Ibike USA/Canada Program
Rolling the Islands of the Salish Sea

   
 

 

Photo essay: Rolling the Islands of the Salish Sea: Victoria, Butchart Garden, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

   

Chemainus to VICTORIA (80km, 50mi).  Explore historic settlements of southern Vancouver Is.
Points of interest: Chemainus (town of murals), Duncan (City of Totems), Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Lockside Trail, Ross Bay Cemetery, Chinese Cemetery

  Endangered Gerry Oak ecosystem
Endangered Gerry Oak
Endangered Gerry Oak ecosystemThe endangered Gerry Oak ecosystem is valued for its biodiversity.  Habitat destructions (clearing for agriculture and residential) has reduced it coverage by 90-95% since 1850.  It is becoming rare.  Over 100 species of native plants, birds, butterflies and mammals that depend on Garry oak habitat also are now under threat, some with global extinction. The 12 hectare Cowichan Gerry Oak Reserve, between Duncan and Oak Bay, that we visited, is one of the largest remaining stands. Endangered Gerry Oak ecosystem

The Salish people would burn the grass lands which inhibited the expansion of the conifer forests and encouraged the Garry Oak.  They would collect the acorns and then boil, steam or bake them to leach out the tannins, before eating them.  The bark was used by the Saanich people to treat tuberculosis.

  Longhouse, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, DuncanLonghouse, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan Duncan, British Columbia, is the home of the Cowichan people and calls itself the "City of Totem Poles."  A lot of the poles are around town but there is also a collection at the Quw’utsun Cultural Center, owned by the Cowichan and located on the banks of the Cowichan River.

Cowichan RiverThe Cowichan believe that the first people of the Cowichan came to earth from the sky.  They found a rich land, warmed by the sun and nourished with a river teeming with salmon, which they called Quw'utsun Sta'lo'.  For thousands of years the river has provided their descendants with abundant food, transportation and water.  The Cowichan River is now designated as a Canadian Heritage River and is part of an active local conservation program -- the water is crystal clear..

  totem pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan Story tell / guide, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, DuncanQuw’utsun Cultural Center has an admission fee and information / displays on ethno-botany (how the Salish used plants in their culture for building, tools, food and medicine), a number of story poles with signage to explain their context, meaning and purpose, a collection of canoes, theatre, exhibits, cafe and gift shop.

The most informative and engaging of the offering is the half-hour guided tour lead by a Cowichan elder and story teller.

  Left to right:
1. Welcoming pole
2. Longhouse entry door pole.
3, Marriage pole.
4. Chief Tzouhalem pole
5. Guardian pole
6. Raven, Sun & Medicine Woman
7.Tzonokwa (Wild Woman)
8. Thunderbird Returning the Salmon
9. Thunderbird and Child
totem pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan Longhouse entrance pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan marriage pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan Chief Tzouhalem pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan tGuardian  pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan Raven, Sun & Medicine Woman pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan Tzonokwa (Wild Woman) pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan Thunderbird Returning the Salmon pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan totem pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan totem pole, Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center, Duncan
  Cowichan sweater display Spinning wool for Cowichan sweaterOne exhibit is on Cowichan sweaters, a traditional craft of the Cowichan people, which are hand-knitted in one piece.  The fleeces come in natural colors and shades of brown, black and white. Genuine Cowichan sweaters are still highly prized and continue to be produced in the Cowichan Valley.  No two sweaters are exact;y alike.

Procuring and processing raw wool for knitting originally involved up to five steps: shearing, washing and drying, hand teasing, hand carding, loosely twisting and spinning with a spindle and whorl.  Today, many knitters purchase spin-ready commercially carded wool and spin it on motorized spinning wheels.

  Bicycle art, Chimacum Bay
Bicycle art, Cowichan Bay, BC
Unfortunately, quaint Cowichan Bay casts a bit of the message that, "We are hear to separate the tourist from their money" -- it is a line of boutiques which largely turn their backs on the bay.  One of the stand-out shops was a combination bakery and cheese shop.  The bakery has a selection of hearty bread and one would need advance degrees to understand every thing available in the cheese shop.  But what really stood out was the bicycle art on the front steps (left)!

