2023 May 7: The Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve

Annie, overlooking the Chilliwack River

Our May Looper walk in Chilliwack accidentally put the group at great risk, as we came dangerously close to being swept into an infinite recursion while following the trails. Yes, not only did we Loop in the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve, we Loop-de-Looped, with one loop enclosing another and so on, ad infinitum (possibly); so: nested trails, as well as nesting trails. Fortunately, we were able to catch ourselves just before disappearing entirely into the void—though a few Loopers did seem more than usually disoriented at the end: swaying alarmingly, clutching desperately at railings, and muttering darkly to themselves: “Infinity! I think I glimpsed infinity!” Fortunately, these effects proved to be easily cured by a glass of chilled beer, or a cup of expresso at our Afters.

Our adventures began when 19 of us gathered at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack, in advance of the standard 10:30 starting time. A few Looper regulars were missing, but as if to make up for their absence, our ranks had been supplemented by a pair of locals, Bill and Coralea, who live a contemplative life at nearby Cultus Lake, where they pass their time reading Plato and Nietzsche to each other, while listening alternately to Shostakovich and the Rolling Stones.

I had forgotten that the gift shop of the Nature Reserve also houses one of the finest local collections of Bad Taxidermy, examples of which are seen just above (and possibly below). So, even if you’re not particularly excited at the prospect of trying to identify “potential nests” and “possible herons” among the vague smudges lodged in distant tree tops, you will still thrill at the chance to get up close and personal with the likes of Bertram the Dancing Beaver, known near and far for his excellent Fred Astaire impression. As a bonus, the gift shop also boasts several fine examples of the very rare Stainless Steel Cutlery Bird (NB: you can own your own!) These marvels alone make the (one hour plus) journey worthwhile!

It is easy to get disoriented while Looping through the Nature Reserve, which is bounded on one side by a dyke, and on the other side by the Chilliwack River (confusingly, this river is also known as the Vedder River for some of its run; perhaps this dual identity contributed to our—or at least to my—confusion). Midway through our walk (more or less) we paused at a crossroads to eat our snacks. This snacking spot gave us an excellent view of four horses as they approached, bearing riders. The horses were less than delighted to see us on the trail ahead of them, since nervous horses and the flourishing of umbrellas is (apparently) not a good mix.

The Great Blue Heron nests themselves, though, proved quite elusive, since the trails we walked kept us at quite a distance from them. Nonetheless, we took advantage of every opportunity to cluster on the river bank and peer in the general direction of these alleged nests, practicing our “Ooh!”s and our “Ahh!”s and our “Do you think that might be…?”s. Eagles and their nests were also (possibly) seen at several points along the way; seen best by those with strong telephoto lenses, or an active imagination (NB: Those seeking a close-up view of a heron nesting site should visit the heron colony in Stanley Park, near the tennis courts.)

Following a fine day of walking beside running water, we transitioned to Afters, which were consumed upstream, at a relatively new development overlooking the Chilliwack/Vedder River, a development housing Sidekicks (a brew pub / pizza place, with large windows to let in daylight) as well as Land (a café and yoga studio), a combination that kept both the beer-drinkers and the coffee-drinkers happy.

May Looper walk map

Photo credits: Jon, Angela, Liz, Michael, Jean, Larrie, Adrienne, Jan, Carol, Sandy.

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