Mini-Adventure: Witty’s Lagoon, Metchosin, Vancouver Island

The morning started with crisp air, pale blue sky semi-shrouded in grey-white cloud. Where had the double digit temperatures disappeared to? Ah yes, although clocks may have been set to spring forward Mother Nature was sticking to her timepiece. A quick telephone call to discuss when to meet with my sister – not solely based on the 8c – ensured we would most likely be finishing up our beach hike as high noon approached. As I had also suggested heading for lunch to the local, and afar, favourite Mychosen Cafe I was hoping a later arrival might be in our favour so we would not have a long wait for a table. I also woke my daughter up to ask if she wanted to join us – she did! I was definitely not going to be unattended.

We did not head out until just past 11:00! At first I thought that would be a rather late start, however, being only a ten minute drive away it really was not. Driving to the lagoon is fairly straightforward, the parking lot is off of Metchosin Road, with Mychosen Cafe barely a two minute drive further down the road. More on that later. This time I did not second guess taking my sturdy stick. I had taken my usual precaution to read up on the trail I expected we would be taking. One warning is that the trail can get muddy and slippery in some areas, along with narrowing at times I decided throwing caution to the wind would be asking for trouble. My sister and daughter think I tend to over prepare, I always carry water and a snack with me, plus a small emergency kit. I would rather have it with me and not need it. Fortunately, if anyone did suffer a fall or anything else there are usually several people walking the trail. Many had Alpine poles. I had my stick and my knee brace. We were ready to plunge into the forest.

Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park has two main trails, the Beach and the Lagoon, that branch off from the Nature Centre situated at the beginning of the walk. Both trails are classed as moderate. The trail slopes down towards a bridge and platform where the lovely Sitting Lady Falls can be viewed. (I later discovered there is better viewing from the Lagoon Trail, sadly not until we had finished for the day) Before we could see anything, other than a stream merrily heading beside, then under us, we could hear the Falls. Much like my love of lighthouses, trains and the ocean, I love waterfalls. Moss covered rock walls, ferns clinging to the sides, slick logs choking sections, the Falls were many feet below us, pouring into the relatively serene lagoon below. By far not as majestic as many Falls it was still pleasant to view. Sometimes a walk in a park does need grand gestures from nature.

The trail continues its downward spiral, indeed muddy and narrow in places, hikers here seem to have an unspoken code that allows passing without crowding. Several good mornings and hellos along the way provided a pleasant acknowledgement of spring finally in the air. From the Falls we entered into the cooling environs of green forest. We discovered one ancient arbutus, entwined around an ancient, craggy Douglas fir nestled in the cradle of the arbutus limbs.

A variety of soft mosses, blackberry spines still without new shoots, many shades of green dappled by the sun. Oh yes, the sun! We could hear and see birds – the haunting call of a raven, the triumphant call of return from Canada geese overhead, seagulls in the distance, ducks paddling in the lagoon, crows giving chase to something. There are 160 species of birds in the park – birders flock the area.

As we continued to wend our way down, it is always at least a slight decline going – steeper in several areas – I started to pick up the slight decay and renewal of forest with an undertone of ocean. Despite our many stops along the way we were soon entering marshlands before the trail opened onto the beach access. Slivering waves, kissed by sunshine, its rays enticed a bare cheek to lift the face to the far reaches of ocean and deeply inhale the salt, algae and tiny, damp stones that meet the finely ground sand. First beach day! Picnics appeared, children with boundless energy hopped from giant, ocean smoothed logs, dogs joining in the delight of the warming day. (For me the only negative the whole time was the dogs – they are not allowed on the trail or beach from June to September)

the ultimate in log cabins

50 Shades of Blue

We chose to walk along the beach at the narrow line where small stones meet the soft sand; although a little trickier at times so much more enjoyable to feel and hear the skitter or pebbles underfoot, or the soft shush of sand as it slipped around my shoes. Shells dropped by seagulls are plentiful, shining purple whorls insides are all that are left inside. A piece of blue glass, always a treasure when my children were young, a small, pale, quite dead, crab. And always the glitter of the ocean as it gently lapped the shores. Beyond, snowy mountains and still the pale blue sky from the early morning. When summer arrives families, teens and many others, will crowd the beach and go swimming in the shallows. For now it is the ducks and seagulls who rule. I wish I could have filmed one very funny seagull high-stepping its way across a sand bar, even as the water became deeper it appeared this gull was not about to ruffle his under feathers as he stretched his legs and twinkle toed it’s way to that eventual dip where swimming took over.

