Steeves/Trail Mix: Hike reveals the true signs of spring

Birds are trilling it; buttercups shouting it: spring is finally here, so enjoy local parks and get a breath of winter's demise.

Hikers enjoy spring along a trail in Rose Valley Regional Park

It’s the raucous racket of birds at dawn that reminds me the season has really turned, and spring is here, despite the thermometer’s indications otherwise.

I always forget how quiet winter mornings are until the first robins begin to chatter at first light on a spring morning. What a wave of hope courses through me, to realize not only have I survived another winter, but I have green and other colours to look forward to as plants sprout from the cold bare ground.

There’s already a carpet of bright, yellow buttercups on sage-dotted hillsides to confirm that.

Although I’m keeping my hiking to lower elevations so as not to find myself knee-deep in wet snow, some trails are now open, especially in the valley bottom, so there’s lots to keep hikers and cyclists happy and enjoying the beginning of spring.

Those still playing in the snow at higher elevations would do well to remember how different spring snow is, and avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations, either from avalanches or simply wetter, heavier snow which can bog down a sled.

At lower elevations at this time of year, it’s particularly important also that we ensure we don’t stray off established trails, because a single footprint or tire track in the mud can cause almost-irreparable damage to the tiny plants just emerging, as well as to the landscape while it’s at its most delicate and vulnerable stage of the year.

Other critters are also particularly vulnerable in spring as pregnant does prepare to give birth to their fawns in the coming weeks after a winter of spotty rations; owl chicks are hatching; bears awakening from hibernation; and wild critters shake off the effects of winter and prepare for the earth’s re-birth.

So, while you enjoy their antics, keep your distance and allow them to conduct their lives in the wild, in peace, despite how much we’ve invaded their space.

Best of all, we can get out and enjoy all aspects of the wild outdoors now that the weather’s warming, and it’s balm for the soul to be able to do so.

Good news this week that the regional district’s Trails to Health Project has received provincial funding, so trails in Mission Creek, Trepanier Creek Greenway, Rose Valley and Glen Canyon Regional Parks will be upgraded in the next couple of years.

In all, 6.2 kilometres of trails will be re-constructed to a 1.5 metre width and surfaced with 100 millimetres of granular crush for multi-use activities such as hiking and cycling—not for motorized use.

These trails provide links between parks, adjacent natural areas and Crown lands in and around these parks with the idea that families will be able to enjoy these areas together.

For those wishing to be involved in a more-formal walking program, the regional district is also offering a nine-week free program for beginning, in Mission Creek Regional Park. Join the Tracks Walking Club and receive a journal, walking lessons and seminars and motivational tips. It begins Apr. 2 and runs to May 30, and begins with a 15-minute walk and works up to a 60-minute one.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com