For today, we settled on the Sooke Potholes. That may not sound exciting, but take a look at the pictures. The potholes are essentially deep pools in the Sooke river, created by erosion. It’s like getting all the excitement of moving water, with the calming effect of a lake, over and over. I think there are five potholes, though I did not see them all.

And bless her heart, she put my prairie identity and ignorant of salmon habits together on her own, prompting her to make sure I caught a most wonderful experience. The salmon are spawning right now. (Or some salmon are spawning.)  All my life I have known of the torturous, and ultimately fatal, odyssey of each and every salmon. I’ve probably used the image to illustrate tenacity. But today I saw it. I saw it with my own eyes. I watched the fish pushing their way upstream, resting in the pools, and … yes, even dead ones. Truly amazing. I’ll never be the same for having witnessed the race to reproduce and die.

All day I have been trying to understand the instinct, how it works, how they know when it’s time to go. I’ve spend far too much time trying to figure out if they have knowledge that there is no return trip. Like the humans now signing up for the one-way flight to Mars. Or, are they driven to make the trip, and only once the job is done, catch on that the price for reaching that goal was damn steep. Looking at those wonderful, fat, healthy fish, I was trying to understand why they have to die.

Actually, before you think I have become too sensitive, don’t worry. I was wondering why they had to die for nothing, as opposed to feeding, say … me. And, yes, in the middle of all the high-brow thought, I did go cha-ching, cha-ching, thinking of how much what my eyes had all at one time would be worth. Answer: LOTS!

So, something new, something profound, and in a setting too beautiful to describe … with dirt trails and ample washrooms. Heaven.

But, wait, there’s more. When I left the potholes, it was about half an hour before sunset. I knew of a provincial park just about that amount of time west. The sun was trying to break through the rain. I gambled that driving the extra bit would reward me with a fantastic sunset on French Beach. I didn’t exactly win that bet, as the wild-red-reflections-on-the-clouds sunset I was dreaming about did not materialize, though the monotone landscape was beautiful in a different way.

I captured this in a video mostly for the sound. I have always loved surf on a pebble beach, because the backflow of the water sounds exactly like a tropical rainstick. This beach has massive “pebbles,” which amplifies that effect by many times. In the video you will see another prairie ignorance on display. I am really good at miscalculating how far the biggest wave in a set will come.

I found two places to spend an afternoon in a meditative state. The pools formed by the potholes are deadly quiet, as they have solid, high land on each side. Your mind could really settle here. French Beach has relentless noise, but healthy noise that can chase other “noise” from your mind, and let it relax. What treasures, and within an hour’s drive of Victoria.


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