Away from the tourist village, the roadside views alternate between farmland and forest.  The farmland offers bigger vistas, but the forest seem more comforting and calm.  They are also cooler and pleasant places to stop, relax and regroup.

  The "backroad" into Victoria requires a ferry boat ride from the "mainland" of Vancouver Island, across Mill Bay to Brentwood on the Saanich Peninsula. Much of the Saanich Peninsula is still rural enough to have active agriculture and horse farms.  As residential communities like Brentwood expand farms are being absorbed, roads are being widened to accommodate the increased traffic, and shopping centers are being splayed out into forests and over top soil.
 
Butchart Gardens
Butchart Gardens
The shore of Mill Bay is also the location of Butchart Gardens.  It is 55 acres of carefully landscaped, meticulously weeded and prunes, and generally over indulged gardens of a half dozen styles  (Bagonia, sucken, rose, Japanese, Italian, and wooded).  It is easy to get absorbed and spend several hours wander through the fields and forests of foliage

In its former life, until 1904, what is now the sunken garden was a limestone quarry for a cement plant on part of the estate of the business' owners, Robert P and Jennie Butchart.

 
Sunken rock garden
The sunken rock garden is the original bleak limestone pit.  To refurbish it Mrs. Butchart had tons of top soil hauled in from local farms by horse cart and line the floor of the pit.  From there she started designing and planting her garden.

The other gardens were added over the century, after the initial development of the sunken garden.

  multicolored hydrangea Purple tulips, Butchart GardensFlowering cherry tree in bloom, Butchart GardensSpring colors include; heavily manipulated hydrangea (far left) and not your so ordinary purple tulips (right), and ever showy flowering cherry trees (left).
  Japanese Garden, Butchart Gardens Italian Garden, Butchart GardensThe ethnic theme gardens include a Japanese Garden (left) and formal Italian Garden.  There is also the Star Pond (right), which was originally designed for Mr. Butchart's collection of ornamental ducks.
  Lockside Trail, Victoria to Sydney
Lockside Trail
Spectators on the Lockside Trail, Victoria to SydneyLockside Trail, Victoria to SydneyWe approached Victoria on the Lockside Trail, which links Sydney and Victoria. In Victoria the Lockside Trail connections with the Galloping Goose.  The Lockside Trail trail snake you into and through Victoria by such a beautiful and serene route that you hardly know that are piercing through residential sprawl and urbanization.
  Victoria's Inner Harbor
Inner Harbor
The trails lead you to Victoria's Inner Harbor on old Selkirk Trestles built for railroads.  In 1842, James Douglas selected Camosack, as it was then known, as the site for the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) trading post, Fort Victoria.  In 1858, gold was discovered in the Fraser River Valley on the main land and Victoria grew as supply depot. The HBC also lost its monopoly and commerce became more lively for a few years.
  Inner Harbour promenade
More Inner Harbor
Inner Harbour promenadeTo build the fort, Douglas' men had to negotiate a muddy shore and clear a dense forest.  A large part of the bay's muddy tide flats has now been filled and much of the rest dredged.  The southeast corner of the bay is now ringed by a promenade, which on sunny summer days is lined with artists and craft merchants and packed with a stream of tourists.
  Heritage building in Victoria
Heritage building
Victoria's old City HallAfter the provincial capital of British Columbia was moved to Victoria in 1868, its long term survival was pretty well assured, but for most the next century it was on a slow growth program. That, in fact, might have been to its benefit because now there are about 15 square blocks of heritage building, most dating from 1880 to 1900.
  W.G. Cameron Bldg, Heritage building in Victoria 622-624-626 Fisgard St, Heritage building in Victoria Paper Box Arcade, Heritage building in Victoria Grand Central Bldg, Heritage building in Victoria 
  Bastion Square, Victoria
Bastion Square
Heritage building in VictoriaBastion Square (left) was initially the center of Fort Victoria.  After the destruction of the fort, the land was sold off in lots.  Commercial development floundered for 50 years.  It took a hundred year, but the area is again a fashionable address for office space and on sunny days the square is an ongoing street fair packed with merchants, entertainers and hopefully tourist.
  The Gate of Harmonious Interest announces Victoria's Chinatown
Gate of Harmonious Interest
The Gate of Harmonious Interest announces Victoria's Chinatown, though it is more in the center than at any entrance. Gold-rush era Chinese from San Francisco & China established Canada's first Chinatown; with shops & rooms, gambling and opium dens, bars & brothels, employment agencies and family associations..
  Milne Building, Market Square, Heritage building in Victoria Since the 1960's there has been a huge amount of restoration done to Victoria's heritage buildings.  One of the bigger projects is Market Square. The block, bounded to the north by Pandora Avenue, to the west by Store Street and to the south by Johnson Street, was once part of the course of the Johnson Street Ravine, a swamp that marked the boundary between the European business area to theInterior of Market Square, Victoria south and Chinatown to the north. During the 1880s, the wooden shacks on the north side of the ravine were replaced with utilitarian commercial blocks.  During the 1880s and 90s, hotels were built on the south side.  The inner courtyard was used to support the business that faced the street.  From 1930 to 1970 the area fell into serious decay.  As a backlash to the demolish of historic buildings the buildings were protected, restored and opened as Market Square in 1976.  The interior still has a lot of open space, restaurants with outside eating and it is frequently the venue for live music.
  Courtyard sculpture at Victoria Public Library, British Columbia Centennial Square Fountain, Victoria, BC While the preservation of historic buildings gives downtown Victoria a lot of it character there are gems of modernity to find as well:  One is the new Victoria Public Library.  It actually incorporates two pre-existing structures and has several piece of noteworthy art.  Just off the street, signaling the library, is a very inspiring, life-size, bronze sculpture of children reading books by Marianne Caroselli (sorry no photo).  In the atrium is George Norris's four story tall Dynamic Mobile Steel Sculpture (left).  A second large piece is the Centennial Square Fountain (right). It was a gift to Victoria from Esquimalt to Commemorate the centenary of progress.
  One of the two grand building facing the inner harbor is the chateau style Empress Hotel.  It is characterized by a plain facades with a vertical emphasis and steeply pitched roofs, broken by dormer windows and other Gothic detail.  It was built in 1906 to serve passengers of the Canadian Pacific steamship line, whose ships docked across the street in front of the hotel.

