Every October to December you can see thousands of salmon in Goldstream Park battling their way up the river.  Seriously it looks like a lot of hard work - most of the time the fish aren't moving up river, and then with a sudden burst of energy, they make a mad dash up river maybe a foot or so, and then they go back to just trying to maintain their position.  

Apparently not all of them are trying to make it farther up river, some are already spawning - the female digs a trench (a "redd") and the male defends it.  Once the trench is dug, the female deposits the eggs and the male fertilizes them.  The most common type of salmon in the river is Chum - and this species does not particularly "pair up."  One female's eggs can be fertilized by more than one male.  (There are also Chinook and Coho salmon in the river and these do tend to pair).  Once the eggs are fertilized the trench is covered over and the adults, well there is no sugarcoating here, they die.  But don't be sad!  There is a whole new generation of salmon growing beneath the gravel...

However there are birds - mostly sea gulls in my experience - hanging around the river trying to feast off the roe.  They also will eat the dead salmon as well, but I did not see this happening.   The up and coming generation of salmon is also threatened by trout in the river who have come to feed on the roe as well.  

At night the bigger mammals come out - when the humans have stopped pacing the river banks taking copious amounts of photographs.  The process of the salmon spawning is not just about the salmon themselves  but the whole ecosystem that operates around it - fascinating stuff :)  

The eggs hatch in march when the weather starts to warm.  After they hatch (at this point they are "aelvins"), they stay beneath the gravel and feed off a yolk sac.  Soon the Chum kiddies leave the gravel and head back to sea, but the Coho young stay in the stream for two more years.  

If you have never seen salmon spawning and have the chance to - you must check it out!! You can hear about it and see pictures, but actually being there with all these fish that you never get to see normally is pretty unreal!  

Thanks to the Goldstream Park website for the info. 

Something you should know about me before I start talking about the Butchart Gardens, is that although I love nature, I am not really a fan of gardens.  Perhaps if they were growing carrots I would be... there is nothing tastier than a carrot fresh pulled from the ground.  But... walking through rows and rows of roses and tulips, and whatever other flowers exist, oohing and aahing over their beauty... is not my cup of tea.  So when my sister-in-law suggested a trip to the Butchart Gardens and proceeded to get to the level of excitement normally only reserved for Christmas morning, I was hesitant at best.  

But everything is what you make of it right?  It was a beautiful day, and I was with a group of amazing... and rather silly... women.  We took pictures among the roses, in the Japanese gardens with cool trees, on the rocks through a pond as frogs, in the majestic lawns pretending to be fancy statues.... I was surprised when I realized I was having fun.  

What is really cool about the Butchart Gardens is the fact that the whole area used to be a limestone quarry.  Robert Pim Butchart and his wife Jennie moved to the Victoria area in the early 1900s specifically for the limestone deposits - limestone was (or is? I don't know much about this) used to make cement.  When all the limestone had been removed, Jennie had the idea of making the ugly pit into a "Sunken Garden."  The rest of the gardens came later reflecting the couple's world travels - A Japenese garden, an Italian garden and a rose garden.  Now the question is, what country is the Rose garden reflecting?  England?  My knowledge of flowers and the like is startlingly low.  Anyways, Mr. Butchart also had an interest in collecting birds and had an interesting array of ducks, peacocks, pigeons and parrots.    People started hearing about these gardens and by the 1920s over 50,000 people would come visit each year.  This number today approaches 1 million.

And now I feel complete, I am one of those million for the year.  Living in Victoria and not having been to the Butchart Gardens is like living in Vancouver and not having been to Stanley Park - just not acceptable.   

History thanks to the Butchart Gardens website

Leaving Victoria Harbour
Have I mentioned lately how much I love living in this beautiful city?  One really cool thing about it, is you can ride from my house, onto a ferry bound for the states, all within half an hour!  My mom and I took our bikes to Port Angeles, a mere 90 minute ferry-ride away - in fact from Port Angeles, you can still see Victoria in the distance!

The first night, we rode our bikes out onto the spit to watch the sunset.  It was beautiful!!  But the coolest part was the seal colony that was living in the harbor on the logs - it reminded us both of Pier 39 in San Francisco and their resident sea lions.  The moon that night was also the largest I have ever seen!  Perhaps a warning of something?  Anyone know?

We finished off the night with copious amounts of Mexican food and fell into deep, food-assisted coma.

