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On the Beaten Path

California Sea Lions resting on breakwater booms at Fanny Bay

California Sea Lions resting on breakwater booms at Fanny Bay

Waterfall and sea lions

By JILL COLLINS

Many of you may already know about my family’s year long challenge of finding life in adventure, to seek out and discover five living things each time we set off on one of our outdoor adventures. So far we have discovered exciting marine life like moon jellyfish, high cockscomb eel, and tide pool sculpins. Two types of ducks; Mallard and Lessor Scaup, a variety of trees; Arbutus, Western Red Cedar and giant Sitka Spruce, and more moss than I care to identify. But the list lacks substance in the mammal department.  A little red squirrel is all we have found. My jaw suddenly dropped when I came across an online article about California Sea Lions. The author lives on Vancouver Island and was writing about a recent trip to Fanny Bay, a place these fascinating marine mammals gather while awaiting the annual herring run feast. Knowing a 300+ pound mammal could be added to the list alongside the barely one pound squirrel was all the motivation I needed to plan an adventure to Fanny Bay. The California sea lions are visible from the government wharf alongside Hwy19 but just driving there and checking them out was not going to take all day nor was it very adventurous. So to fill up the day a family hike in the area was in the works after picking my jaw up off the floor.
Approximately 3 km south of Fanny Bay is Rosewall Creek Provincial Park. A 54 hectare day use only park with a short wheelchair accessible trail that loops along each side of Rosewall Creek. There is another trail, leading under the highway bridge, 4 km upstream to a scenic waterfall which is where we headed. Knowing there would be spectacular views of the creek and a waterfall ahead was not enough to get the sea lions off my mind. All I could think about was getting an up close, personal view of these intelligent playful creatures in their natural environment. Until then, it was up to Rosewall Creek and its surroundings to entertain me. We chose this hike solely on its close proximity to Fanny Bay with no expectations of what we would see. It certainly delivered.
Immediately the trial had us walking under the highway and through a tunnel. Bridges and tunnels are always an instant hit with the children and I was happy that we did not have to play Frogger crossing highway 19. As we continued on, traffic noise from the highway could be heard for awhile, making the outdoor experience feel less adventurous, but soon takes a back seat to water flowing in the creek. The path leading to the waterfall is within a second growth forest of Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce, grand fir and Western Hemlock. Mixed in between fallen trees or where sunlight reached are maple trees, red alder and a mix of forest floor fauna. Just about every tree trunk, rock and stump had some type of moss or lichen growing on it creating beautiful scenery. There were times the water running could barely be heard and then just up the trail the volume was turned up. I was tricked many times thinking it was the waterfall, only to see small rapids in the creek. We hiked past numerous mini pools formed by the creek. Perfect swimming spots except it was March, had snowed a few days earlier, and was now raining. An hour had passed and the children began to doubt our story of a waterfall and wondered where the sea lions were. It’s just around the next corner, (and hill, and stump, and corner again). How long are they going to buy that line for? Rosewall Creek waterfall did not disappoint. We admired it, snapped some pictures but now it was time to see what we came here for…right after we trek 4km back on a snow covered trail with two starting to get cold children. Hearing the traffic noise was now a welcome sound.

The drive from Rosewall Creek to Fanny Bay was short, the rain started to fall harder and I just about drove right past the government wharf. Pulling into the parking lot I immediately saw a colony of 25 California Sea Lions resting on the breakwater booms around the wharf. Floating on a log boom farther out were another 60 sea lions closely packed together. The kids, needing no help in spotting them, were excited and anxious to get a closer look. So was I but before getting out of the vehicle, we had a quick chat about being quiet and moving slowly so we would not disturb the sea lions. As soon as we opened the vehicle door, sounds of playful barking and water splashing could be heard from the log boom floating farther out. We slowly approached the edge of the wharf and the breakwater boom where the sleepy heads gathered. Our presence was noted with firm loud barks. We were close enough and stopped to respect their space. Within a few minutes the California Sea Lions relaxed and returned to their afternoon naps. We witnessed a few sea lions pop out the water and hop onto the boom effortlessly and jostle for position. Further out, the seal lions were more active with loud barking and water slapping continuously. For twenty minutes we watched these marvellous marine mammals in their own environment, ending a perfect day of hiking and discovering life in adventure.

Follow the adventures of Jill Collins (who hopes not to find a 300+ pound land mammal) and her family in their year long challenge to find five living things on every adventure. Check out the living things they found while hiking Rosewall Creek at www.wix.com/onthebeatenpath/on-the-beaten-path or Facebook fan page On the beaten path.

Jill Collins and her son Ben, watching the California Sea Lions

Jill Collins and her son Ben, watching the California Sea Lions

About the author: Jill Collins

Jill Collins

Jill goes off the beaten path a lot.