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2 Nature Adventures In Qualicum Beach, From Forest Bathing To Rhododendrons

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Forest Bathing and a Walk Through Milner Gardens & Woodlands

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and gently sway from side to side feeling the breeze on your skin. Hear the sounds of the forest, a creaking tree nearby or the trills of a chickadee. What do you smell? Red cedar, coastal douglas fir or perhaps the moisture in the air after a short rainfall. You are invited to begin a unique and special forest bathing experience that is part meditation part forest walk.

Forest Bathing chimes

This is just one of the amazing outdoor adventure walks you can do near Parksville, BC. As part of my relax and rejuvenate weekend at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Resort with my Mom I’ve scheduled two nature walks for us to take. One at Milner Gardens & Woodlands where we will explore the former woodlands and gardens of Veronica Milner. For our second nature adventure, we will take part in forest bathing with Pacific Raincoast Adventure Tours. A tour company that specializes in showcasing the wonders out our back door on Vancouver Island,  no matter if you are 30 or 70 years of age.

We begin the first of our two nature walks at Milner Gardens which is located near Qualicum Beach. 60-acres of woodland and 10 acres of garden that are so well known around the world that Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and Princess Diana have all visited. While my Mom and I may not be that illustrious they will now be able to add our names to the visitor list.

Entrance to Milner Gardens & Woodlands

After paying our entrance fee we begin our walk. Which way to go? Should we explore the woodland trails or go straight to the gardens and Milner House? Easy we can do both as all trails lead to Milner House.

Wayfarer signs at Milner Gardens and Woodland

A walk through the forest at Milner Gardens

At the entrance to the gardens is a lovely gift & coffee shop. I filled up my travel mug while my Mom went to explore the reflection pool and nursery. DYK that Milner Gardens was given in two land grants to Vancouver Island University in 1996 and 1999. Many of the staff working in the gardens will be wearing VIU shirts.

Reflection pool and nursery at Milner Gardens

An Allum in bloom at Milner Gardens

The gardens are famous in part for the massive collection of Rhododendrons planted by Veronica Milner from around the world. They aren’t my favourite plant but the variety and colour diversity represented here is quite impressive.

What I loved most was walking amongst the coastal Douglas Fir trees. Some of which line the cliffs that overlook the Strait of Georgia.

A walk amongst the Douglas Firs along the cliff edge

My Mom is a tree hugger

Our final stop is Milner House where I have also booked us in for a Cream Tea, that is tea and scones if you don’t speak Brit.

Milner house at Milner Gardens & Woodlands

A Cream Tea at Milner Gardens

Our second nature adventure is a completely different experience and it is called forest bathing. What the hell is forest bathing? It is not swimming in a pool in the forest. It is not a nudist exploration weaving wildflowers and twigs into a temporary crown either. It is 100% about being present and absorbing the richness of nature around you.

This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest. Shinrin-yoku is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.

Gary & Ronda Murdock, founders of Pacific Raincoast Adventure Tours, pick my Mom and me up from Tigh-Na-Mara Resort. Our destination is the Heritage Forest of Qualicum Beach.

The Heritage Forest of Qualicum Beach

I have never been forest bathing before so I have to admit I don’t know what to expect. Gary and Ronda give us a quick run through of what to expect. A lot of silence, listening and breathing. This is not a hike through the forest, rather it is a slow and leisurely exploration of everything our five senses can pick up from around us.

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Now that we know what to expect we start with the first of five “invitations“. Each invitation challenges us to call on our senses and to be present. After each invitation, we slowly move to the next invitation point. No talking allowed.

Looking up through the trees while forest bathing

as we make our way through the forest on our forest bathing exploration

As we journey from invitation to invitation you can really start to sense new things. A woodpecker far off in the distance, the rustling of leaves as the wind passes through them and a far-off creek trickling its way over rocks and organic material that has fallen to the forest floor.

You are encouraged to touch as you go. Like feeling the bark on this coastal Douglas Fir tree. Look at the colour variations and the layers.

Love the bark and contrast on this Douglas Fir

After our last invitation, we arrive back where we started. Gary has moved ahead of us and set up a tea station with fresh “tea” made up of fresh shoots collected from our walk through the forest. Believe it or not, it is quite refreshing and tastes very nice.

Gary and Ronda prepare our tea from tips collected on our walk

A collection of tree tips collected to make a tea

I am in a complete state of zen.

These are two very different nature experiences, but both are wonderful. If forest bathing is not for you doing fret. Gary and Rondo have plenty more nature adventures available for you to choose from. Just ask.

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Disclosure: General

Thank you to Milner Gardens and Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours for inviting me to experience them. My views and opinions are 100% my own.

About Author

Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.

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