Mini-Adventure: Goldstream Park, the other side

At the beginning of the week my daughter and I were in the mood for a bigger adventure than our recent forays onto a few of the many fantastic trails in my area. Feeling boosted from our unplanned Mill Hill jaunt a week earlier we both believed we were prepared. Even the weather cooperated.

One of the negatives of hiking with anyone is time. I tend to wake up early – rarely sleeping past 6:30; my daughter stays up late reading or online, this means she is rarely up before 9:30. Despite knowing we needed probably a few hours from start to finish we decided to go with our usual flow of the day rather than feel pressured to be ready by a specific time. (This only works if you know the average time to cover the selected destination and back) We picked the Gold Mine Trail at Goldstream Park. Barely 30 minutes from downtown Victoria and only ten minutes from my front door. Park information showed 8.5km, average 4 hours return, difficult or, as the website states, strenuous.

Despite visiting Goldstream Park (designated in 1958) many times when my children were still children and excited to visit the river during salmon spawning I was not aware an additional extensive parcel of land had been designated for the park in 1994 and 1996 through the Commonwealth Nature Legacy and Crown Land on the other side of the highway that now includes an extensive, yet carefully laid out and managed, campground nestled at the base of trails. Not exactly the other side of the mountain – that is on the original side of the park – it is a relatively new place waiting to be discovered.

A gold mine tunnel – on Gold Mine Trail – stunning waterways, side trails to waterfalls, a Hidden Spring, massive trees, tiny, delicate flowers, furled ferns, and steep trails greeted us. The air was silent and still, we had managed to traverse ancient trails on a perfect day, protected from the sun, the slight breeze barely rustling the leaves. For at least an hour we did not even hear any birds – that was rather eerie. Eventually the guttural call of ravens in the distance penetrated the silence. I discovered a dead pigeon down a slight embankment, surely the dropped dinner of an eagle. Pigeons do not tend to live in the Westcoast forests. A lone garter snake, very healthy looking, lazed in the dappled sun, completely comfortable in his domain.

It is important to always be prepared, we had to cover portions of two other trails before reaching the Gold Mine Trail. The beginning of Prospector’s, a section of Arbutus, then Arbutus Ridge, before finally the trail we wanted. We think this may be one reason the 8.5km ended up being 12km! There are two options to begin at Gold Mine Trail if a parking space in one of the lots off the highway can be accessed – any left hand turn off the Malahat section of Island Highway without traffic lights is foolhardy. We had prepared to be gone for at least six hours. The first time to notify family where we were going and when we expected to be back to the car.

Never hike alone on the difficult trails, we did meet with a couple of people who chose to disregard this. Do they not read signs? Bears and cougars live in these woods. There are very dangerous drops if footing is lost. One very short length, perhaps eighteen inches, is particularly frightening, barely twelve inches wide with a slight slope towards a ravine on one side and an extremely solid tree on the inside that is too wide to hug gave me pause to wonder what the hell I had embarked on. Hiking with someone might not prevent a fall but it could mean faster rescue. I always carry a whistle with my keys, not too helpful when in my bag but better than nothing. We had decided to take only one bag for my daughter to carry in order for me to use my walking stick. Upon reflection we decided that for any hikes of more than 10km we need a pack each. Back to the trails. Despite steep switchbacks, an extensive, thick web of tree roots, natural and man made steps, we were bewitched enough to keep going a little further whenever one of us felt that last climb was enough.

The little discoveries, a broken down footbridge and the embedded sign on a tree pointing the other way, an old cairn, the giant tree fallen (it seemed too convenient to have been felled by nature – although definitely possible. I should have taken note if the very long, younger tree laid parallel to the path extended that far) then sawn through to open the way. We discovered uprooted, massive 600 year old Douglas firs, Arbutus wrapped around still standing tall, unyielding firs, and yes, a tunnel that was one of a few gold mine entrances. I had already wondered if we were following a trail where over equipped and exuberant miners had passed, or even earlier, local First Nations: “Goldstream is located on traditional fishing grounds of local First Nations. Old mining shafts and tunnels are all that remain of the gold rush that Goldstream River experienced during the mid-19th century.” (BC Parks) A plaque provides only a hint of a possible gold rush in the area. A quick peek inside the tunnel shows signs of braver than me recent visitors with graffiti covering most of the moss covered rock walls for as far as my phone flashlight could penetrate the dark.

