Mini-Adventure: I saw a Heffalump today

I purposely set out to search for woolly mammoths. I had photo evidence of them frolicking at the Royal Bay Beach Park in Colwood. Off I went, solo.

The beach is perhaps an 8 minute drive from my home depending on traffic and lights. Royal Bay Beach Park was once an unsightly gravel pit, inaccessible to the public for over 100 years. Driving along Metchosin Road we could see the stunning ocean views but always had to keep our windows up to keep out the noisy equipment, flying dust and even the odd bits of rock. It is nice to see this privately owned piece of land is being transformed and is open to the general public.

More woody than woolly, this must be a Heffalump and a baby Heff

These days neglectful digging had better not be discovered!

I spent a lovely hour checking out the main path, nifty driftwood huts, attempted some nimble balancing, and strolling along the seaweed strewn beach. My knee was not very cooperative so I kept mainly to the path and sand. This just meant I would have plan an outing with my daughter in tow.

I cam across maybe five structures, these were the two I rally liked. Some of those pieces must be heavy. One had a very sturdy looking cross beam from back to front. Budding architects.

Perhaps a Push Me-Pull You was lurking in the brush? I did find out these were sawdust arrows for a dozen or so people following the path. Could they not figure out how to turn around to go back from whence they came?

Although all we can see now are the vestiges of the pit days on land, the encroachment of industry is always in view.

The winds blow hard enough that trees permanently list.

Next time I will walk along this section. I drawn towards the beach as though called by a siren. I wisely acknowledged that it would be better to have someone with me.

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First day of Autumn/Last day of summer? – Dallas Road views

I am fortunate to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. Not that I am anywhere near the high income bracket. Truth be told, I am far too close, financially and now physically, to the tent city that recently set up camp at Goldstream Provincial Park & Campsite where I explored some of the trails in April. (mini-adventure-goldstream-park-the-other-side.)

One of the pluses with living in Victoria has to be how accessible walking along the beach is. Dallas Road is the perfect walkway for gathering thoughts, allowing the flotsam and jetsam of life to leave on the winds, breather in the fresh ocean air, listen to and watch the gulls, eagles, herons and other birds depending on the season (Spring is wonderful for seeing hummingbirds), and get in a great walk regardless physical ability.

The driftwood ‘shipwreck’ from the day before. I live beyond the distant hills that are hiding behind the cloud bank. That monolith in the background was the first cruise ship for the day.

From Ships Point to Clover Point, the path is about, according to a google maps check, 3 km one way via Bridge Way. I must have not taken that exact route as my return walk was roughly 7km and I did not make it to Clover Point. I was going at a fairly brisk pace – for which I suffered later and the next day. I fell into pace with one cruise ship passenger with whom I walked and chatted for about 8 minutes. He was 77, originally from Beijing, left in the early 1960s. This was offered after we had noted we were both limping slightly exchanged knee problems with his query as to how I had I injured my knee. I even dared to pull out some of my latent Mandarin. (Too bad his saying he was happy to meet me only properly translated in my head after I said I was a little happy) He had a great outlook, always be happy, smile at people – it worked too. Wishing home a great visit I said goodbye and sped up while he waited for family. I had a goal to make it to the Marilyn Bell cairn this day before turning around. Which I did and beyond, and made the following discovery.

When I first lived in Victoria I was mesmerized by the thought of swimming across this channel – I never did attempt it.,
When walking remember to look beyond – you never know what you will discover. Also look up!

As I tried to find a good angle for a picture of this I nearly stumbled into an unobtrusive tent tucked away into the bushes. We never know hw close we are to needing that little space.

Mini Adventure: Francis/King Park (path less travelled)

The Victoria Day long weekend tends to make me want to stay put. The long waits to catch a ferry, longer lines of vehicles clogging the highways, and crowds downtown do not mean a relaxing time. Fortunately we do have places to visit that are within a 5-15 minute drive and many of them can be visited without seeing another person. Expecting a slightly clouded over lazy Sunday I had hoped to visit the Hatley Park Gardens – once a family castle and gardens, then a military college and now the Royal Roads University I had enjoyed the gardens a few times over the 33+ years I have lived in Victoria. It was not to be – the summer months now see a fee being charged to see the gardens. Plus parking unless walking or transit. Thank goodness we always look for a second possibility when making plans.

