I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. – Henry David Thoreau
On the way out of Victoria, Steve and I stopped by Butchart Gardens. Seriously, if you find yourself in the vicinity of Victoria, get thee here. It is not to be missed. Never underestimate the power of one intrepid woman to turn the depleted slash of wasteland that is a tapped out limestone quarry into something whose living beauty almost hurts. That is Butchart Gardens. The day we were there, the Gardens were teeming with Japanese tourists traveling in packs and crowding out non-Japanese interlopers. They clogged the sidewalks taking photos in front of every possible botanical vignette – the teenaged girls adjusting poses slightly to ensure the logos on their Michael Kors and Dior bags showed up in each picture. Here are a few images to give you an idea of how pretty the Gardens are.
I love a road trip with Stevie-D, and we were staring down five hours of quality car time to fill. For us, it’s undistracted togetherness. We listen to podcasts, dissect and discuss them, and solve problems (ours and everyone else’s). I was psyched about getting to this part of our trip – a visit to the North end of Vancouver Island. My friend K had based herself out of Port McNeill for three research seasons studying Killer Whales back when she was still a teenager who knew she wanted to make the world a better place but wasn’t yet sure whether that would be by helping animals or people.
So she told us about this special corner of the world that takes up space in her heart, and she invited us to come see and experience it for ourselves and meet her there. The North end of Vancouver Island is mountainous, big country with few people and abundant wildlife. Being on land with grizzly bears, black bears and cougars roaming around occasionally snatching small, domesticated animals, or floating on water where Killer Whales swim and which is cold enough to kill you inside of twenty minutes should you fall into it commands a heightened level of respect.
North Vancouver Island is stunning. STUNNING. The kind of stunning that makes you feel connected to the Universe in some primal, essential, cosmic way. The kind of stunning that makes you believe something orders the Universe because that sort of beauty cannot possibly be accidental. This area of Western Canada is mile upon mile of unmolested landscape that looks from a distance like something huge laid down a large, nubbly, fleecy blanket of deepest, dark green from the tips of steep slopes all the way down to water’s edge. The water is a dark, clear blue that looks as cold as it is, except in the waterways nearest the glaciers, which have been turned a milky turquoise by the tiny suspended rock particles scoured by retreating glaciers and released in morainal melt. In most places, green meets blue with no discernible color break in between. We navigated a fjord 600 feet deep at its shallow point and double that at its deepest, and our boat fought through the heavy chop of roiling tide rips where waterways intersected. God’s country is an apt description.
Should you find yourself in this area of Canada, I suggest you stay near Telegraph Cove at the Hidden Cove Lodge. The lodge sits on a beautiful, secluded piece of land jutting out into Johnstone Strait. Hidden Cove Lodge is run by Dan and his wife Sandra. Dan, who built the lodge himself, is a welcoming, chatty guy who makes a mean breakfast. He will sit down with his coffee next to your breakfast table if you encourage him (and you should) and tell you the area’s history, the things worth doing, and the places worth seeing. If you are looking for a comfy home away from home, Hidden Cove Lodge is the place.