Take a walk among the lilies

Time for annual hike

Walkers admire the avalanche lilies at last year's Lily Walk.

As the sun begins to melt the snow and warm the high reaches the avalanche lilies carpet the semi-alpine meadows in such profusion that “spectacular” seems an appropriate description.

Each year a group of wilderness enthusiasts take time to lead others on a guided walk into the hills to view the millions of avalanche lilies (Erythronium montanum) in all of their glory. The lilies along the San Juan Ridge are unique  and are in one of only two places on Vancouver Island.

Phoebe Dunbar is one of the organizers of the annual Lily Walk taking place on Sunday, June 26, Tuesday evening, June 28 or Sunday, July 10, 9 a.m. John Muir Elementary School.

“We start at sea level and go up to 3,000 feet,” says Dunbar. “We walk through ancient forests, semi-alpine with views of the San Juan valley and the Pacific Ocean.”

Visits will be made to a tea bog, the eco lily reserve established in the 1970’s and the interpretive tea hut on the famous Kludahk Trail.

She emphasizes that the walk is just that, a “walk” and not a macho hike or any kind of serious hike.

“A lot of people want to slow down and be way more observant,” said Dunbar. “This fabulous wilderness corridor is backcountry at its best.”

For those who might wish to participate in the walks, they should know to wear good walking or hiking boots and perhaps a walking stick or pole. There will still be two to five feet of snow but snowshoes will not be needed and the trails will be clear. Every level of walker is encouraged to participate as this is geared to all ages, all levels of walking ability. There are three or four options depending on each person’s ability. If you can only walk a short distance, that will be taken into account. There will be plenty of breaks for looking at wildflowers and walkers are asked to bring a lunch on the Sunday walk and a picnic lunch on the Tuesday hike, which will be a shorter version of the Sunday walk.

Along for the walk will be naturalists Adolf and Oluna Ceska, retired botanists and biologists. They will be seeking out the rare and elusive snow mushroom. Hans Roemer, one of B.C.’s best known botanists, will be joining the lily walk as one of theguides and also on the walk will be guide and woodsman Maywell Wickheim. Some members of T’ Sou-ke Nation will be along on this special day.

For those wanting to meet the group at the starting point there is easy road and trail access from Jordan Main. A 4X4 is not necessary, but obviously a more rugged vehicle would go the distance. Carpooling can be arranged for a small $5 donation. There will be a requested donation of $20 for the all day walk and a $15 fee for the half-day walk. Proceeds go towards the development and sustainability of a native garden plant (edibles and medicinal) at Sooke’s Sunriver Allotment Gardens at 2380 Phillips Road.

The hike – 3 options – for “loop” walks, led by Kludahk trail stewards, distance varying from 1 to 5km.  Lily walks are walks to be observant, learn some natural history.  The hikes are leisurely with stops along the way.  If one has a known disability or health issue which may impair ability to hike, we advise one not to sign up. We are in the backcountry where medical assistance can take hours to access. Kludahk trail maps are available for purchase on the day of the hike.

For those wishing to take part, phone Phoebe Dunbar at 250-642-4342 or email phoebetwin@shaw.ca or call Maywell Wickheim at 250-642-4420.

Vehicles will be leaving at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, June 26 from the John Muir Elementary School parking lot, arriving back at 5 or 5:30 p.m. Those taking part in the Tuesday evening walk leave John Muir at 4 p.m. returning at 9:30 to 10 p.m. They cannot wait for latecomers.