We wanted an easy walk. Francis/King Regional Park, a 15 minute drive without highway driving, is the perfect spot with its accessible, cedar boardwalk and gravel, Elsie King Trail, to the moderate Centennial Trail that has more difficult offshoot trails. After passing 2-3 interpretive sidebars (pleasant seating, excellent information, and space for more than one stroller, scooter, or wheelchair) we tripped past a post pointing towards a Shooting Star Trail. I could not resist latching onto the trail of a shooting star! We were leaving the comfort of the manmade trail for the depths of the less travelled yet still within the limits of safety for us and the forest. With eleven trails in this 107 hectare park there is enough nature, ranging from 500 year old Douglas Firs to tiny meadow flowers and giant skunk cabbage, to please all visitors. A small, largely untouched, oasis surrounded by farms and modern life.

We enjoyed a peaceful, enchanting two hours, roughly six kilometres, accompanied by the light thunk thunk of a lone woodpecker, the far off call of a raven, light birdsong and many insects. Everything seemed muted by the soft sphagnum mosses in meadow, Grandpa’s Beard moss hanging from trees and the deeper green mosses wrapping the branches of grand, bare limbs. Roots and rock provided natural steps and designs far more original than any paintings. I was on the hunt for fungi knowing this was perfect weather. I hit the mother lode! To add to the perfect day we also discovered a small, floral clad roof cave – I could almost see the magic beginning to peek out.

There were a few trees that appeared to have been hit by lightening, shot through their cores and split; the remains of one lay across the side of the path, already renewed with growth. Although we did not seek out Skunk Cabbage Loop Trail we were happy to find that Shooting Star Trail closed the loop. The leaves reached up and across 2-3 feet up and over one foot across, out of a relatively small marsh. These beautiful plants (even the smell) always make me think of the arrival of spring, we had entered the stage of full renewal. (No photos, I could not figure out how to do the leaves justice)

I love looking up when on walks, in the notch of this host tree a holly plant was growing.

One of the still standing split, blackened trunks with a gnarled tree to its right that I only discovered when going through my photos

Sometimes taking the path less travelled, or at least giving the sense of unexplored, makes for the best adventure.

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.

Mini Adventure: Wentworth Villa

In an effort to keep my mini-adventures interesting I often search for upcoming, preferably free, activities that could be interesting and provide some exercise. The Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum seemed like a perfect match. Two free tours were being offered on each weekend day over two weeks – maximum ten people per tour. I checked with my weekend adventurers who were definitely interested before registering the three of us through Eventbrite. Which nearly found me dropping the whole thing due to the ridiculous process for a free event. Too much information was requested, all three names, addresses, emails and phone numbers were requested (blood type optional) if we wanted confirmation and to print the tickets. Only after all this had been provided did we discover we did not have to print anything, nor were we asked our names on the day we attended.

To ensure a good walk I drove to my sister’s house to put in what we thought would a pleasant 45 minutes. A miscalculation meant we had time to spare to walk further down Fort St. then back up. Fort Street has been known as Antique Road since at least the 1970s. Sadly, most of the quirky stores have since closed their doors as interest in all things old started to wane some years ago. There are now only 2-3 stores left. Wentworth Villa, further up Fort Street, had been one of those quirky shops. I had even visited it once many years ago.

The pink paint was not the original colour; it was chosen to showcase the exterior workmanship.

Central hall. Visitors rarely went beyond the door to the private areas of the home. However, aesthetically pleasing stained glass does give a glimpse of the lovely banister on the stairs beyond. (There are only two stained glass windows, the other is in the attic! No easy access had the renovators think it was there purely for looks.

Only two families ever owned and lived in the Villa. Built in 1863 for Captain Ella, his wife Martha, who would eventually have seven children, and Martha’s aunt. Despite the grandeur quarters would have been quite cramped! Some of the family lived in the house until the 1930s. By the 1940s the home was a bit run down, back taxes were owed and Wentworth Villa was purchased by Faith Grant and her husband – paying 25 years of back taxes. Renovated, with plenty of living space, the antique store next door, and the Grant family were soon relocated to Wentworth Villa. Over time the only changes to house were an extension and paint. It was an antique store until 2012. Sold in 2011 to developers it seemed likely the once grand home where Fort St. met Cadboro Bay Rd. (Over time Fort St. was extended and Cadboro Rd. starts at the border of what is now Oak Bay) was slated to be converted into high end suites. Yet another piece of Victoria’s history lost to the almighty dollar.

The door from the other side.

