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Day two of Heritage Fairs 2015 started at Goldstream Park, approximately a thirty minute drive away from the UVic campus. Upon exiting the school buses, we stepped into a world of overwhelmingly beautiful nature, wild animals, and passionate naturalists. We were introduced to our guides for the day, then split off into two groups to learn all about the park. Walking along the gravel path deep into the forest, we all noticed a curious line of trees that seemed to be growing out of the ground. Our guide explained that when trees fall down in the forest, they leave nutrient-rich decomposed matter behind, giving new trees an optimal place to grow new roots. This essentially created a tree growing out of a tree!

Walking farther down, we arrived at a small nature museum in the midst of the woods. Kids excitedly filed inside, curiously examining the dried beaver skins, fact books, and puppets spread around the room. A few delegates bought souvenir puppet animals, while others tried on impressive sets of deer and moose antlers. As people finished up, we finally gathered together to enter the main attraction boasted by the park. Crouching down under branches to crawl through a tiny path, we came out of the other side to find a vast estuary spread over more than a kilometre of greenery. Bordered on the far side by open waters, we trekked for a few minutes through tall grasses and muddy water until we arrived in the centre of the field. Our tour guide explained the many impressive features of the plain: the sponge-like plants and earth that quickly soaked up water, the acidic qualities of the area that removed toxins from the water, and the brackish mix of fresh and salt water that helped fish adjust in preparation for spawning. Delegates eagerly tried a nibble each of ‘sea asparagus’, a salty edible plant that inhabited various areas of the estuary. They soon came to a consensus about the plant and declared that it would be a fantastic meal if it was boiled and served with salmon. After a while, it was time to move on, and everyone was soon reminded the hard way to take caution, after a few people took unexpected mudslides and another two lost their shoes in a battle with the sticky mud.

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On our way back to our school buses, we came across a long black and red millipede, which, to our horror, the tour guide enthusiastically scooped up into his cupped hand. “Smell it!” he said excited, bringing it dangerously close to a few kids’ noses. He explained that in order to scare off predators, the millipede secreted venomous cyanide, an acid found in natural almonds. Everyone crowded around his hand to sniff the small bug, which, sure enough, smelled strongly of sweet almonds. He talked a little bit more about the fish that lived in the river, and we played a game to order the events that came to form Goldstream Park, and then it was time to say our goodbyes. We thanked our guides, lined up at our buses, and prepared ourselves for our next destination.

Author: Emily M.

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