A block behind the hotel is the bowling green of that most quintessential British game, lawn bowling.  This is the home of the Canadian Pacific Lawn Bowling Club. White treads are preferred by players, but truth be told, all you really need to lawn bowl is a "jack" (the little white target ball) and set of bowls (this is their correct name for the special orbs that are delivered down the rink.)

  B.C. Provincial Parliament building, Victoria Orca topiary, B.C. Provincial Parliament, VictoriaThe other grand building on the inner harbor is the B.C. Provincial Parliament building (1893-97). It is categorized as Free Classical style and contains the first rotunda in Canada -- probably inspired by the U.S. Capitol.  At night it is outlined with 3000 lights.  The lead architect on the building was 25 year old Francis Rattenbury.  Rattenbury was also the architect for the Empress Hotel, Crystal Gardens, the CPR Steamship Terminal, the Court House in
Bastion Square and the Bank of Montreal..
 
Thunderbird Park
Another gems of Victoria is the Royal British Columbia Museum and Thunderbird (totem pole) Park.  The museum has superb galleries on the material culture of the First Peoples (Native Americans) of Vancouver Island and northeast Pacific Coast, and the natural history of the region.  Thunderbird Park has bigger than life displays carvings of poles, artifacts and building elements from the same cultural traditions.
  Perched above the Inner Harbor is some historic architecture of a slightly different era: The stylish, chic, art-deco, Imperial Oil's Causeway Gas Station that was build in 1931. On the 80-foot high tower is a beacon that was used to guide seaplanes to the Inner Harbor.  The building is now very pedestrian oriented and serves as the Victoria tourism information center.  During tourist season it is also common to see a gaggle of Pedicabs standing-by there, waiting for their next passengers.
  Houseboats, Inner Harbor, Victoria Fishing boats, Inner Harbor, VictoriaFurther west on the south shore, leaving the Inner Harbor and siding up to the Middle Harbor, you emerge from the tourist zone and the density of people thins considerable.  Here you will find part of Victoria's quaint, colorful and small houseboat neighborhood (ala "Sleepless In Seattle") and Victoria's Fisherman's Wharf, the moorage for the harbor's romantic and diminutive fishing fleet.