Note the wood floor in the next room is covered – these are floorboards that are laid across the foundation before the walls go up. Floors were often left unstained in the centre of the room as rugs were used to cover that area.

Fortune must shine on the home as it was sold in 2012 with the purpose of renovating it to become a jewel of the Wentworth Villa Architectural Heritage Museum. We were taken through the house by Stefan, one of the extremely knowledgeable members. Although he did not say, I was under the impression he is one of the main people involved in ensuring all the work is completed as closely to the original structure as possible. This meant sifting through family photos from the Ella family, one of whom serves on the board, newspaper articles, and of course the fantastic B.C. Archives. After threes years the house has been fully restored and available for visitors.

As soon as I saw this I asked which cemetery it was stolen from. (I had learned of what happened to many missing stones) Ross Bay, the oldest cemetery in Victoria. Our guide said their renovators were quite surprised to discover tombstones used as paving stones. There are others, none as intact as this one. With names and dates in hand, researchers discovered the story of this, and other, individuals whose stones were found. Their stories are included in the history information boards.

Although we have many heritage designated homes in Victoria only four are open to the public. Emily Carr House, and Ross Bay Villa, and Ellice Point House have all been carefully restored, two with the furnishings of the original owners, one refurbished to appear as it would have been when first built. The plan for Wentworth Villa is to refurbish one room in the style of the Ella family. As their mandate is to show as a Museum of Architecture many of the renovated rooms have, or will have, models and information of various homes of architectural interest. In addition to these there is extensive information mounted on the walls about the process to renovate, the families and history of Wentworth Villa.

Royal Doulton sewer pipes. Ships from England used these pipes as ballast then sold them upon arrival to Victoria as no longer needed.

The architects and renovators could not find any blueprints or reason for why there is an arch from this room to the next. Nor did the very small space in between appear to have any functional use.

One of the finials removes while the roof was being repaired; when the initials carved on it were discovered the decision to make a replica to replace it was made and put the original on display.

Of course, all of this work is expensive, visitors will soon be charged to, and the extension put in by the Grants has been renovated as an intimate, acoustically sound, concert space. I checked out the seats – comfortable! The intention is to invite a variety of musical artists from Vancouver Island to perform. Concert goers will get quite a hit to the wallet though, $40.00 seemed to be the main ticket rate. Not terribly expensive if one considers the cost of movies these days. Our one hour tour stretched to nearly two – the passion of our guide was infectious as well as extensive! His mention of a few other familiar homes was interesting – one of which my daughter had lived in. Check out their growing website, http://www.wentworthvilla.com

bottom of one of the posts holding the house up.

Right hand side of the photo is where these posts were in the ground.

After our walk and two hours at the Villa we were all very hungry. With the house on the outskirts of Fairfield we headed down to Cook St. Village, to me the heart of Fairfield,where there are many choices of eateries, a few I have been fortunate to have already tried. Knowing there would be choices my daughter could have we headed to Bubby’s Kitchen. This place seems to be always busy. We were quickly seated at the end of the communal table (I think these are a great idea) and handed breakfast and lunch menus. My sister was disappointed to be told her choice of smoked salmon croissant had run out of croissants and found her half order Westcoast Benny on a tea biscuit expensive and not as tasty as she had hoped. I had the Falafel Naan Wrap. With French fries at the insistence of my sister – she wanted to share them. I was very pleased with the choice, after our server made the suggestion when I could not decide between that and another dish. Only ate half – carried the rest in a recyclable box for my dinner later. (No recollection of what my daughter had, just that she also took home leftovers)

Those boxes became a nuisance at times. I proposed we head to the ocean at the end of the street before veering off to Moss St. in the hope of seeing the cheery blossoms in full bloom. Moss Street is the best place for visitors in Victoria during cherry blossom season. They were still not in full show mode. Then to Rockland Ave where there are many grand old homes as well as the Lt. Governor’s House. We took a short stroll through the public park inside before wending our way back to the street. We had planned to find one house mentioned during our tour, too bad we recalled the street incorrectly. No matter, we were in very familiar territory, the weather was only slightly chilly and windy, and we were feeling hearty.

Keeping a watchful eye on everything.

On the way I discovered a little wonderland on the edges of one home. Such a delightful sight.

By the time we returned to my car we had walked nearly 14km! (I faithfully wore my knee brace until back at the car – it only helps a very little) No wonder I was tired. My daughter and I put in another 2km shopping before heading home. Another stress free, very little driving, adventure.