Westwood Lake, situated in the foothills of Mt. Benson, Nanaimo, is an unexpected surprise. Pulling into the parking lot, I am eager to get out and explore. The parking lot fronts a beach area and there are trails leading in either direction – over 5 km of walking trails, as well as mountain biking trails that circumvent the lake.
A small crowd has gathered around a truck bearing the caption “Live Trout”. Ric heads in that direction and I go right, following the path to another beach a bit further along. Not wanting to get too far out of sight, I backtrack and catch up with Ric. The trout being fed into the lake are eighteen months-old, the young man operating the truck tells us.
“This will attract a few birds,” I say. And then: “I’d like to take this trail for a bit.”
Ric says he’ll come too and we climb the few steps leading to the trail. He decides to sit on the nearest bench, overlooking the water, and I enter the woods. A pair of Juncos dive undercover as I approach, and I can hear the call of other birds, but here in the tall trees, it’s impossible to spy the culprits. Several other people pass me on their power walks. I dawdle, looking for inspiration. The path veers away from the water, so I decide to walk back and join Ric on the bench. Besides, my legs are useless today and I don’t have my walker.
“You missed it!” Ric exclaims as I walk up. “An eagle snatched a fish out of the water. I caught it on film.”
“I can’t walk this whole trail, but I’d like to see more of it.”
So we get in the truck and drive around as far as we can, and I get out and walk a bit more. The trails here are mostly paved and so well kept. I could see myself visiting often if we lived here.
“Are you taking pictures of birds?” a woman stops to ask. “I was here yesterday with my friend and we saw two we didn’t recognize. She likes the Anna’s and Rufous hummingbirds.”
I’d love to see any of these, but I sit awhile perched over the water on a bench built just for that purpose, and decide I’d best get back to the truck.
“You up for lunch?” Ric asks as I pop back in.
“Sure. What do you have in mind?”
“Let’s find the floating pub.”
Listed under the top ten things to do, The Dinghy Dock Pub is accessible only by ferry. The ferry costs $9 roundtrip, and leaves the Protection Island dock at ten minutes past the hour. We find a place to park and descend the steep ramp to wait for the next ride. A vessel parked at the dock serves as a waiting room, and people gradually stream in – all friendly and eager to chat. We meet a woman whose granddaughter is at university in our hometown, a young man who lives on the island but works further north on the island, and a woman from L.A. visiting a friend. Soon the waiting room is full and the ferry arrives and we climb onboard for the short ride to the pub.
As the busy season doesn’t start till June, the atmosphere in the pub is laid back and friendly. It’s obvious there are many regulars here. The waitress takes time to chat, and the food is good. Ric and I share the parmesan and garlic fries for starters and then a grilled salmon salad. Catering to food issues is not a problem here.
After lunch we wander on the dock and take photos. An otter that had been playing in the water while we ate is now nowhere in sight. It is interesting to view the Nanaimo harbour from this side of the water. Behind the pub there is a ramp leading up to Protection Island. I spot some starfish – pink and purple – clinging to the rocks at water level.
Then the ferry is ready to pull out and we hop on for the trip back.
“What an amazing lifestyle!” I remark to Ric. “So different from what we know.”
“Where to next?” he asks, but I am done in.
Our days here are coming to an end and as much as I’d like to see it all, I have to acknowledge my limitations.
“Home,” I respond.