View looking north east from Mt Erskine area, Salt Spring Island, March 5, 2019 near hydro transmission line

Finding “Mossy Mountain”

“This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,” whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. “Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!”
Kenneth Grahame The Wind in the Willows

A while ago, I wrote a post about a special place that made a big impression on me when I was a kid. My name for this place at the time was “Mossy Mountain,” because of the (you guessed it) mosses that grew all over the rocks and added a kind of magic to the area. I still love moss.

On a cold and sunny day early in March, the Spouse, the Dog, and I took a delightful day trip to Salt Spring Island. Right after getting off the ferry, we drove the island’s narrow, winding roads to a nursery that sells rare and unusual plants, where I bought three hellebores and two blue poppies. Then we turned southward, toward the quasi-urban central part of the island, where I lived in the late 1960s. In many ways, the place hasn’t changed that much. The school I attended is still there, and the layout of the streets was familiar.

We followed roads I had noted on my virtual visit via Google Maps and Street Views, aiming for a major electrical transmission line I remembered. (It’s visible in the image at the top of the post, a view looking northeast across the north half of Salt Spring Island toward the distant Coast Mountains on the B.C. mainland.) There was only one problem — the snow that fell in mid-February hadn’t left this area. In fact, there was still close to a foot of it hanging around — hard, icy, crystalline snow. It certainly made the place look different from my memories, which were of sunny May or June weekends.

Salt Spring Island near Mt Erskine, March 5, 2019
No walking up this hill!

Nelly Salt Spring Island snow March 2019
Nelly the Newf thought the snow was just fine.

But the topography and vegetation were much the same. So was the conglomerate bedrock, which I had forgotten all about, until I recognized it underfoot in spots where the snow had melted. The mosses were still there too, as well as the arbutus and fir trees, the ocean spray shrubs, and the leathery leaves of salal. I heard hummingbirds making their sizzling sounds and other birds singing. In an encounter with a fellow who lives nearby (now that’s new — in the ’60s, there were no houses up there), we heard a cougar had recently killed a deer, a chicken, and a duck. I actually thought this was encouraging. Even though development has crept up the mountain, at least there is enough natural environment left to support a cougar, deer, and wild birds.

Mossy bluffs and arbutus near Mt Erskine, Salt Spring Island, March 5, 2019
Moss-covered rocks and arbutus trees.
Salt Spring Island near Mt Erskine March 5, 2019, Holodiscus, Salal, Arbutus
Typical vegetation: salal (evergreens in foreground) and ocean spray (Holodiscus) bushes, with arbutus and firs in the background.
Conglomerate rock and mosses near Mt Erskine, Salt Spring Island, March 5, 2019
Conglomerate bedrock and mosses.
Arbutus trunk peeling bark, Salt Spring Island March 2019
Arbutus (A. menziesii) trunk showing typical peeling bark.

Because of the snow, it wasn’t possible to explore beyond the road, but a return visit is in order, most likely in May or June.


    1. It’s hard to take good photos of big black dogs; the features don’t show up well, but I thought she looked so happy here, and the snow was a great contrast. We’ll likely go back once spring is fully developed. Thanks for your comment, Priscilla!


      1. Me too, Audrey! Whenever I see moss on old stones or walls, I have a compulsion to run my fingers over it. It’s so tactile. Yes, a mossy lawn would suit me fine too.

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    1. I read the classic Anne of Green Gables when I lived on Salt Spring, and I remember thinking how wonderful it must have been to live on Prince Edward Island. And all the while I was living on a magical island myself! So often we don’t appreciate our present situation until it’s past (well past, in this case).

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  1. Thanks for letting us know you found this marvelous place and that it is still marvelous. Great pictures. I’m impressed with snow and hummingbirds in the same place. Didn’t know that was possible.

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    1. It was a lovely little adventure, despite the snow. It was melting even then, and is likely gone now. Anna’s hummingbirds live year round on the BC south coast now. I’ll bet some of the local (human) residents have provided hummingbird feeders, so the little guys do quite well despite cold and snow episodes. Thanks for reading and commenting, Pat!


    1. I don’t really know! I was there only in May and early June in 1968, and then a couple of weeks ago. I suspect it would be pretty dry, but still worth a visit. The guy who told us about the cougar said the view from the top of the hill is amazing. I don’t remember that, but maybe my pal and I didn’t climb all the way up. And Salt Spring generally is full of interesting stuff to see and do.


        1. Agree! I think there is a 5 or maybe 10 acre limit on lot sizes in the Gulf Islands. And in British Columbia, agricultural lands can be used only for agricultural purposes (mostly), which has kept the southern parts of Salt Spring pretty much as I remember them from decades ago.


          1. I think those regulations are very forward thinking. People do need homes and the infrastructure that goes with them, but the typical urban sprawl is not the answer. :/

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