“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir
Following a recent hike, I felt the urge to share an aspect of our tiny Saanich Peninsula that brings to me so much pleasure, again and again: our hiking trails.
Just seeing the photo makes me smile!
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park is one of my favourites and offers a variety of terrain and distances.
Run with me along just a handful of my fave trails, using photos, starting with the Timberman Trail.
Our first stop overlooks Squally’s Reach which offers perfect rocks to set up a picnic.
Carrying along the Timberman Trail, we continue south to Jocelyn Hill, and then to Holme’s Peak.
The waters of Finlayson Arm lie far below this serene spot. Isn’t this worth all that panting?!
Utterly beautiful, in all seasons.
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park has about 25 km of trails of varying levels of difficulty.
The Park stretches from the south end of the Saanich Inlet north to the town of Brentwood Bay and the Butchart Gardens.
Now, let’s go a few km north of Butchart Gardens and Brentwood Bay to John Dean Provincial Park.
Like others who live in or near Dean Park Estates, I feel as if this Park is my personal playground!
Both this trail and the moss-covered trees are so typical of this Park.
We start up Dean Park Road (my daily running route!) and very soon we take the first trail on the right which is the Barrett Montfort Trail.
From Victoria Capital Region’s naturalists, I’ve learned that this Park is home to scores of different mosses and ferns.
What a pleasure to see them remain green, no matter the season!
A spur off the trail takes us to the West Viewpoint where we look west and north over the Saanich Inlet which we already saw, albeit from a much different viewpoint, on our visit to Gowlland Tod Prov’l Park.
Another spur off this Surveyor’s Trail takes us to Cy’s Viewpoint where we look west across the Saanich Inlet to Mill Bay.
The trails pass by pools of water — or dry wadi, depending what season we’re here — the most notable one being the Emerald Pool, below.
We loop around the southwest arm of the Surveyor’s Trail and find a recently installed bench at this viewpoint looking south over the Saanich Inlet.
John Dean Provincial Park protects one of the last stands of old-growth Douglas fir and Garry oak on the Saanich Peninsula.
Trees thrive here, as witnessed by the size of this random maple leaf.
This Park is set on Mt Newton, so we encounter definite elevation shifts as we hike.
We can go to the summit, but frankly, the viewing platform there offers an underwhelming view.
Much preferred, in my view (pun totally intended!) is the vista from Pickles Bluff.
We’ve hiked here as part of a larger group, or a handful of friends, or a bunch of my family, or just a couple of us, once with our little Yorkie (carried!), and I also come here by myself……….Pickles Bluff is certainly not a private hideaway, but I always find a personal getaway space here.
Raptors soar majestically and ominously around the curve of Mt Newton. The Bluff overlooks our local Peninsula below, the Gulf Islands beyond, and the Cascade Mountains in the distance on a clear day.
Recently we walked from our current home in Dean Park Estates to our under-construction house off Land’s End Road at the very northern tip of the Peninsula.
We estimated the distance to be about 13 km and it took us 2 hours and several litres of water!
My sister and her husband were part of this trek. Our route wound around YYJ, Victoria International Airport, which has a 10 km paved “trail” around the perimeter. In the background is Patricia Bay.
Descending from the foot of Mt Newton in Dean Park, we were thankful to walk on flat terrain……until we hit Horth Hill, which is another popular hiking spot on the northern tip of the Peninsula.
This (above) is a view from Horth Hill, looking back (south) from whence we came, over the Peninsula.
This is a view from Horth Hill looking southeast toward Sidney.
The terrain on Horth Hill varies, from some rocky clambering at the very top, to typical woodland trails.
Okay, let’s catch our breath! We have one more stop on this tour. Yes, it requires an ascending hike!
We’re going up Lone Tree Hill! I tell my out-of-town guests that this is the biggest bang for their hiking buck!
For a less-than-30-minute persistently ascending hike, you get a spectacular view!
We can see that Lone Tree Hill is less than a kilometre from Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, so we’ve come full circle on the Peninsula.
The view from the top of Lone Tree Hill is astounding — 360 degrees of a vista!
The camera doesn’t do the view justice at all!
We can see Victoria to the southeast, and beyond that, freighters lying offshore in the Juan de Fuca Strait, and the Olympic Mountains in Washington State beyond that.
To the east we see the USA’s San Juan Island.
To the west lies the Malahat and western Vancouver Island.
And close at hand are the bald eagles, hawks and turkey vultures soaring patiently and deadly.
The park is named after a wizened Douglas fir tree which was more than two centuries old.
On a sunny summer day, we seek the shade of the few arbutus trees up here.
In the winter, we appreciate shelter from the wind provided by the many rock outcroppings.
But always, we marvel anew at some aspect of this magical place.
I can’t help it — I LOVE this place!
See the world from another view!