Our destination was Niagara Falls, close to the now disused railway trestle, which meant that as we came close to the side trails to Hidden Spring Falls and Miner’s Spring we chose to not visit these. However, at the start of our hike we agreed that if either of us needed to turn around we would. By 1 3/4 hours of nearly continuous trekking I knew my energy was flagging and we would still have to return. We stopped for a snack, ALWAYS take food, and NEVER leave garbage. Two notes here, do not wait to have a snack and take more water – this is one reason we decided two packs are important. Replenished we walked for another 15 minutes before I said it was time to turn around. Niagara Falls will be there for another time and we could always try that nasty left hand turn.

Exactly four hours from when we left the car we were back. I sent a message saying we had returned like the good hikerI am trying to be, drank a bottle of water – always stored in the car fry emergencies – before heading home. We also discovered we did not have to take the highway now that the area where we live has drastically expanded. We are fortunate to live in such close proximity to the real wilds of the island.

Advertisements

Wedding Wednesday: 66 Days

Earlier this week my daughter and her Matron of Honour (MOH) – such archaic terminology – drove to Ottawa for a one hour appointment at David’s Bridal. Seemed simple enough, would most likely take less time than expected giving a chance to visit family who had recently moved there – including the young niece my daughter was thinking of inviting to be in the bridal party. I have no idea if that happened, they were at the one store for about five hours! I cannot imagine how long it takes when in search of a wedding dress!

Why they were there for so long made me laugh. Despite having made the solid decision to be happy with the dresses the other women in the party would wear they ended up checking out option. It was made easier when the MOH had taken her current dress with her to determine if another choice would complement the original in the event of two styles walking down the aisle. The consultant had the bride also try the favoured, now in the running, dress on as she is about 2″ than her 4’11″sister. The last I heard another Ottawa trip is planned – except it must be a quick turnaround to fit in the bachelorette that was finally carved out to fit everyone’s extremely busy schedules. Big sigh, despite checking for fares on various sites I simply cannot afford to go. Even if I were to stay for a week or so to tie up some of the various planning for the BIG DAY.

We are still doing distance planning. Sometimes I hear a bit of a sigh behind my daughter’s voice when we do discuss the various items that still need crossing off lists. I am never sure it is because it would be easier if I could be there or if I am too detailed oriented. Perhaps a bit of both. I need a cash windfall. I would love to just show up.

Speaking of money, the budget was also recently discussed. With the possibility of a change in dress my daughter feels obligated to pay for them, or partially. As with most events costs fluctuate. Money is moved about on paper to cover all expenses. The bride made a strong suggestion that transportation may have to be reconsidered.

The plan was for the Kingston Trolley to pick guests up at their various hotels, and Queen’s University where many of us will be staying, as well as taking the bride and her party to the boat. My financial brain is still attempting to figure out how she can still keep that. It is so much a part of Kingston, and most likely less expensive than a carriage. Also a nice touch for out of town visitors who might not know where to park. On a long weekend. Where everyone congregates.

On a brighter note, chair sashes and table runners were ordered, paid outright, rather than trying to match the fabric and colour choices provided by the venue. Yes, more money but less than renting and they can most likely be sold after the wedding. Perhaps after the BBQ planned for the following day – not that chair sashes will be necessary. Cupcakes were taste tested at a local bakery I discovered during one of my visits – then promptly forgot about. Flowers have been chosen and ordered. I even managed to provide a mock up of the table settings using what I have on hand. If I forget to pack the orchids I will be in trouble!

