Rock Pooling – turning adults into children and children into adults

Rock pooling at Botanical Beach, Vancouver Island

Rock pooling at Botanical Beach, Vancouver Island

At the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, sculpted by the ferocity of the Pacific Ocean, resides the anomalous rock formations of Botanical Beach. In the company of several friends and Pogo, an equable dog with a sizable mustache, we ambled slowly across a vast rock shelf, rife with deep, organism-filled pools. Like the contours of a fish bowl, many of the depressions curved under the rock, leaving us to peer beneath our feet at sea stars, urchins, anemones and crabs.

The discoveries made by a rock pooling child will build them into their future self, whilst those made by a rock pooling adult will return them to their childhood.

Deer in the forest

It's with the trees that I am truly comfortable

It’s with the trees that I am truly comfortable

How filled I was with rum and whiskey and how sad I felt – as we made our way along the moonlit pavements of Victoria – to see five grand deer stepping hesitantly across the concrete. Indeed, with my blood so heavily infected with liquor, the sorrow of the sight brought me close to tears. The city isn’t good for them – the deer – just as it isn’t for me. But we persist, for one reason or another, against our yearnings.

One day I hope for my instincts and my actions to immaculately align; one day I want to see these very five deer deep in the Island forest.

Hiking the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Canada

Sunrise from Sombrio Beach, Juan de Fuca trail

Sunrise from Sombrio Beach, Juan de Fuca trail

Heading north from Victoria, we soon found ourselves in a landscape dictated by the trees and the ocean. Pacific waves – each infused with an eruption of translucent, turquoise light as they built in height – lurched onto the pebble beach with a crashing of foam, so raucous that I could do little else but marvel at their force.

We were midway along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, one of several long distance coastal walks on Vancouver Island, stretching for 47 kilometres through ancient, mossy woodland and across storm-scarred beaches.

Without ambition, other than to absorb our surroundings, we pitched our tent beneath a conifer on the water’s shore, before finding the path.

Camping on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Camping on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

From the curious head of a harbour seal riding the ocean swells, to caves, spilling waterfalls, towering cedars and blankets of oyster mushrooms, we followed the path at a pace no faster than our natural gait. Indeed, with such a stimulating environment encompassing our steps, it took us some three hours to cover just a few kilometres.

Mushrooms on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Mushrooms on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

We spent the evening perched within the crags of a lone rock, each of us deep in thought as the waves – now blackened, save for the acceptance of moonlight at their crests – jostled below.

Tide pools on Sombrio Beach

Tide pools on Sombrio Beach

Though I have only walked bits of the Juan de Fuca trail here and there, I have little doubt that a journey along its entirety would be an endeavour without regret.

Some walkers like to complete the route in just two or three days, whilst others find the charm of the path so great that it takes them a week to complete. There are basic camping spots all along the trail, and drinking water can be collected and treated from the dozens of courses that cut the path. The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is a wilderness walk, meaning that all supplies must be taken in, and so too removed. With consistent undulation, slippery rocks and the potential for adverse weather conditions, the path is by no means a predictable plod and those hiking it should have the necessary gear and fitness levels.

Why does walking promote freedom?

Looking east from Vancouver Island towards Mount Baker

Looking east from Vancouver Island towards Mount Baker

Driving makes me nervous. And until recently, I had always assumed it to be down to three things: my phobia of crashing; the expense of upkeep and gas; and the thought of antagonising other drivers with the resounding deficiency of my gas-giving foot.

But I realised today, whilst combing a pebble beach along the eastern shoreline of the Saanich Peninsula, Vancouver Island, that perhaps there is another explanation.

Stuck within the walls of a grunting motor vehicle, we become confined to particular channels and restricted sensations. Yet, when we walk, we hold on to our autonomy; blunders are forgiven – moreover, they are praised – constraints are few and our minds, as well as our bodies, are free to wander towards reward. ‘Perhaps that’s it?’ I thought, as I picked up a smooth, pallid stone from within the swashing waves and held its cool body between my fingers. ‘I’m nervous about driving for the fear of inhibiting what is truly natural. Walking promotes freedom.’