Thanks to a group of intrepid neighbours and an indulgent town administration (at least, we think it’s the town administration) there is an absolutely delightful, dog-friendly network of forested trails smack in the middle of Qualicum Beach. This is not an ‘official’ trail – in fact, the handful of neighbourhood volunteers in the Arbutus Street area isn’t even sure who owns the rambling acreage that they have been enhancing and maintaining for the past 20-plus years. This also isn’t just any old network of trails – at every turn along the meandering miles of the Nature’s Garden trails there is delight and education thanks to the efforts of long-time resident Hugh Gilmore (who, sadly, passed away in his eighties in 2016) and a small group of younger helpers.
The trail system, which rambles off Arbutus Street at the edge of town, has no official name or designation, but it has had hundreds of volunteer hours poured in to it over the years. Bridges have been built over Grandon Creek, sawdust has been spread, blowdowns have been cleared and general maintenance has been performed on an ongoing basis. Although the township appears to have turned a blind eye to all of the ‘improvements,’ it has supplied official looking signs at each of the many entrances to the Nature’s Garden trail system advising that it is an ‘unmaintained, natural’ trail that may not be suitable for all users.
Overall the trails were in excellent shape when we visited recently, if a little muddy. They ramble and criss-cross all over the place, meandering through who-knows-how-many acres of pretty woodland and over Grandon Creek. But the absolute best part is all the whimsical adornments that have been added by the community volunteers over the years. At every turn it seems, there are quirky woodland ‘creatures’ and creations of all shapes and sizes. Some of the embellishments are so small it wouldn’t be difficult to miss them altogether – look up and you may see a tiny elf sitting on a fungus attached to the side of a tree, look a little off to the side and there may be some totally charming (but indescribable) creation peeking out of the undergrowth at you. You may run in to Eddie-the-tree person, or a concrete bullfrog perched on a railing, or you might choose to rest on the bench set out as a memorial to all the beloved dogs who have delighted in the trails over the years. There are educational additions, too, including a couple of signs listing the ‘real’ wildlife that calls this enchanted place home. There are literally hundreds of charismatic characters to greet and delight visitors.
Our hour-long-ramble didn’t come near, I know, to seeing everything there was to see in this captivating wonderland of whimsy. I can’t wait to go back and explore more, to wander the trails, quite possibly get lost, and discover what else Hugh Gilmore and his great crew have tucked in the nooks and crannies of this lovely spot. Such fun!
The trail network is most easily accessed off Arbutus Street, at Schley Place. Be sure to wear sturdy walking shoes and be aware that you may run in to wildlife (the living, breathing kind).
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.34559232998887 Long. -124.46402549743652
N 49 20.736 W 124 27.842