The Salt Chuck, Where Lake Meets Ocean
‘As I wind along the meandering path with the sunlight streaking through the trees of the forest and across the slow waters of the creek, I can smell the air change from fresh to salty.’
My beautiful fresh water lake started out as part of a fiord to the Salish Sea thousands of years ago, and because of that the lake is rather unusual in its components and micro life. Approximately 30 meters, or about 100 feet below the fresh clear waters, there is salt water. This causes a rather distinct layering of the waters and the life attached to them. Several scientists have come to study this lake to analyze its environments and its unique components. For most of us lake dwellers, we regularly go on an outing to the end of the lake. There is a short, fairly level pathway through the woods that leads from the lake and to the ocean. There is an adjacent creek that parallels the route, and it also runs from the lake to the ocean. Part way along, a regulated fish ladder system has been built to assist in the water levels of the lake and to be helpful in the fish spawning processes. Going fishing is a big deal at the lake, usually in Spring and Fall months, and fish able to be caught in our lake include Cutthroat trout, and Kokanee, Sockeye and Coho salmon. Not only is it a good opportunity to go for an outing and ‘get off the rock’, as I say now and then, but it is a nice walk out to the ocean, gentle and short for the whole family. There are also areas where many hike further up to higher ground to enjoy the magnificent sights out over the land high up above the ocean, and out into the Agamemnon Channel. I have nowhere to really ‘walk’ on my property so it is a nice opportunity to get the legs going and experience a lovely walk in nature on a sunny afternoon, especially with the family. Many times, lake dwellers have also gone out with their buckets and tools and dug up oysters for a fresh change of diet while lake vacationing. Of course, it goes without saying that it is always important to check the tide charts, but more importantly, to check that it is not a ‘Red Tide’, wherein any oysters, mussels or other seafood items would be poisonous. Red Tide is the term used to indicate that there is a harmful algal bloom wherein ocean plants, (and some fresh water plants, apparently) go out of control and become toxic to humans, animals, mammals and birds. This is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal. Therefore, it is always prudent to know if it is a Red Tide before considering a seafood or oyster fest in the local area where you are gathering these sea treats. I can remember when I was with a group of lake people and we would go en masse to the end of the lake and dig for oysters at a low tide. Then we would go to my friends’ property and the wining and dining would begin. There would be the ‘shuckers’, those that would dig out the flesh of the oyster with that special short, rounded small knife, and then eat the oyster raw. That was certainly not my thing. Then there were the people who preferred their oysters BBQ’d and fully cooked, accompanied by a dip in bowls of melted, sometimes flavoured butters, before they were popped dripping into hungry mouths. Some people poured wine or spirits over the oysters and then swallowed. As fun and delicious this may sound I was never an oyster fan. In my youth, eating canned smoke oysters was as adventurous as I got. Since then, I have eaten only the odd one, until one night I will admit to experiencing a few at a wedding shower celebration wherein there was an Oyster Bar set up. The oysters were then filled with vodka by an appointed oyster server and handed to guests one by one upon request. Who knew I would like them that way? I digress. I have always loved to go to the end of the lake and walk out to the ocean. I should mention that it was a careful and watchful landing to dock the boat at the end of the lake. As the lake shallows there are many deadheads and protruding rocks, stumps, and branches fully, or partially submerged under the water. Boats need to approach and travel in slowly, and boaters must keep a very watchful eye on the bottom of the lake, and for submerged hazards. Closer to shore I always would have to raise my engine, and occasionally cut the engine and paddle in if there is more than one boat on a busy day. Various docks and floating walkways have been constructed over the years and occasionally it was a juggle to find a spot if there was more than a couple of boats down there, often in the peak summer months on a beautiful day. Once docked we would tie up and head to land and walk along the old narrow pathway that was once a logging road, back when the lake was logged several decades ago, long before anyone I know was on the lake. You can still see the evidence of big machinery and piles of old logs rotting off to the side in the bush. By the point out on the ocean side there was once a huge piece of machinery of some sort that we all called ‘The Donkey’. One day I shall try and find out why it was named that. Anybody out there know?
The gentle meandering path towards the ocean is quite beautiful, and the warm forest scents are like treats for your nose. As you approach the ocean the saltier scents of the ocean will waffle in the summer air. The creek running alongside is often calm enough to capture some spectacular reflective photographs like the couple I will share here with you.
I have taken so many pictures over the years along that peaceful walkway path, and it is normal for us to be on the lookout for fresh animal prints in the muddy sections if it has been wet. Mostly, they are dog prints, left by other lake dweller’s animals on their excursion to the ocean, but, on occasion you can see deer, cougar and once, I remember, bear. I used to show my children how to make deer prints using two bent fingers in the mud.
There is a fish ladder control hut and creek walkway built as you get closer to the ocean. This is where the fisheries monitor the fish counts and the spawning habits. Also, the lake levels can be altered with the manipulation of the dyke equipment in the locked (for security reasons) fisheries hut.
As we round that last bend we can hear the seagulls squawk and then a stretch of beach appears. Green grasses lead into sand and then out to the barnacled rocky section. In front of you is the wavy ocean waters that sparkle as the sun beats down upon the moving waters. In the distance, small bits of land and several boats out fishing often can be seen.
The sandy strip of beach is narrow, with the rough barnacled rocks taking over into the sea. Overturn any rock and you can see little crabs and shoreline creatures skitter and crawl away. My boys always got a bang out of finding little crabs and picking them up. To the left where the creek runs into the ocean there are brilliantly coloured green underwater plants. They move back and forth with the constant wavy movement of the water. Their colour is bright and cheerful, and their movement mesmerizing.
Last year I saw a Great Blue Heron swoop through the air and land in a far-off tree. I captured a shot, but, it was not as clear because it was so far away. See if you can see it in my photo.
I’ve often picnicked with my family on the sandy part of the beach. A blanket, a few sandwiches and some drinks and we were set to go. Being lake dwellers with a rocky shore and docks, it was a nice change to have a sandy beach to go to where the kids can play in the sand and make sand castles and hunt for small sea creatures. We never really swam much there, because the waves and tides are forceful around the barnacled rocks. The kids didn’t mind, they splashed around and dug up little crabs and we all hunted for pretty ocean rocks and shells. I always carried a shopping bag because all those little beachcombing finds are good for crafts for the kids to make once we got back to the cabin, or when we were looking for indoor projects on a rainy afternoon. Occasionally, at the ocean we will all hike up to the top of the hill on the right and see the spectacular ocean channel view from up there, but I will save that story and some lovely pictures for you for another day. Let’s just say it is a nice break to ‘get off the rock’ and take the family on an outing and a nature walk to The Salt Chuck on a beautiful, sunny, summer afternoon.