In the morning we cycled out to Sequim (no it doesn't rhyme with sequin, think more like "squid").  We took ourselves on a bit of a detour through the farms up Kitchen-Dick rd (yes that was the real name) to see the Dungeness spit - which was a really beautiful out-spurse of land - you could look over the edge at the beach below and cliffs lining the shore far into the distance.  Not only was this the most awe-inspiring natural beauty, it was also the place we stopped to eat a very, very delicious blueberry scone.  Mmmmm.  Fond memories indeed :)

The town of Sequim was a little odd - very spread out, but had a cute little old town with a couple of interesting gift shops.  But before we could browse, we had to head to the bike shop.  I had discovered my helmet was cracked and close to splitting, so I wanted to replace it before I did much more riding (I also couldn't change to any low gears, but that was a less life-threatening problem).  Anyways the bike shop was awesome!! Great selection of stuff, and the guys were super helpful.  I, for the first time in my life, was able to find a helmet that fit my small head without hours of adjusting.  Fantastic!  The guys also took a look at my derailer issues and determined it was completely shot and needed to be replaced - so mom and I went for a coffee and a bite while they fixed it. 

The coffee shop was really cute, and I made a mental note to remember some of their cool details (you know, in case one day I ever open one).  The best part was the scrabble boards at the tables - how cool would it be to go play a game of scrabble while drinking a delicious cappiccino??  Ok maybe not "cool" per say, but I think it sounds like a great idea.   


The ride home was fantastic!  It is so nice to have all my gears back :)  I hadn't realized how much I had been missing them.  We were going into a strong headwind most of the way, so gearing down was pretty essential to my enjoyment.   

We were both really tired when we got back to the motel, so we decided just to order a pizza for dinner and watch tv.  I wanted to go to bed at 7pm, but mom told me I was ridiculous and verbally prodded me until I agreed to go for a walk with her around town in search of dessert.  After finding out the yogurt shop had gone out of business, we ended up in the 24hr Safeway and bought a mini-tub of Skinny Cow ice cream.  I should remember that "skinny" stuff is never satisfying.  I wish we had gotten something really delectable like Ben & Jerry's Quadruple chocolate fudge brownie and cookie dough combo....mmmmmm drooool.... 

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.  

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.  

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.  

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!!

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. :)  

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.   

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

Not even 20 minutes from Squamish is the trailhead to Elfin Lakes.  This 11km trail gains 2,000 feet of elevation through Garibaldi Provincial Park - half of it through the forest and half through Alpine meadows... think Heidi and the Sound of Music.  I swear I could have been in the Alps.  

The trail is an old road created to access Diamond Head Chalet which was built by two young Norwegian men (Ottar and Emil Brandvold) and a Canadian woman (Joan Matthews) in the 1940s.  Diamond Head chalet was the first high-altitude ski lodge in BC north of Vancouver - at this time people had to take a 4-hour ferry ride just to get to Squamish - this was followed by a train to Garibaldi station, and an overnight there before even beginning the hike in!!   Pretty cool.  I just started reading about these 3 people and find them fascinating - they were all competitive skiiers who met in a tournament in Banff... the three of them dreamed of creating a hut to hut system for hikers and skiiers throughout Garibaldi park... and went on to do so.  

Now if these people weren't cool enough already - Joan was also the first graduate in sculpture from the Vancouver School of Art.  They developed a rehabilitation program to have war veterans come up into the mountains to help build cabins with the main focus being on the men's mental and physical health.  They also adopted a local deer as their pet - "The only thing about that deer," laughs Ottar, "was that we could never train him not to get into our bed." After Joan and Ottar had two kids, Joan stayed down in Squamish more... but wasn't just a housewife - she became the chief ambulance driver for the area.... wow this woman is my hero.  To read the whole history of this area - check out this article

Lava rock!
So back to the present.... Sonia and I hiked in early saturday - carrying all our gear for camping as we had heard this place was seriously popular and we expected the hut to be full up from people who hiked in on friday.  Not the case at all.  There were maybe 6 people staying there, but the campground was almost full.  After the hike in, we dropped off our stuff, and carried on for another 10km hike or so.  We wanted to go check out Opal Cone - which is some sort... of cone?  But we had to turn around after we hit a large, roaring creek with no easy way of crossing, and we couldn't see the trail on the other side.  I am still unsure if we actually saw Opal Cone or not... it is a Cascade Volcano responsible for 15km of dacite lava flow (sounds like this is a wrinkly rock ridge).  I think we must have seen this... oh well.   

We hiked back to the hut - jumped into the glacier cold lake, and cooked ourselves the most delicious steak and potato dinner.  Sonia even had a glass of red wine.  We sat on the porch and played crib watching the sun go down.... 

I'm in white :D
So you know how I said I tried mountain biking before... well I don't think that was quite true... that was perhaps cross-country.  Yesterday I really did try mountain biking... and I have never done anything so seemingly stupid, but incredibly fun in all my life. 