Too soon our stomachs reminded us that it was lunchtime, we reluctantly turned around to traverse uphill, the same slippery, muddy spots waiting to challenge us. Going in the opposite direction there is a whole new perspective. While we took our time to enjoy everything in reverse Lunch beckoned.

One young boy had an ice cream sandwich that was nearly as big as his face! I will have to share a treat with someone next time.

Seems everyone else had a similar plan. Mychosen Cafe opened in 1987 and quickly became a reason to go for a drive to the wilds of Metchosin. I have probably eaten there maybe ten times over the years, not once was I disappointed. Hopping busy, we were told to expect a 25-30 minute wait for a table. This despite being after 1:30. A good reason to carry snacks. Alright, there really are not too many choices when in Metchosin. The Sugar Shack is the ice cream and bakery that belongs to the cafe, or there is Mychosen Pizza. (Heading home I did see a newer place on the next property) Patrons do not mind waiting. You can visit the goats in the Critter Corral, check out the various fowl, or chat with a neighbour – even if you have never met before. Metchosin is still very much a country place.

The wait was worth it. The menu could be considered too extensive if they were not practically the only place in town. Gluten free choices are available (not good for anyone who cannot tolerate possible cross-contamination), several salads, French onion soup(nearly ordered that), of course hamburgers, sandwiches, wraps, breakfast and dessert. There is also a dinner menus for after 4:00pm. Choices, choices! I decided on the Metchosin lamb Greek Wrap with a 1/2 order of fries and 1/2 order garden salad. Garden salads are far too often disappointing, a chunk of iceberg lettuce, tomato and maybe a slice of cucumber, all with bottled dressing. Not at Mychosen. A fantastic mix of lettuce including baby red, beets (these have never seen a can), carrot, cucumber, croutons and one cherry tomato. (I do not like tomatoes so that was fine) I chose their raspberry vinaigrette house dressing. This was enough salad to have as a light meal. However, I still had the lamb burger wrap to tuck into. Yum. Nicely seasoned lamb, generous, wrapped with feta cheese, tzatziki, lettuce, & cucumber wrapped in a warm tortilla. The fries were fine, not heavily salted. I liked them better when I had half of my wrap and chips for dinner. The servings are that generous. No need to cook that night!

Another weekend adventure to rejuvenate the soul, exercise the body, and discover, or rediscover, a little more about where I live. I invite everyone to take some time to discover the hidden or forgotten jewels in their area.


Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Sixty kilometres from the British Columbia Legislative buildings is the Sheringham Point Lighthouse, in Shirley BC. From where I live in Langford it is roughly a 45 minute drive that goes through Sooke and Otter Point before reaching Sheringham Point Road, anchored on either side by the red, Shirley Community Hall and Shirley Delicious. Although only a few minutes drive down the narrow, windy road to the first Regional parking lot a sense of the wild begins to calm anyone in need of a break.

People in Shirley know who the visitors are. I had barely pulled into the small parking area when another driver motioned for me to roll down my passenger window – had I mistakenly entered private property despite the signs clearly indicating a path marking the entrance to the Lighthouse? Not at all, he wanted to inform us there was another parking lot closer to the Lighthouse! We thanked him, indicated we were planning to walk the trail, and headed out. Anytime I go on on a hike into the woods I try to be somewhat prepared. Particularly this early in March.

Sturdy footwear, layered clothes – hat, gloves, a small bag to carry water and a snack. I also have a whistle on my keychain to scare off any grumpy bears or hungry cougars. I also look at a map to determine the type of trail: easy, moderate, difficult. Based on the ‘easy’ I had read I chose to leave my stick at home, in my car. I also do not go on hikes alone in an isolated area. I was with my sister. The trail was closer to being moderate than easy with its rises and falls that were covered in soft, springy moss, leaves, and mud in some areas. Considering I have been wearing my knee brace for hikes from now on I will take my stick.

There are two routes to the lighthouse, we chose the approximately 1.1 km, direct trail. Sure enough, there is another parking lot at the top of the gated entrance to the Lighthouse. The area is locked between 9:00am to 5:00pm, a precaution against vandalism and thrill seekers meeting an early death. The cliffs are steep and unforgiving. The vista is breathtaking. Peeping through the trees we came upon the first glimpses of the lighthouse jutting 20 metres up from the sheer rock. Every time I am lucky enough enough to visit a new place with a lighthouse I am awed by how these simple structures could withstand the fury of the ocean and warn sailors to steer clear. As we approached the cement steps and path to the structure I was stopped by the heaving sound of waves crashing on rocks – and this was a relatively mild day for wind. Trees and shrubs are windswept back, as though combed into a pompadour. Daffodils carpeted small areas, a sunny welcome in unforgiving territory if a wrong step is taken.