Continuing around the perimeter of the James Bay neighborhood you reach the outer harbor and then open water.

  Beacon Hill Park, Victoria  BC Most of the shoreline overlooking the Straights of Juan de Fuca is narrow strip of public access parkland.  The exception is the roughly one square kilometer of Beacon Hill Park.  One story isTwo-story tall, user activated, watering can / fountain / sprinkler, Beacon Hill Park, Victoria  BC the originally name, by the First Nations people, was Meeacan (the Salish name for belly) because from a distance, it looked like the belly of a large man lying on his back.  It is home to panoramic views of the Straights and Olympic Mountains (caveat here -- on a clear day), a two-story tall, user activated, watering can / fountain / sprinkler (right), a kids petting farm, various ponds, streams, paths, foot bridges, gardens, lawns and glens, and Mile "0" of the Trans-Canadian Hwy.
  "Signs of Lekwungen" spindle, Victoria  BC "Signs of Lekwungen" spindle, Victoria  BCThis spindle is one of seven "Signs of Lekwungen" set in Victoria telling some of the story of the Lekwunge people, the First Nation people occupying the land at the time of contact with Europeans.  The information says the hill was called MEE-qan and gives the meaning as "warmed by the surf". A field here was used to play Coqwialls, which is similar to field hockey. At the bottom of the hill was a small, palisaded village that was occupied intermittently from 1,000 until 300 years ago. It was used for defense during times of war and it was important site for reef net fishing. Camas was gathered in the area.
  World's tallest totem pole, Beacon Hill Park, Victoria
World's tallest totem pole, Beacon Hill Park, Victoria
The world's tallest totem pole is in Beacon Hill Park.  It took six month to carve using Adzes and hand knifes.  It is associated with the Gee-eksem clan of the Kwa-kiutl people of the coast Indians, from Fort Rupert, BC.  The most important figure on a totem pole is at the bottom because they are holding up all the rest.  Ironically, Europeans liked to see themselves at the top of the totem pole.  Indian carvers were happy to oblige because to them it meant that they were weak.  On this pole the bottom figure is the Gee-eksem legendary "First Man", said to have been created at Gold Beach on the north end of Vancouver Island. Next is the cannibal bird, then orca, the seal lion, eagle, sea otter, with halibut in his mouth, then whale with man on his back, then beaver, then servant man, then seal, the black wolf, then the potlatch record keeper.  It is the first pole of the clan to include all of the ancestral figures.
  Chinese cemetery, Ross Bay, Victoria
Chinese cemetery, Ross Bay, Victoria
Chinese cemetery, Ross Bay, VictoriaBought by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in 1903, to replace a low lying plot along Ross Bay. The Chinese cemetery site was chosen using the principles of Feng Shui (literally, wind and water).  The cemetery site is flanked by the "Azure Dragon (Qinglong) on its left and by the "White Tiger" (Baihu) on its right, and backed with a "Pillow Mountain" (Zhenshan, Gonzales Hill), where the two cosmic forces of Dragon and Tiger converse.  It is embraces by the "Living Water" (McNeil Bay) (Shengshui, symbol of wealth)  There is a giant incense burner in the middle.
  Cafe Bliss, Victoria BC Lockside Trail, Victoria to SydneyMy last meal before pedaling out of Victoria was at Café Bliss (left).  In their own words, "100% organic, 100% raw, 100% vegetarian and vegan, 100% wheat and gluten free, 100% fresh and local ingredients, 100% made with love."  I will add very delicious.
   
 

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