Finally, not directly connected to the wedding, I was very happy to discover that Via Rail renewed my Preference Privilege status for another year despite my not having used their services much since last summer. I realize this is a sales push but it fits my needs.

I have one coupon for a 50% discount off a sleeper berth – the train home being what is planned. As mentioned, I need a cash infusion so this will help a lot! I might even have enough e-coupons to cut 1/3 for another sleeper for one of my daughters returning with me.

Saturday Musings

I had a document saved titled musings. These were often only random thoughts jotted down over the years until I recently decided to either tidy it up or, heaven forbid, delete bits and pieces. Today one of my losses was rediscovered on, of all things, Facebook. Or, at least my more fleshed out observations. I will now attempt to copy and paste these ‘memories’ when I come across them. One day I may even sort out my reams of paper that are collecting dust. Please enjoy a taste of where my head was three years ago – an just how much weather plays a part in our daily lives.

Walking With the Wind (2015)

There is something about the gathering of a storm

That tincture of fear

As a drop of ink

Gathers in the clean, whiteness of freshly drawn milk.

The clouds swathed in ash covered dustings

Slowly enveloping all in the path

Of the quiet before the storm.

The whisper of a torrent held back

Before the flick of a lightening strike

That hits its mark – a kiss on bared face

Lashings of rain. (KLD)

the photo is very recent. A view from Mill Hill. There was only a smattering or rain.

Wedding Wednesday: Meltdown

It seems most brides, or one member of the soon to be happily wed couple – political correctness here – eventually has a major, cry in your mother’s arms, meltdown. Usually over the dress. Which makes me wonder how much longer women – yes, I do mean women – will be harbouring dreams of being a princess on their day. I get it, a wedding, even if with only two witnesses in the courthouse, or is it City Hall these days, is an important commitment. Heck, a wedding is an EVENT! Which brings me back to dresses and tears.

Granted, my daughter did not actually fall weeping into my arms, these days, with families spread around the globe, many brides add wedding planning into their daily juggling of work, family, school, etc. with absolutely no idea of where, how, when to begin do so on their own. Fortunately there are mobile phones, Messenger, email, and whatever means of reaching out is needed even if from a distance. The wedding dress was purchased in October. The two women standing with the bride have their dresses. Even the men seem to have their attire. Surely this sounds like s woman well organized.

Until the fitting. My daughter is shorter than me, or was – I may have shrunk an inch; wedding dresses seem to be made for willowy women who stand at six feet in their stockings. Absolutely ridiculous. There are beautiful pieces of lace sewn onto the background fabric of my daughter’s dress that need to be removed by hand before cutting the thin backing and under dress to shorten everything. All those lovely pieces of lace then need to be hand stitched back onto the dress. Oh, and this means the absolutely stunning scalloped lacing at the hem. (I have a vague recollection I may have mentioned this before) Naturally an important part of making sure the dress fits perfectly is what goes with it. Hint, unseen by everyone but the groom.

Therein lay the tears. Over the phone. Everything had finally bubbled from inside and an explosion of self doubt burst forward from 4700kms away. The dress did not look right. Nothing fit. The dresses for ‘the girls’ (one is her younger sister so ‘girls’ Falls from her lips with ease) were wrong. Why was she doing this anyway? What if no one came? (At last count there were 75) No one understands my vision. My poor daughter had lost the one thing I told her to never lose – her sense of humour. (She reads these, I hope I am not in too much trouble) Humour keeps the hard stuff in life manageable. Anyone with any connection to a wedding has most likely heard similar tales.

I am happy to say this was two weeks ago and the bride had calmed down enough to apologize for ‘laying all of this on her mother’, or words to that effect; she was calm enough to meet a friend for lunch. I never did ask if it ended up being a liquid lunch. Salad seemed to be on her mind. My response, beyond telling her to breathe (my response to anyone having a major tearful moment – try it online in writing!) was that is what mother’s do. Of course all is going along, yes there are still some rough plans that need firming, but she is getting there. She even has all of the glass beads needed for her centrepieces, blue two extra bags! Just as well, I still say to expect 88 people.

the flowers we hunted for up and down Vancouver Island. Some were found in Kitchener/Waterloo. (Dear bride – some hints are allowed)

I think for each item crossed off our lists another one is added. Flowers, check. Cake, not sure now. Officiant, done ages ago. All the important stuff. I wonder if someone will remember to apply for the marriage license. After 25 years together they do not want to forget that!