Who with any sense of logic would stick themselves on a bike and hurl themselves down steep (STEEP!) descents, around sharply bermed corners (I just learnt this term - like banked), along wooden bridges, and off jumps (ok, I havent got more than a second of air yet).... but apparently I am this crazy person.  And I loved every minute of it.   Except perhaps that minute where my bike skid out from under me and I found myself pounded into the dirt.  I have never loved a helmet and padding more as my whole head shook within its protection.... I probably would have scraped away part of my cheek without the helmet - so ... lesson here, always wear the protective gear!!  Anyway as it was I only ended up with two grapefruit sized bruises on my thigh, and I feel like they are a mark of my accomplishment.  Now I know I don't work for lululemon anymore, but I feel the need to say that despite grinding my leg into the dirt and scratching the skin underneath, those pants still look brand new!! 

I learnt that you just need to keep looking ahead and trust that no matter what you are going through, you have the tools to handle it, as long as you do not freak out..... kinda sounds like real life?

Spent the most incredible 3 days at Diana's cabin. Absolute heaven on earth.  

Our first day was pretty lazy - we swam and lounged around in the sun reading.  We got to go for  an extra boat ride across the lake (one of my favorite things about going to the cabin is sitting on the bow as we speed through the water - this time in the dark!!) to pick up David and Mike who headed up to the cabin later than night.  We spent the evening playing catchphrase (best game in the world, by the way), then jumped into the lake one last time.... tradition says the absolute last thing you have to do before you go to bed is leap into the lake :D  We slept on the deck out under a sky full of stars.

One of my many very spectacular falls
Our second day was much like the first... we broke out the boggle around midday... I am the undefeated champion, but Diana gets closer and closer every time.... later got into the Rummoli and the beer... ok I don't really drink, so I slowly sipped away and managed to finish half of one.  Somewhere in there - probably before the beer - Diana and I headed out for some water-skiing.  I have tried water skiing twice before.  The first time was in my chubby days when I hated all physical activity, so that didn't go well.   The second time, I was terrified... I went absolutely pale (with fear), and failed to get even partially up and gave up without a fight.  So I am proud to say that this time there was no fear at all, no anger - only minor frustration and joy that I had made some progress (Diana says I got a "partially up")! Next time...   

That night we roasted marshmallows and played some more catchphrase... slept on the deck... rudely awoken by rain... 

The third day got off to a rough start as the book I was reading took a turn from mildly annoying to unbearable... but then we got the windsurfer out and my world changed. Ok maybe that a bit of an exaggeration - but it was pretty awesome.  I have never tried windsurfer before - but after Diana somewhat awkwardly cruise across the lake and not end up in a pile of rocks, or worse up a tree - I was quite excited about it.  And what fun it was!  I felt like by the end of it I had some semblance of control over the thing, and even managed to sail myself back to the dock.... ok after all this graceful, controlled maneuvering, I then fell off at the last minute and cut my ankle on the rutter thingy-majingy.   But not much blood... enough to make me fear sharks were going to come eat me... but since that is highly unlikely in a freshwater lake, I was fine... 

One final accomplishment of this weekend, which probably doesn't seem like a big deal - but it was!! I dove off the dock.  Head first.  After smacking my face (and my eyes, ow!) once, I looked like a graceful swan ("just after it has been shot" - thanks Mike).  No really, all I did was dive from practically no height... but this was something I had been afraid of for years and never, ever did.  I quit swimming lessons as a kid when they started making us dive... so yes... big day :D  

On a bit of a spur of the moment, my mom and I decided we should take a trip to Whistler, so we did.  In a nutshell we rode the Peak 2 Peak, hiked the Alpine trails at the top of Blackcomb for a couple of hours, watched a terrible movie on tv (Just Friends, just terrible), went for a late night leap into the lake, cycled around the Valley trail... that's about it.  

The Peak 2 Peak is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Whistler (apart from the mountain biking and skiing).  It was built in 2008 to link Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain (hence Peak 2 Peak).  It holds the world records for the longest free span between ropeway towers (3.03km) and the highest point above ground (436m...1,430 feet). It cost $51 million to build... ah so that's why it is a steep $50 to go on the thing... 

Peak 2 Peak
Reading about the construction of this thing is pretty incredible!  The concrete for the foundations had to be transported up the mountain by helicopter, the cables had to be shipped from Europe - and because they were so heavy had to go to Washington where the largest crane is - where they had to be picked up by a special heavy load tractor and trailer from Quebec, they had to bring one of the few haul-rope splicers in North America in from Wyoming.... suppose this isn't so interesting to people who know what kind of work goes into making these things, but I had no idea!! Cool.  

Construction only took one year longer than it was supposed to (which seems pretty good?) and the opening ceremonies featured someone base-jumping from the middle of the gondola!!!  

So everyone in Whistler really is from Australia - everyone!  Click here....  

Whistler was originally named London mountain (due to all the fog), but acquired the name Whistler from the call of the Hoary Marmot.... despite the large population in the area,  we didn't see any.  We did however hear many...