Hiking Trails

“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.

An amazing reflecting pool!
Decades ago, determined hikers built rock stairways which can raise our pulse significantly if we tackle them briskly — or is that a heart-pump of gratitude?!

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!
Hike it! 

 

Russell Nursery

“Gardening is how I relax.  It’s another form of creating and playing with colours.”  — Oscar de la Renta

How lucky I felt to find this charming and well-stocked garden nursery close to our home when we first moved to the Greater Victoria area!

Just driving through the entrance gate, even on this December day, made me feel warm, knowing I was entering one of my “happy places”.
        

On this visit, my eye was immediately attracted to this leatherleaf mahonia which bursts out in spring with stalks of yellow flowers, and in fall shows off its needle-edged leaves topped with blue berries.
Russell Nursery staff have a solid knowledge of their plants and our microclimate here on the Peninsula.
  

Upon their recommendation, I’ve planted Mountain Fire Pieris (above), ubiquitous in this area, and various rhododendrons which even now in December sneak out a few blossoms, like this ‘Elizabeth Ostbo’ rhodo (below), ready to burst open…..

……….and this overly optimistic ‘Hansel’ rhododendron (below).

Walking past the benches of heathers,

I was drawn to one of my favourite performers, the Callicarpa beautyberry shrub (below).

Russell Nursery offers pottery, next to their shade garden.


Walking in the shade garden back to the main plant and shop area, I caught the sun on a large pot.
As this was approaching Christmas, it occurred to me that if one was searching for an extraordinary gift for a special gardener, one of these Halls English greenhouses would surely make a lasting impression!


But the stars of Russell Nursery right now are all the seasonal items, starting of course with trees, such as Douglas fir, Grand fir and some pines, sourced in Mill Bay and Duncan here on the Island.

The area normally filled with flowering trees is now chock-full of these cut evergreen trees, ready for decorating.

Christmas planters and centerpieces are made on-site using local plants.

Or you can design your own arrangements using Russell Nursery’s design elements.

  

    

I made my way to the garden shop where I knew the wood-burning stove would cheerily welcome me.
    

The garden shop is the business end of things where payment is made for purchases.  Brian Russell and his wife, Michele, have owned and operated the nursery for 25 years and are easing into retirement in January, 2018 as they sold the nursery to two of their senior staff, Susan Tice and Laurel Rassenti.
We’ll still be able to catch Brian on site in the coming months, as he’s remaining to help with a smooth transition to the new ownership.

Not only are Susan and Laurel the new owners, but they have decades of experience and this translates to the entire staff being educated regarding the plants and merchandise they sell.

Laurel pointed out to me the acid-etched steel art created by Roz Stanton from Pemberton, BC.

Unique gardening books are offered.

Laurel and I both commented on the Rustic Woodcrafts birdhouses (below, left) which are created less than two km from Russell Nursery.
    
Also offered is the Pender Botanicals line of soaps, cremes, balms and candles (above, right, and below) made on neighbouring Pender Island.

Susan and her staff offer a number of classes where participants can make their own holiday wreath or centrepiece.  Workshops are held next to the shop and all supplies are provided.

Having no personal experience with this, a friend and I took the wreath-making workshop, and these are the wreaths I made in 2016 (left) and 2017.

      
I think I’m getting the hang of it!

Russell Nursery
1370 Wain Road, North Saanich     
250-656-0384
www.russellnursery.com
Closed Dec 23rd through Jan 31st