A bee was also enjoying the lovely, slightly stunted, sunny daffodils

Sheringham was built in 1912, (one of 12 to serve the area after many shipwrecks). Automated in 1988, declared surplus in 2010, the lighthouse was declared a heritage site in 2015, giving the Lighthouse Society (est. 2004) the green light to begin restorations in 2016. The land and the lighthouse are now protected as a community park, free to all visitors. After we managed to pull away from the enthralling view, the breaking water against the rocks and shore, the many shades of blue to grey of sky and sea we slowly made our way back to the relative quiet of the trail with thoughts of lunch beginning to form.

My goal was to introduce my sister to the craziness of Shirley Delicious. A wonderful, quirky restaurant that serves fabulous, delicious food, and great Fernwood coffee. I had warned that the place is very popular and usually extremely busy – we arrived before noon. Indeed it was hopping. The owner was flipping paper coffee cups, playing with the music and acknowledging everyone with a quick hello, quip, or handing over coffee – all with a smile behind his South African accent. I do not get out there often, and am always bouyed when I do. I had one of their focaccia sandwiches (they were all only $9.00) each has a silly name, of course I cannot recall what mine was, all that really mattered was that first bite. Warm, soft, perfectly seasoned focaccia bread filled with turkey, cranberry sauce, although I am not a fan of cranberry sauce I was intrigued by the combination with the light touch of chutney and brie plus fresh greens. Heaven. Except for the tomato slices. I hate tomatoes. These are eat with both hands sandwiches. Right away we knew we would need boxes to pack away at least half. Recyclable of course.

Now we know where the dragons are.

The air was too damp to sit outside – an absolute delight, and necessary if planning to stay to eat, during warmer weather. Take a walk along the paths, look down and around. There is much to delight the eye before or after your meal. A mini-Sunday adventure. I was home after only four hours. My body and soul were full.

Thetis Lake Hike

As I have noted in previous blogs it is always important to visit places right under your nose. Now that March has arrived with our first beautiful day I was not about to spend any of it in a gym for my exercise. The original plan had been to visit Shirley or Point No Point, about a one hour drive for the former, and more for the latter, from where I now live. When that had to be postponed it was time to hit google for trail inspiration. Nothing too challenging, preferably not one already traversed many times. Naturally in nature, long enough to get in some steps without feeling exhausted at the end.

Beautiful blues.Beautiful blues we love to see return

Thetis Lake, a mere 5 – 6 minute drive from where I live was the perfect balance. Judging by the many vehicles parked it seemed others had the same thought. Established as Canada’s first nature sanctuary the park land and lake has something for most quiet, outdoor activities. Notice I said quiet. The only boats allowed are canoes, or electric boats. Although still early in the season we saw young people learning the craft of keeping their craft afloat, a canoe with a lone paddler silently gliding in the still waters, and one small boat with fishers working their lines with a flick and a small splash to entice a trout.

It is advisable to carry water and a snack, wear a light coat with a hood and sturdy footwear. Considering my propensity for slipping I also had a sturdy ‘stick’ for the steeper sections, and was not hiking alone. This time of year some areas remain damp and muddy. From around a corner heard we a young couple who had passed us exclaim after the father slipped while carrying his baby in a back carrier. They were all fine, just frightened. I doubt I would do the trail alone although several younger adults were using it as a running course. Notices are not always well placed, it is adviseable to have a map of the area with you. We had a map App that was only somewhat useful. Fortunately this was not the first time at the lake and there were several other casual hikers. We chose a moderate trail going around the lower half of Thetis Lake. A pleasant 1 1/2 hour walk.

