TUESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER, 2014
Goldstream Provincial Park - Absolutely Amazing
Victoria's much loved Goldstream Provincial Park is well loved and well explored. It stretches from the main parking area in several directions, and each direction is something special and often breathtaking. Just steps from your car you find yourself craning your neck back to take in the beautifully tangled canopy of trees. Massive, moss coated giants block the sun and only allow brilliant shafts of light to reach the ground. Everywhere you turn in the park you come to an interesting bit of old-growth tree history. Either in the form a a written mural along the trails or by walking along one of the monstrously huge trees laying along the forest floor. Plenty enormous tree stumps border the trails as well. A little sad to see until you spot two little kids making a fort out of the inside of one massive stump to the delight of giggling parents. The trees here are gigantic.. and the stumps give you a closer look at the tremendous girth of these centuries old trees. The annual salmon run is just weeks away and a few weeks of rain maybe needed as the water level in the stream is very low. Further along and through the tunnel under the highway and the lack of recent rain becomes more apparent. Niagara Falls is just a narrow flow of water as compared to the gushing torrent that can usually be seen. The low flow of water has a viewing benefit, however, as you can get very close to the base of the falls without getting soaked by spray or having to wade through water. Backtracking from Niagara Falls and then up the trail(to the right), you pass by the top of the falls and then continue another 15 minutes of steep, zig-zagging trail to the amazing train trestle. This long abandoned train trestle spans a huge valley and for most(it seems) is the most eagerly sought after feature of Goldstream Park. Decades of surreal and surreptitious parties have no doubt been enjoyed here. Elaborate and unexpectedly beautiful graffiti covers some of the underside of the trestle. Along with the graffiti art, plenty of writing as well. "Belmont Grad 88" and about every other year since then can be spotted within the dinosaur sized ribs of the trestle. Strangely the writing gives the underside of the train trestle an endearing sense of history to go along with the aging, yet astoundingly solid structure that looks to outlive most of the grads and many more grads to come. Whether you hike up for a picnic, soak up the sun, revel in Victoria history, or just get hammered far from civilization, this seems to be a place hard to beat. Once in a while there is a mention of getting the train line back in use, but it seems to be unlikely in the near future. If Victoria's unrelenting ability to look to the future is any indication, this old train line will morph into, yet another world-class, recreational bike/walking trail. That sounds like a good future plan to hope for, but then keeping it just the way it is, seems like a great idea too.
WEDNESDAY 17 SEPTEMBER, 2014
Victoria's Beautiful Inner Harbour
Victoria is a startlingly beautiful city and has honed its appeal to tourists for most of its existence. Modelling itself in an old English theme, Victoria has become a paradise of urban parks, historical monuments and buildings, as well as endless ocean views, beaches, harbours and oceanfront boardwalks. Where other cities invest in tourism, Victoria pours money into tourism in a flood that reveals itself in green spaces everywhere you look. And more than that. Green spaces with seas of flowers.. almost year-round. Two of Victoria's cherished, Inner Harbour icons are long gone now. The Wax Museum and Undersea Gardens. The Wax Museum is a Starbucks and Robert Bateman Centre art gallery. The Undersea Gardens is completely gone and now just the short jetty that led to it remains. The elaborate and wildly beautiful Beacon Hill Park, that commands some of the most wonderful real estate in Canada. Though real estate crowded with flowers, ponds, viewpoints, unusual wild animals.. yes in one part you quite literally have trouble not tripping over partridges, dragging their enormous trails of feathers. Everything in this wonderful park is wide open and free to wander. Beacon Hill Park of course connects to Victoria's wonderful Inner Harbour and just as with Beacon Hill Park it has been intricately designed to not just allow you to walk for hours but almost forces you to. The waterfront goes on and on and on along this endlessly pretty city. The infectious beauty of downtown Victoria has spread to the suburbs of Victoria. The once, almost tourism-hostile town of Sooke, an hours drive north of Victoria on the west coast of Vancouver Island has, in recent years become a beautiful little tourist hot spot complete with a newer, friendly oceanfront and an ever growing list of B&B's. Sooke is well positioned near the start of the Juan de Fuca Trail, the wonderful and wild 47 kilometre hiking trail that hugs the beautiful west coast of Vancouver Island. is the heart of this incredibly tourist oriented city. Surrounded by spectacular buildings, historical monuments and stunning totem poles, the Inner Harbour is a free Victoria attraction that takes hours to fully appreciate. From the two kilometre cement and granite causeway that skirts the harbour and then continues at both ends for much longer, to the various centuries old buildings. The British Columbia parliament buildings dominate one end of the Inner Harbour and you are free to wander much of this astonishingly old and ridiculously extravagant building. The beautiful Empress Hotel sits across from the Inner Harbour as well and along with being a luxury hotel, it is a free museum of sorts on its lower level. You can wander through the lower hallways that take you back over a century as you look at artifacts and hotel menus from the 1800's. If you exit the front of the Empress Hotel and cross to the Inner Harbour you will see the imposing and huge statue of Captain Cook. If you love history or have travelled to other places Cook travelled, you will recognize him immediately. Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Britain all share strikingly similar monuments to this wonderful explorer. Just a five minute walk from the Captain Cook statue past the Empress is the wonderful Royal BC Museum. This amazing museum houses a seemingly endless array of local history ranging from thousands of years ago to recent decades. No where else in the world will you find such a breathtaking collection of totem poles. The causeway continues in both directions. If you walk to the left (in the direction of the Parliament Buildings) and follow the waterfront you will connect to a beautiful trail that skirts the Inner Harbour for quite some distance. After about 30 minutes you will arrive at Fisherman's Wharf. This cute little marina is a world of its own with its permanent residents living in floating houses in Float Home Village. There are some great places there to get ice cream, and fresh from the ocean food. Picnic tables on the wharf are located right in the middle of the action. There is even a free, live show.. the Seal Cam, showing the big, fat and jolly harbour seals lurking below you. You can see it online here.. From Fisherman's Wharf you can continue walking along the waterfront for several more kilometres if you want. The next sight further along is the Ogden Point Breakwater. A giant cement walkway that takes you straight out into the crashing ocean all around. Along the way seeing fishermen casting off from the walkway as well as scuba divers just a few metres away in this popular Victoria scuba diving location.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2014
Mill Hill Regional Park Overlooking Victoria
Mill Hill Regional Park is a well hidden though wonderfully short hike to amazing views of Victoria, Esquimalt and the Western Communities. The hike is only 15 minutes to the summit with a branching trail that leads to Thetis Lake Park. This hiking trail goes mostly unnoticed which is such a shame as the views are very beautiful, the trail nice, relaxing and short, and the forest is unexpectedly beautiful. Bright orange and huge arbutus trees appear near the top of the trail and give a strange, tropical feeling to the hill. Esquimalt harbour looks absurdly close despite being several kilometres away. A little bit of Victoria history is embedded in the rock at the top. An old metal plaque and direction marker pointing to distant mountains looks very old and regal. "Mill Hill Summit" the plaque reads and despite the short hike to the summit, it certainly reveals views more like a mountain summit than a hill summit. Mill Hill is also notable as the traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt people. Artifacts dating from 3000 years ago have been found in the area indicating long term habitation at the mouth of Millstream Creek. Mill Hill and Millstream Creek get their name from the Hudson's Bay Company sawmills located here in 1848.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 8, 2014
East Sooke Park - Pike Point Aerial View
East Sooke Regional Park is a convenient and easily accessible way to experience the wild, west coast of Vancouver Island. Weather blasted rocky cliffs, sandy beaches and deep coastal forest trails run throughout the park. Every few minutes along the coast you come to another startlingly desolate ocean vantage point. Everything about East Sooke Park is just great and should not be missed on a trip to Victoria anytime of the year. The sheer size of this park and number of trails, over 50 kilometres of them. The Coastal Trail, almost 12 kilometres long, stretches out linearly in an array of pocket beaches, rocky viewpoints and fantastically alive tide pools. It hugs the cliff, ducks into the forest and back out to another stunning ocean viewpoint. It does this over and over again. Dozens of times, and not once does it get boring. The Strait of Juan de Fuca and swirling mass of green and blue stretches out toward the Olympic Mountains in the United States. The Pike Road access to the park is great for families and relaxing. The short, 1.5 kilometre trail follows an old logging road through a nice meadow, then down to Iron Mine Beach. Another beautiful beach that will keep kids amused for hours. Though East Sooke Park is one of the biggest parks around Victoria with an extensive hiking trail network, camping is not welcome. Bikes and beach fires are also not welcome. Further up the coast is the beautiful and camping friendly, Juan de Fuca Trail that is more suited to multi-day hiking.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2013
Fort Rodd Hill - One of the Most Amazing Places in Victoria!
is astonishingly beautiful and incredibly interesting as a tourist attraction in Victoria that most never see. This fact is amazing as it is wonderful and unquestionably, or at least arguably, as good or better than any other attraction around. And at $3.90, what a phenomenal deal. You can crawl all over all the real pre World War I era defensive structures and even play with and all but fire a genuine World War II Anti-Aircraft Gun... which astonishingly is in the parking lot. Fort Rodd Hill has so much to see it spills onto the parking lot. What an unbelievable place! Fort Rodd Hill has an astounding collection of historic buildings and World War I era recreations. The location of the park is beautiful as well with its sweeping ocean views. You can even wander down to the beach and walk along the shoreline to Fisguard Lighthouse. Fisguard Lighthouse is like a full scale museum in its own right. Recreations, sound and video recreate the effect of being in this lighthouse as it was a century ago. If you enjoy a beautiful ocean-side park on a sunny day, expect to take an hour or two. If you love history, and in particular war history, you will be happy for hours. About the only drawback to Fort Rodd Hill is that you can't bring your dog with you, but this is for a pretty amazing reason. Once in a while you will spot deer roaming the grounds, so allowing dogs in the park would cause quite a disturbance.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2013
Goldstream Park Salmon Spawning
Goldstream Provincial Park and Mount Finlayson are beautiful. Huge coastal rainforest trees everywhere. An impressively golden river, an abandoned gold mine and one of the highest mountains in Victoria. As soon as you leave your car you can feel the wonderful forest alive around you. Goldstream park is home to the annual salmon spawning run every fall and the rest of the year is just a wonderful world of centuries old douglas fir and western red cedars. Trails run all over the park, but the Mount Finlayson trail takes you up to beautiful views of Victoria. It's a relaxing trail that only gets a bit steeper and challenging near the end. The summit of Mount Finlayson is about an hour from from the parking lot, it's a very accessible way to hike in Victoria. Across the highway there is still more to this beautiful park. Abandoned gold mine tunnels dot the hillside and a breathtaking train trestle is just a short hike away. As if it Goldstream Park couldn't get any better it does. Another trail leads to the mighty 47 metre high Niagara Falls.