Wednesday 18 July 2012

Outdoor Adventures in British Columbia: Part 1

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Okay, I may have visited the west coast over a month ago now, but I'm only just getting the chance to sit down and sort through alllll the photos and gather my thoughts and stories.

My first visit to the west coast was only three summers ago, but I've been drawn there for as long as I can remember. In my mind, I already knew that the west coast was the best coast, just like I know chocolate chip cookies will cheer any emotional ailment.  Needless to say, going back is never an unwelcome journey. With Other Half's brother and sister-in-law living out in Victoria, we have had a great excuse for going, but with their imminent return this summer, my connection to the best coast is gone - it's a sad day in my world.

This trip out was one of outdoor indulgence and food.  Other Half had been more than hinting for awhile now that he'd like our next vacation to be one of nature, and less of culture. And since I go nowhere without researching the food scene, and I knew the west coast had a lot to offer, I was looking forward to a lot of goodies. Generally our days were laid out like this: hike, eat, bike, hike, eat, kayak, eat, eat, home - so I think we succeeded in both of our trip goals.

If you're not an outdoor enthusiast, and you want to consider becoming one, British Columbia should be your first stop. It has so much to offer for beginner to advanced enthusiasts alike that there is literally something for everyone (and if you just want to eat great food and see the mountains while you shop, then that's included too!).

For this trip, we flew in and out of Victoria so that we could maximize our time with family on the weekends and still make a lot of day trips, and a trip to Vancouver, during the week.

After a day of pirate ships and seal feeding in Victoria, we were guided by the family over to East Sooke Park.  The hiking here follows the coast for about 10 kilometers and after the tasting we got of it this time around, I would love to be able to hike it from one end to the other.  Which is supposed to take about 6 hours on moderate to challenging trail ... something I would need to work up to I think!  We stuck to the west end of the park, and thoroughly enjoyed our few hours on the trail.  We were able to take in the biggest slugs I've ever seen, some awesome scenery of the forest and ocean variety, and watch from afar as some seals frolicked on the coast. A blissful beginning.

A look back while hiking the East Sooke Coastal Trail
Naturally after a day of hiking, it was time for some food and so off we went to Blue Fox Cafe.  This is the sister-in-laws favourite brunch in town and with great reason.  This is one of those places where you feel right at home.  It's not huge, it looks cozy, hip and relaxed all at the same time, it's always busy, the service is friendly and cheerful, and the food is A+. Obviously a winning combination because we rolled out of here with full bellies, big smiles, and a desire to return every single day.  Sadly, I didn't capture any photos of this local legend, but picture images of heaping portions, runny eggs, pulled pork, avocados, and specialty coffees and you're pretty much there.

Other Half checks the view as we set out for the day!

With one hike and one feast finished, it's time for a bike trip, no? yes! Before I begin I'll let you know that biking and I have a very one-sided relationship. I love it, it does not love me.  Hauling my butt up a hill on a bike is more likely to end in cursing than anything else. So when we decided to bike the perimeter of Victoria, and it was hillier than I could have expected, well ... let's just say I probably made Other Half blush with my language. And the neurotic side of me still had a great time. Don't judge.

We were able to rent bikes for the day from Cycle BC and took them on a trip around the perimeter of Victoria.  We followed the coast from Beacon Hill Park, up to Mount Douglas and then cut across the city to get back again.  We took our time, stopped a lot for photos and snacks and all in all it was probably about 4 hours.  This was definitely a recommended ride (even with the cursing).

Have I ever mentioned my love for ports and marinas? It borders on obsession.
Apparently, there is no rest for the wicked, because the very next day we got up and hiked Mount Finlayson, located inside Goldstream Provincial Park. We attempted this hike the first time we were in Victoria, 3 summers ago, and about 50 meters after we reached the tree line, Other Half and I both experienced vertigo and had to head back. That was a brand new experience for me, generally i'm the one that goes a little too closely to edge, making everyone nervous, except myself. Never the less it was still one of the highlight of that trip and knew we wanted to attempt it again at some point.  Happily, this time, we made it!

Don't know if you can tell, but this is STEEP!

An idea of the terrain ...  

worth it!

The "mount" part of Mount Finlayson is a fairly loose term here. At just 419 meters high, it's a mole hill compared to other formations in the area. But the 1 - 1.5 hour hike is a steep challenging climb, and when you get above the tree line, the nicely marked trail vanishes and you have to scale a few rocks, which is not necessarily for the faint of heart. That's not meant to scare you off, it's meant to be real. And if you think you can't do it, know this: there were people jogging the trail. That continuously shocks me any time I think about it, but each to their own.  I love this hike and I'll hopefully do it again the next time I'm in town!

waiting for us at the base of the hike!
This was the first half of the trip, in the next post I'll discuss our trip over the mainland for a stay in Vancouver, how much food we indulged in (including a return trip to the Blue Fox), and just how much I love the west coast.

Until then, stay happy, have adventures!


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