Fishing for rainbow trout

During the off season dogs are allowed to run off leash. Although they might be ecstatic to be frolicking in the fresh air I did not appreciate it. One dog was far too interested in my stick – I never could figure which group of people it belonged to. Thetis Lake is very popular in the summer for the beach, swimming, picnics and camping. With public transit and close to the city this picturesque spot sees young people and families pretty well take over during the warm weather. Fortunately there is room for everyone.

arbutus trees serving as a natural arch as the path winds along the lake

Paradise Cave: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Paradise Cave was discovered in 2005, and have now taken over in popularity the better known Phong Nha Caves that are announced by a huge sign on one of the hills outside the town of Phong Nha. The latter caves can only be reached by boat then walking to the caves so we opted for Paradise. Which was just as well as we discovered later, which also explained why Paradise seemed to be suddenly getting crowded at one point, the Phong Nha Caves were closed due to high water. It took four years for experts to fully explore over the next four years before opening to the public –  31 km long, the largest dry cave in the world, we only explored the ‘easier’, monstrously large, dry section. 100 metres at its highest point and up to 150 metres wide. The boardwalk inside this section of the cave, once down the steep, steep stairs, is an impressive one and 1/4km long that provides many wonderful views of the various formations one would expect in a cave. The more intrepid can choose to stop at – before or after – one of the more challenging sections for dark caving (no thank you), wading in water through a cave, rafting, (I think that is what they meant when our guides were telling us about the activities) and cave climbing. There is also the very carefully protected cave in which only 300, carefully vetted, visitors per year are allowed to explore. This particular cave, Hang Son Doong, could fit an entire Manhattan city block insid and takes a week to explore! Like I said, we chose paradise (need I suggest, over Hell?)

These reminded me of ancient blades melded together over time.

My only fear was having one of these fall on us!

Readers may note I say we versus me, I was on a four day motorcycle tour with my youngest daughter. She ended up not being a happy camper during the significantly long uphill, switchback trek to the mouth of the cave. (Rather than tell me she was hungover she just complained – most likely because I would not have felt a bit sorry for her. The blisters on her feet however were another issue) It took me 45 minutes to an hour to the mouth, she took longer.

There were maybe 3-4 places with coloured lights; my preference would be none. (In and around Guilin, China, also known for its caves, lighting is a garish art form

Once there we had to climb down a short set of steps, enter the somewhat narrow mouth to the cave, adjust our eyes, then be wowed by the spectacular, disorienting view, in the eerie darkness. Plus the stairs. The steep stairs. Wooden, vertigo inducing stairs. I had a few moments when I did not think my equilibrium would balance on time to go forward or back. Fortunately my brain and feet worked in unison and I sallied forth. My daughter was somewhere behind me taking pictures and finally enjoying herself despite the muttering of ‘I’ve seen caves, why am I here’ that were audible enough for me to hear until I was further away – I never did remind her that sound carries. I focussed on being awed by the natural, internal world. White walls, cathedral surmounting ceiling, a couple of degrees cooler than outside, naturally formed, marbled statues that outclass even the most perfect of all statues – which is of course up to debate. I was happy to note this cave is tastefully lit, just enough light to not trip over your feet. We were also there, until as noted, more visitors were arriving, when it was relatively quiet. At one point it felt as though we were the sole inhabitants of a lost underworld. 

Although called a dry cave there was water on many of the surfaces. I did wonder where it came from.
This was like time had suddenly stood still in mid bubble.

Photos cannot do justice to the magnificence of huge spaces unless taken from above, and, although I took a few pictures from the top of the stairs’ the feel for the space – I never felt I was literally under millions of tons of rock, well not until now – cannot be depicted unless perhaps a drone (heaven forbid) were to be used. I hope I managed, with help from my daughter who has a much better eye for photo ops than I, to find enough shots for others to enjoy. 

This was the end for us although my daughter thought the sleeping guard gave us the opportunity to slip over the guardrail. I did read later that it is possible to explore further with a guide. The fact a guide is necessary made me happy to turn back.

Pre-trip Preparations: What about the cat? (And trivial stuff like health & rent)


Insisting I cannot leave him – he threw my clothes on the floor and made a nest.

Smitten with my cat is a mild descriptor for how important he is to me. I have lived with cats, either my own or, by extension family cats, for about 40 years. With just a little effort I could probably name all of them. Which brings me to heading out for a no working 60 day trip. Leaving my cat behind for any length of time is becoming more and more difficult. He is over 15 y/o, born in a hole-in-the-wall shop on the University Road stretch of Nanning, China. These days I leave him at home with my daughter. (In the past he has stayed with extended family) I am grateful she does not currently have my wanderlust. What is most important is to give carte blanche decision making even if it means you, the traveller, might come home to a paw print and a box of ashes and an emptier bank account. The only other choice would be to stay home. Reality sucks, less so if prepared.
He does the best royally pissed off face. In royal comfort.

