Hike Your Heart Out - Goldstream Provincial Park
As many of you know, I moved to Victoria BC about seven months ago. Between school, a research project that is not even yet midway, to a graveyard shift job which kept me awake from midnight to 8 a.m., I hardly had any time, energy or sanity left to appreciate the beauty that is Vancouver Island. Amidst much self reflection and goal setting in the month of May, I decided to leave my job which has opened up a slew of possibilities to explore. My bank account has taken a big hit, but yes I nevertheless continue to pour over travel guides, and yes my next vacation is most definitely going to be in Peru, or Ecuador, or Hong Kong, or Big Sur, or Tanzania, wait what about Fiji? At the end of the day though, burning myself out wasn't the way to go. And while I'm lamenting the funeral of my finances, and how I can no longer sustain the various trips I'm continuously planning in the back of my head, I couldn't have found a better city to find myself broke in!
Now that I've finally cleared out some of my schedule, I'm finally starting to discover Victoria. Vancouver Island is nature abound, and it's almost a shame that it's taken me seven months to figure out, a hiker's paradise. There are dozens of beautiful parks just outside the city, waiting to be prowled.
While I'm planning to slowly hike my way across the island, I decided to start off with Goldstream Nature Park which is about a half hour's drive from downtown Victoria. Upon leaving your car near the visitor centre parking, you are immediately immersed in the sights and sounds of this forest, with trees tall enough to block out the sun and shrubs sprawling over every inch of the forest floor.
What I love about Goldstream is the variety of trails it offers: You have the well-worn easy ones as the Niagara Falls trail which leads through the prehistoric forest, an actual moss-covered tunnel (intended to let the river pass underneath the highway) to the 47m high, BC's very own, and very enchanting, Niagara Falls.
Be sure to drop by the visitor centre prior to your hiking adventures and pick out a trail map, because the same trail which reaches Niagara Falls extrapolates onto the Railway Trestle which is. Literally. A railway track bridge extending across a valley. That you can totally walk across.
On the other end of the difficulty spectrum - way over at the end of it - is the Mt. Finlayson Trail. Don't be fooled by the short length of the trail! If you're expecting a challenging but rewarding experience, it is most definitely true, Mt. Finlayson is both. But it's definitely not for the tourist who wants to take pretty pictures in the Canadian forest.
Actually that's not true, bring your camera for sure. The point I'm trying to make is your camera will be forgotten by the time you reach the top. Your camera will be the last thing on your mind as you're climbing the stairs, the steep rocky trail, and the side of a cliff. But everything becomes worth it when you reach the top, because the climb to an elevation above the forest gives you spectacular views of Goldstream Park and Victoria BC. You may want to pull out your camera at that point, but you'll do it with the realization that taking a picture was never the point of this trail. Because this trail is not just another forest hike. It's in fact an open air gym.