Meanwhile, table floor plan, (some major discussion needed on that – I was looking at any photos I could find online of the venue besides their official website) horsd’œuvre menu, alcohol, whatever is usually needed at a reception.

Mini-Adventure: Farewell to the Blue Bridge

One of my first memorable glimpses of downtown Victoria was of the Johnson Street blue bridge. All I can assume from that was that my father chose to drive into the city from the other side so as to let my sister and I see the magic of city unfold before us. This was in 1973, we were teens moving from the north coast to a city that eventually became home, and for me, an island haven in later years. The blue bridge was not actually painted blue until 1979 yet everyone harbours memories of it always being blue! I have no recollection of it ever being given a good, solid new paint job in all the years I have lived in Victoria. (I did not move permanently to the city until 1983) I do however have a few snapshots of family and personal experiences in which the bridge did play a minor role. Yesterday was the last time to walk over the bridge, first time ever on the car lanes. That was how I started and ended my time with the bridge – heading from the other side toward the city centre.

The view from Pandora Avenue. A shift over from Johnson Street. With construction still in progress I am not sure how traffic from the Vic West will now funnel to Johnson – the most sensible route into town.

The other side is generally known as Vic West. For many years it was an area of light industry, the train tracks and the quickest route to the Esquimalt Naval Base. It was the route taken when I brought my second daughter home after she was born. (I do sometimes wonder if that recollection is not actually a figment of my imagination as it seems so out of the way from the hospital she was born at – I will keep it though). I lived on the other side, the Esquimalt side, for a couple of years. Even my parents lived there for a short time after they had sold everything, including their Fairfield home (on the proper side of thebridge) to travel for a year. My sister was married in Esquimalt, at beautiful Saxe Point Park before embarking on a ride, in an open top car to, where else, cross the blue bridge. The groom spotted the bridge operator in his little hut, made the well recognized ‘Toot, Toot’ gesture with the resulting bridgeman response of a hearty Toot Toot!

The bridge operator’s hut. The last operator, retired in the 1990’s died three weeks before the opening of the new bridge. My sister thinks he was most likely the operator who tooted the horn as her wedding car drove into town.

Yes, it was with a bit sadness we crossed over the steel grid car lanes – scary – on foot, with some traces of memories of, early on, a less than pleasant walks before the pleasant waterfront Westsong Walkway was built, then extended to meet the iconic bridge. However, growing cities, and their neighbouring urban towns (there are nine municipalities that are townships under the postal umbrella of Victoria – perhaps addressing a letter to Langford or Oak Bay would arrive with the postal code) tend to outgrow their infrastructure. Bridges are no exception. Old Blue as some Victorians seemed to be calling it, was already elderly by the time the 2009 decision to replace her was made.

A quick look at her history, as early as 1911 the B.C. provincial government saw a need for a permanent connection to the busy industrial areas of Victoria and Vic West that would allow for land and water traffic. However, despite talks between the province, the City of Victoria, E&N Railway and the Electric Streetcar Company to share the cost an agreement, unsurprisingly, was not made. It was 1920, after a referendum, that the city took on the financial load and massive task to build the middle the much needed raised (lifting) bridge. 27% over budget at $918,000 the bridge opened in 1924. It was time, at 94 years, to let her retire with a grand introduction of her replacement standing erect at her side, and a fond farewell, rather than tearing her down with little fanfare. The public was invited to attend, to share a picnic on the steel grid (I was happy to just walk across), memories and dreams of the future as we streamed across the new, sleek bridge.