Am I cruel to leave Mozzy behind? Not if he will receive the same gold standard care and love I lavish on him. Am I sure he will indeed receive said lavishness – absolutely. About the only concern I have is that our vet is a 30 minute drive from home. They know how to handle him, they have his records, they are prepared. My daughter does not drive. Mozzy needs Cartrophen injections every other week for a leg injury from a few years ago. He also has some other issues we have been trying to get a handle on – before I leave. It would help if he would eat his bribe or salmon. Which brings me full circle, it is difficult to leave any loved, elder family behind – even a cat.

This photo always goes with me on my phone

Other than the fact I will be 60 y/o when I begin this trip, which brings its own delightful issues, I do have some health concerns. I would rather ignore them; however, to appease family (maybe some friends if they know – oops, some of them read this) I will take whatever precautions necessary. Main priority, I have non-insulin dependant Type ll Diabetes. Battling the needle is ongoing. Much to the chagrin of my GP and various doctors I refuse to have injections. Keeping my numbers down is part of that battle. One saving grace is that they tend to be lower, not quite where they should be, when I am travelling for the simple reason I am so much more active and not tied down to commitments. As I write this I find my numbers are already creeping up, barely a week after coming home from my trip to Ontario. Back to taking control of the battle.
Then there is travel insurance. I strongly recommend getting some form, even if only basic coverage. Cost will depend on the area being travelled to, age, activities, and medical conditions that must be reported. I was happy when World Nomads raised their pre-screening age from 60 to 65. I do have to look into my status with controlled diabetes. As for activities, the only dangerous one I will do is riding pillion on a motorcycle, which I think is fine. It is important to have coverage starting from home to returning home rather than just once you hit the ground.
My knees are another major worry. I really do not want to collapse in mid-stride. Exercises to strengthen my quads, chair yoga, various unguents, OTCs for swollen joints and pain, and now one brace are helping a bit. I should have two braces. Which is possible if I purchase at the local Walmart at 1/15 the price of just one, not even good for both knees, where I go to see the various doctors about the pain. Walking is fine with a brace, stairs are not. So I am practicing. Gritting my teeth in frustration and at times pain. I just work through it.


I know I am fortunate to be sharing with my daughter. Not only is she my in house kitty second, we share all the expenses. However, like anyone with a mortgage, rent still has to be paid. We came up with an arrangement that has so far worked for both of us. I pay less rent when I am away; that savings goes towards to accommodation. Although it is not enough to pay for too many days I believe that any amount I can funnel into my overall budget is a bonus. Working out a rough budget prior to leaving is important and knowing I have the funds to cover roughly two weeks of hostels – depending on where I am – is comforting.

Somehow we have managed to deal with bills only when I return from a trip. Yes, a major hit to the bank account, but not when I might need the funds while travelling. We also have everything fixed to equal payments so I tend to have the figure sitting quietly in the back of my brain rather than resting heavily on my mind. All I have to take care of is making sure my phone is paid for. Also car insurance if I do not take it off the road for the time I am away. (Always check this is acceptable if you have a parking spot – you will most likely have to pay a low coverage regardless where the vehicle is parked. I recommend it.)
Packing: Like a June/December romance – it will work
My 40 days in Eastern Canada the tail end of June and most of July was fairly simple to plan for. Shorts, sleeveless tops and sandals. It also helped me decide what I should not take to China and Vietnam. Until I remembered I will be travelling in various regions, varying degrees and seasons. That complicates packing. Summewear sounded sensible for Vietnam until I considered mosquitoes and a ten day motorcycle tour. Long sleeved tops and pants are practically de rigueur for clothing – fashion be damned.
I will hit Shanghai mid-Sep and I already know the temperatures can range from well over 20 c to chillier low teens. Without central heating in the buildings it can also feel dampish when the numbers dip. Without AC to battle the heat – miserable. My itinerary so far is broken into three sections for China. Ten days in a tight circle to get me back to the Pudong (Shanghai) Airport for my flight to Vietnam. Once my motorcycle tour is done I plan to visit the southwest interior of China, where it can be suffocatingly hot or have an autumn chill. As I head north, so far always north, it will only become colder. By the time I reach Shanxi province I may be encountering 5 c and below in November. Yikes! I do know I can wrap my winter coat around my backpack – it is just such a nuisance when the first full month will be warm. Ah, decisions, decisions.