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! 


Maple Palace

“Thousands of red leaves bringing endless opportunities and prosperity.” — from a wall mural at the Maple Palace Restaurant

Having just returned from Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand, I was craving Asian food — especially after the in-flight fare! However, I was certainly not up to preparing it myself, and neither was my husband, so he suggested we pick up take-out from the Maple Palace.

Continue reading “Maple Palace”

Deep Cove Chalet Dining Room

All four elements were happening in equal measure — the cuisine, the wine, the service, and the overall ambience.  It taught me that dining could happen at a spiritual level.  — Charlie Trotter, in “Our Cuisine”


Living on the Saanich Peninsula, we are totally spoiled by breathtaking views every day, even in wintertime.

             This is in fact the view from the dining room, looking out onto Deep Cove (west of Sidney) on a foggy, wintry day.
Since this past winter has been so cold, it seems that every time we were at the Deep Cove Chalet we missed the sunshine.  Yet the West Coast’s wintry beauty comes through the world-class view.

The dining room has an abundance of fresh flowers on every table, arranged by Bev, who impeccably manages the dining room together with her husband and chef, Pierre.  Going out to the Deep Cove Chalet is always a treat because of, well, because of all factors:  great views, friendly and personal service, really good food that’s well presented and an extensive wine list.

Continue reading “Deep Cove Chalet Dining Room”

The Pier Bistro

“Sit in reverie and watch the changing colour of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind.”  — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

And what better place to do so than at The Pier Bistro!

Pier view

Located at the very end of Beacon Avenue, Sidney’s main street, right out on the end of the pier is where you’ll find the aptly named Pier Bistro.

Pier Bistro 5
There’s indoor seating for blustery days, but we were here on a gloriously sunny day and chose a waterside table.  We watched the waves lapping in the sun, boats out on the water, seagulls lazily soaring by and even a proud mother duck and her six ducklings paddling by just beyond our table.

The Pier’s crab cakes were made to just the right done-ness, with just a bit of a spicy bite to them, but not so much that you become suspicious of what’s being hidden.  Good flavor!

The Spicy Thai Salad was refreshing with interesting greens and lots of cashews.

The piece de resistance was The Pier Bistro’s eggs benny, which is a Crab Benny, served on a crab cake instead of a biscuit.  Unique and delicious!

Come here when your company arrives from landlocked locations – they’ll be impressed!

The Pier Bistro
2550 Beacon Ave W, Sidney, BC
(250) 655-4995
Tue – Sun  9 am – 9 pm
Mon  9 am – 4 pm

Surly Mermaid

“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”  —  Dorothy Day

Sharing food prepared by someone else (and someone else cleans up!) by a window with a lovely view is like a balm for one’s soul.  And we discovered such a spot at the Surly Mermaid restaurant next to the sea and the marina in Sidney.

Sultry Mermaid 4

Having worked through some start-up wrinkles, this seaside restaurant is a pleasure to experience.

Sultry Mermaid 3



There’s a patio area outside to enjoy the marina and seaside view, but on the day we were here, it was better to enjoy the food indoors.

And how much do you love a warm fireplace, looking out at the sea, when it’s a blustery day?


Sultry Mermaid 2






A hi-tech fish installation on the wall is a metaphor for the fusion of basic good ingredients made using modern cooking methods and knowledge.



Day's special, chicken burger with brie, pear mushrooms, tomato, spinach, pesto & salad & red pepper bisque

We shared the day’s special:  chicken burger with mushrooms, brie, pear, spinach and pesto, with a fresh side salad and the day’s soup:  a take-notice red pepper bisque which certainly warmed up our taste buds.

Raspberry sorbetThis house-made raspberry sorbet would be perfect all on its own, but following today’s full-flavoured meal, it was the perfect exclamation point.  Any mermaid, sultry or otherwise, would enjoy the meal, view and ambience we experienced!

Surly Mermaid
1A, 9851 Seaport Pl, Sidney
(778) 351-1544


Sun – Mon 11 am – 11 pm

Dakota Cafe

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots [routes] to come back and a reason to stay.”
Dalai Lama, posted on a chalkboard inside the Dakota Café at the Victoria Flying Club

Finding the Dakota Café was the challenge, but the food was well worth the search!Dakota 1b






Wor wonton soup is their specialty……people are in a lineup out the door some days just for this soup.
“Wor” means “everything”, which in their soup includes tasty pork wontons, chicken, prawns, scallops, imitation crab, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, red onions, bok choy and a tasty broth.  The soup bowl actually looks like a dishful of wontons, meat and vegetables surrounded by a bit of broth.  A medium bowl ($11)  is actually a full meal.
Very hearty!  Very tasty!

Dakota 2b







Linda and I split the wor wonton soup and then shared a “Cajun & More Wrap” ($11).  It was more, indeed!
Even half the wrap is a hefty portion, with a side of yummy fries – really GOOD  fries, actually.
The wrap had a bit of a bite to it, likely due to the banana peppers.
Another specialty is their Sesame Ginger Salad ($12), with mixed greens and soba noodles tossed in a sweet and spicy sesame dressing topped with grilled chicken and Japanese ginger.Dakota 31







Eggs Benny are served all day on weekends and until 11 am on weekdays.

The indoor café has a mercenary lunchroom look to it, with small lunchroom tables and chairs lined up in straight rows.
We were there on a gorgeous sunny day, so we ate on the patio, with the live action just beyond the patio.  We were sitting literally at the side of the tarmac!
As we ate, several small aircraft took off and landed, as did a couple of commercial jets and the large SeaKing helicopter.  Several small craft taxied in or out of their parked spot just a few metres beyond our table.  It was live entertainment!





Oh, and just so you have an easier time finding this gem secretly tucked among the various buildings near the airport, it’s on the way to the Victoria Flying Club, where Canora Road and Ocean Ave W meet…………go west of that intersection on Canso Road toward the airport control tower and look for the signs.
It’s worth it!


Dakota Café
#101, 1852 Canso Rd, Sidney, BC
Mon – Fri  8 am – 4 pm
Sat & Sun  8 am – 2:30 pm.