After a three month break the Retreads returned again to do the Cowichan River loop that starts from the end of Mayo Road, crosses the newly decked forestry bridge and follows along the south side of the river for about four kilometres till it reaches the Marie Canyon Trestle. It then returns along the north side of the river.
As you can imagine the river was very different in mid November to what they saw in mid August. In August the river was quite low and we watched a couple picnicking and cautiously swimming near the group camp. The group also saw a few daring tubers bouncing their way down through the rapids near the Trestle.
This time their focus was on the full, rapidly flowing river, with salmon laboriously working their way up the river, and the sea gulls and eagles that had assembled to feast on the salmon. Interestingly, the Retreads did not meet any black bears there for a feast and that was surprising. Maybe they saw us first.
Around the rapids, opposite the group camp, the group saw about 40 chum. Many had given up and died and were lying on the bank or in the shallow waters on the south side of the river. The salmon were starting to spoil and had a noticeable aroma. No one in the group could tell if they had already spawned and floated back downstream to their end, or whether they had simply given up — mission not accomplished.
Others were struggling to make their way around a rock in the rapids. Often they would approach and the current would grab them and throw them back downstream. There was a realization that their task of swimming upstream is a real challenge.
After watching and discussing the life of the salmon, the group of hikers continued on down stream to the trestle bridge, had a brief snack break and then headed up the north side until they reached the camp which is a great place for a lunch break with its picnic tables, shelter and toilets. The sun was shining and the rapids in the river were really sparkling. Once again the Retreads had lucked out with the weather.
A week earlier, Retreads did a repeat hike up Bald Mountain which is another favourite hike. Again they were blessed with good weather and took a beautiful picture of a rainbow.
The Retreads will hold a Christmas party at the Curling Lounge on Nov. 30. Tickets are available at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena office.
—Submitted by David Kidd