Victoria is a pretty city along the waterfront of Inner Harbour at the historic Fairmont Hotel and BC Legislature building and BC Royal Museum. I had been to Victoria twice before in the past 16 years, once in June and once in August to see the city in full bloom. A cool Pacific marine climate with 35 to 40 inches of rain per year is a great garden environment.
Victoria gives Amsterdam a run for the number of tulips seen in April.
My first task in Victoria was finding a market and that turned out to be about a 15 to 20 minute walk away, past Inner Harbour and down the road by the BC Legislature.
Victoria was lovely at dusk in late April.
Talking with Strangers
A woman from Victoria at the Tsawassen ferry terminal on the mainland looked at me standing outside with my camera watching the ferry come to the dock and asked, “Are you going to the island for birdwatching?”
“I might be birdwatching,” was my reply, but I really did not have much of a follow-up. Bird watching had not been on my mind.
Turned out birdwatching was something I spent hours doing on Vancouver Island. I observed more bald eagle behavior in several locations than I have ever experienced in my life where I simply stopped the car, looked around the trees and skies and spotted eagles. I saw an eagle before we arrived on Vancouver Island on the ferry.
“You should walk through Beacon Hill Park,” said the Victoria woman before we boarded the ferry and she went on to describe in detail several places where I could find bird nests of owls and other species. Since I had never heard of Beacon Hill Park and I was not writing any directions, her usable intelligence for me was limited to ‘visit Beacon Hill Park’ while in Victoria.
And I did. The location of the Quality Inn Downtown Inner Harbour Victoria was a five minute walk to Beacon Hill Park. That hotel has a very good location at a relatively low price for Victoria hotels.
The Pacific Northwest is the land of totem poles. The abundance of large trees allowed great wood carvings. On the east side of the Royal British Columbia Museum are several totem poles. Beacon Hill Park is one block from the Royal BC Museum.
I didn’t know what to expect and the initial trails I walked on provided no indication there was anything but hiking trails in the park.
Beacon Hill Park has an old history, but there are different versions to read. Victoria was established in 1843. Navigational beacons were placed on Beacon Hill in 1846 to mark the position of Brotchie Ledge, a submerged reef near the entrance of Victoria Harbour. The Beacon Hill Park website says the park history dates from 1858 when James Douglas, Governor of Vancouver Island set aside the land. In 1882 Beacon Hill Park was established from 200 acres of land. Beacon Hill Park was named after a pair of masts strategically placed on a hill to act as a beacon and navigational aid to mariners approaching Victoria’s inner harbour.
Beacon Hill is named for navigational signals on a high point of the park that looks over the Juan de Fuca Strait and to the Olympic Mountains of Washington State.
The loud sound of birds led me into the woods to find the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm.
Peacocks apparently wander around Beacon Hill Park during the day. All the ones I saw were in the farm area, but obviously peacocks on the roof of the farm building means they could fly over the fence.
There were several kinds of farm animals and cute goats and small horses, chickens and roosters. Many peacocks seemed content to hang about the other farm animals.
Pretty flowers are all fine and nice for city park life. I had an itching to get out of Victoria and see some big trees around Vancouver Island. Beacon Hall Park at 200 acres is about 25% of the size of Central Park.
Land of the Garry Oaks
I found myself in a place called Garry Oak Meadows. I’d never heard of a Garry Oak tree before. The park land was originally covered by Garry Oak trees.
The instant karma aspect of travel is the people you unexpectedly meet and the knowledge you gain by listening to people. Some stranger approached me at the ferry terminal and for no particular reason tells me I should go to Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.
That old adage for children, “Don’t talk to strangers” does not apply to travelers.