Spring has been well under way in Victoria for a while now, even though we did have THREE WHOLE DAYS of winter this year… BRRR… Victoria is often described as having a ‘Mediterranean climate’, but Marcia and I prefer to simply tell people that we live on an island in the Pacific. Victoria is in somewhat of a rain shadow so we don’t get as much rain as those areas north or west of us, and with the ocean all around us our climate is wonderful pretty much every time of the year. Okay, okay, I will admit that my first purchase when I moved to Victoria (in a late October) was an umbrella, but I was able to leave the snowblower behind. It’s a worthwhile trade as far as I’m concerned!
Victoria is a beautiful city all year round, and since Marcia and I are living (mostly) car-free at the moment, we like to walk where and when we can. We’ve walked the southern/eastern shore from the west end of Esquimalt, over the Blue Bridge, down past the Inner Harbour, Laurel Point, Ogden Point and along the Dallas Road walkway, and from Clover Point past Ross Bay, Gonzales Bay, McNeil Bay, and up Beach Drive past Cadboro Bay, Gordon Head and Cordova Bay (admittedly, not all at once). We’ve walked downtown from our home in the Royal Oak neighbourhood, from the Tilicum Mall back home, and one particularly adventurous day I walked from our place to View Royal and back. We’ve walked in Colwood, in Langford, in Oak Bay, and in Saanich. If one was feeling up for it it’s possible to walk the Galloping Goose trail from the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay all the way out to Sooke – but we haven’t managed that quite yet.
Each of the ‘cities’ that make up Greater Victoria and the Saanich peninsula have their own trail networks, and pretty much all of them have maps online showing the trails. Check out each of their websites, usually under ‘recreation’, or simply search their sites for ‘parks and trails’ or ‘trail map’. We live in Saanich, so for example one can see a .pdf file of the Saanich trail network here. Some cities have paper brochures as well and many of the trails also connect with various regional parks.
One word of warning is that some of the trails are marked better than others, and in some areas the ‘trails’ incorporate city sidewalks as part of the trail network. It’s best to carry a GPS (our Android phones have both GPS and My Tracks software from Google) or a map with you if you’re traveling in unfamiliar areas. It’s not possible to get truly ‘lost’ (one is still in a city, after all), but it is possible to make a wrong turn and end up making a very large loop without realizing it (voice of experience here). Washrooms can also be infrequent on some trails but Victoria does have an amazing collection of coffee shops and cafés.
Some of the trails are definitely more ‘urban’, but the Lochside Trail for example goes past both Swan Lake and Blenkinsop Lake. From Mill Hill Regional Park in Langford there’s a trail that leads north to Thetis Lake. Along the way one can meet up with other walkers (with and without power poles), joggers and families with strollers. Some areas allow dogs on leash, some off-leash, and some not at all. Some trails allow cyclists and some don’t – be kind and share the trail with others. There are wonderful views and in some areas a lovely sense of peace. We’ve seen everything from cottontail rabbits and diverse numbers of songbirds to dragonflies, river otters and Barred Owls. In season there are berries to sample (Himalayan blackberries are highly invasive so we always do our best to reduce seed distribution by eating as many berries as we can), and flowers to smell. There’s the sound of the wind in the trees and the sound of ducks/geese on the ponds. Biologist Edward O. Wilson coined the term ‘biophilia’ to describe the instinctive bond between humans and other living beings, but it’s not necessary to get so technical. Go outside, simply because it feels good.
P.S. Remember when you go out to bring some bottles of water with you, no matter what time of year. Walking is great exercise, but your body uses water to metabolize fat, and by the time you’re feeling thirsty you’ve already lost too much water. You’re more likely to notice perspiration in warm weather, but when it’s cold outside your body is using energy to keep warm. Stay hydrated!
P.S. II, the sequel. These might also be of interest:
Capital Bike and Walk Society
Bike/Walk Victoria – John Crouch has a series of three guidebooks called ‘Walk Victoria’, ‘Hike Victoria’ and ‘Bike Victoria’ that might be of interest to some.