There were two sections to the bridge, one for cars to pass, another for the train. The track section with its counterweight was removed earlier.

The differences brought to mind how much fashion has changed over nearly 100 years. The blue bridge was all girders, heavy cement – dinosaur head appearance – counterweights, and in 1979, painted blue. She was out of her element aesthetically and functionally. Cosmetic surgery and a slap of paint would only give her maybe another 30 – 40 years. Therefore, a staggering 105 million expense (original budget was pegged at $40 million)for a seismically sound, three lane, two bike lanes to last at least 100 years, remains difficult for voters to swallow, but the deed is done and I, for one, appreciate the aesthetics of the bridge. I also live in one of the outer municipalities so my taxes will not be affected.

It was nostalgia that brought us, and hundreds of others, to walk to the span that crosses from the gentrified city side to the gentrified other side. The new bridge, that does not meet with Johnson Street – perhaps waiting for a new name – not only spans the two areas, it unites them. The landscape is changing, as with so many cities, will continue to change, we can only hope the changes are as easy to accept as the new view of this bridge provides.

Speech from the Mayor of Victoria from the other side of this antique fire truck. We then watched, smattering of clapping, as the bridge was lowered.

The Janion, built in 1891, abandoned for 35 years prior to 2013, refurbished and extended into micro units sits adjacent to the bridges. I nearly bought the third floor recessed space that connects the old & new until I read there was no guarantee I would actually have a decent view from the straight on windows. Made it easier to travel without a mortgage!

Of course, my mini-adventures are not complete without walking too far for too long and having lunch. We had originally planned to choose our lunch at one of the four food trucks, having decided carrying our meal was not going to happen. Unfortunately none of the trucks served anything my daughter could eat, they all appeared to have menus heavy on the burger/bun/chips choices. although we would all have enjoyed the one coffee truck – Discovery Coffee serves very good coffee – we decided to check out, as suggested by Mayor Lisa Helps during the opening ceremony, to partake of one of the local businesses that had been so patient during the four years of construction. I had hoped to visit Cafe Mexico, closed in 2015 after a major fire and reopened in 2017. 2 – 1 decision against my vote means I will go another time. We finally ended up at Willie’s Cafe & Bakery, then still just a coffee shop and bakery when I last visited, and when we still had the train arriving in Victoria. (Last train was in 2011)

I was unaware this eatery had expanded to become a popular breakfast/lunch spot, of course it was quite busy with bridge attendees. We did not have long to wait to be seated – right next to a roaring fire in what was once solely an outdoor summer patio. None of us sat next to fire. If it had been turned down we might have felt a bit of a chill despite the space being now fully enclosed. Service was spotty. Menus were handed out, our server hovered to answer questions and give suggestions, and took our coffee orders. Which arrived fairly quickly – unlike our water. My meal choice could not be made, at least I was informed before the order was put in, so I finally settled on the soup of the day – sweet potato with bacon and a slice of sourdough toast. My daughter chose a salmon omelette, no feta and no toast – thinking it would be only slice I said to get it as my order might not be enough for me. My sister had a waffle with maple cream icing. Everything sounded yummy.

Everything was not yummy. We waited over a half hour for our meals, and my soup was luke warm. It took far too long for a server to come around for me to complain, have the offending soup taken away to be warmed up, and not offer any real apology. The toast was good, I ate far too much of it. My sister declared the maple syrup was fake – yuck! However, my daughter enjoyed her omelette, her aunt and I left only on piece of her toast behind. The coffee was good. Always had been, as had the bakery. Did the owners bite off more than they can chew? Doubtful, breakfast is s big business in Victoria. Too bad the bakery seems to have nearly been set aside. It is unlikely I will ever return, no need to with so many other places and no early train to catch.

After all that toast I was happy we had made the decision to walk to town and back, although I had slowed down by the time we headed back after wearing my knee brace for so long. By the time we said our goodbyes we had walked 12kms. I still had one more stop, renew my insurance. Along with everyone else taking advantage of the long weekend. Happy Easter!