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Listed #12 on the Top Things to do in Victoria, right after Shop til you Drop (priorities people), is Goldstream Park, and Mt. Finlayson.  From what I have been hearing from people Mt. Finlayson is an extremely popular hike in this area - similar to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, or the Chief in Squamish.  I find it some blend of the two, but also very different.  If is steep, like seriously steep.  If you aren't short of breath by the top, you are... superman?  It has a lot more scrambling over rock and between crevasses than the Grind, but no chains and ladders like the Chief.  The biggest difference for me, was that when I got to the top, I was ready for more.  

At 419m the hike probably takes about half an hour - I didn't time it, just guessing.  And although I was a sweaty mess - I wanted to be higher, go farther - my legs were itching.  And although the views were spectacular, I am spoilt by the views at home, and kept on trying to figure out where the water was?  I mean there was the ocean in the distance, but .... I guess I am just going to have to accept this type of beauty for what it is, and not compare it to Squamish... 

It really was a great hike, and another difference I felt was the friendliness of the hikers.  Although I always hike in my Vibrams, and occasionally I will get the odd comment about them - here everyone seemed to want to talk to me - I had at least 10 people ask me about them - and those I passed who didn't, still said hello and occasionally some other quip.  

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Can you spot the trail in front of me?
Now for my history component... :)   Mt. Finlayson was named after Roderick Finlayson (originally Scottish) who lived between 1818 and 1892.  He was a fur trader turned politician as he joined the legislative council in 1851 (he was also Chief Accountant of Fort Victoria!).  When he retired from politics in 1872, he became quite the business man managing his farm and estates.  In 1878, he was elected Mayor and held that post for a year - during that year the City Hall was constructed.  Despite all this I am not quite sure what this man did that was so great a mountain got named after him - maybe it was City Hall? But I am not enitrely sure City Hall was his idea, it was just built during his term in office... hmmmm... will need more info on this guy.  

The trial (The Prospector's Trail) was built in 1971 by the Outdoor Club of Victoria using old prospector's routes and passing two old mineral claims - I either walked right by these without noticing, or they were not on this part of the trail.   Hiking down the mountain, I somehow got myself off the main trail, and started freaking myself out about bears and cougars - so I made up a lovely song to sing..... it was something like "Oh trail, where are you?" repeated a million times.....  but it was a success, no creatures trying to eat me.  

After the hike, I still had a lot of energy so I ran around the park at the bottom a bit - followed trails along the stream - the salmon spawning yet - is it October?  Supposed to be pretty cool, I'll be back.  There is also a cool Nature Center with stuffed animals of all sorts (I like the beaver) - and I saw some kids wearing Jerry the Moose Antlers - these threw me back to my childhood where the Park Rangers across the road used to give Geordie and I these hats if we went to a nautre talk or something like that.  I found it crazy that after all this time Jerry the Moose is still the exact same.  

 
 
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My mom was over to visit me about a week ago, and she gave me a book called Secret Beaches of Greater Victoria (by Theo Dombrowski), and I have decided to start exploring my way through the book.  I live practically surrounded by water, so why not really get to know my area, know the beaches that are good for dogs, for BBQs, for frisbee, for beachcombing, etc.  

Stop number one was D'arcy Lane (Beach #46 of 92) which caught my attention with the headline "A huge flight of stairs down a cliff face to the quiet of Cordova Bay and its mixed shore of rock and sand."  Sounded lovely.  

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Well I was a little surprised by what I found.  In fact, I had to laugh as my first attempt to seek out a secret beach led me to.... the water.  At the end of this magnificent set of stairs, there was nothing but ocean.  No beach to speak of.  Perhaps the book should have mentioned how important tides were?
 
But the views were lovely - looking out at islands - D'arcy Island, the namesake of both the beach and lane being one of them.  The coolest thing for me was this one small rock - the lone area on the horizon where the sun was shining - just covered in white birds.  Probably sea gulls, but it was too far away to be certain.  

Back at lane, there was a plot of undeveloped land - and I went to explore, hoping to find another set of stairs down to a perhaps existent beach.  Instead, I found a blackberry bush - completely untouched.  Some berries were so ripe and ready that they fell off at the touch.  I wish I had brought a bucket with me, these berries were so delicious!!  I ate to the point I thought I might make myself ill, and then tore myself away.  What a treat!!

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Disappointed by my lack of beach finding, on the drive home, I followed the signs to Arbutus Cove (which actually turned out to be beach #50 in the book).  And this stop delivered!  At the end of another set of long stairs through the woods, I was awarded with a lovely long pebbly beach - with excellent climbing rocks on one end. I would have loved to have spent more time here, climbing on the rocks and seeing how far I could walk the shoreline.  It is an area I will be going back to.  

Although the beach was lovely, my favorite thing about Arbutus Cove were the trees - and the namesake of the beach.  The Arbutus trees are phenomenal!!! So huge and majestic... such a beautiful tree. :)  

 
 
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Victoria Harbour
So I have disappeared for a couple of weeks as life became very hectic.  I have moved across the water - a very small section of water though - to Victoria on Vancouver Island.

I have finally got myself set up - my house is the most beautiful thing in the world.   Well, to me it is.  Every time I walk in my front door, I am overwhelmed with the feeling that this is where I belong, and this is my home.  And I have only been here a week and a half!!  I am in the top floor of a character house - Victoria has many (!!) - and have peaked ceilings, wonderful sky lights and lots of charm.   I look out my door and see the most delicious looking apple tree, and I can watch the sunset from my back porch, and through the window over the kitchen sink.  My street is lined with Elm trees, the street over is lined with birch trees.... everyday those trees make me smile.  I think part of my soul is a tree... a birch, or maybe a trembling aspen.   

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My new coffee shop on campus
I have also started school in this time - Camosun College, Environmental technology.   Things haven't gotten terribly interesting there yet, but the school experience for me this  time round feels entirely different.  I have no fear of anything anymore - and I make it a mission to talk to at least one person every class, which is a big deal for me, but it leaves me feel energized and alive.  And it means when I go home I can spend my time alone without ever feeling lonely.  

Because I already have a science degree, I do not have to take any first year biology or chemistry, which leaves me with a very light schedule - I have a fascinating geography course, which I think will be another topic I write about sometimes, a computer course which is a walk in the park (we learnt how to make a new folder last class!!)... but we get to learn java towards the end, which I find totally exciting!  I also have an English course - my first one since high school, so it will be interesting to learn to write again (like properly).  I love that course too because we are reading some really cool stuff (I have Fight Club and the screenplay for The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to look forward to), and the teacher and other students are awesome.  And finally an environmental tech seminar where we talk about current BC environmental issues... :D  

I haven't had a chance to explore much of Victoria yet - just one walk downtown and one bike ride - so will need to start getting out there :D