My Airbnb "Executive Suite" did not include an executive kitchen or even an executive minifridge, so the morning after my arrival I took a stroll down to the local grocery store to pick up some provisions for the week: zucchinis, carrots, apples, oranges, crackers, bread, cheese, and granola bars. I did not have any children with me, but if I did I most certainly would've taken advantage of this generous little basket!
My room was in the basement of a large house in the Cadboro Bay neighborhood of Victoria. Walking around, it quickly became clear that this was one of the hoitier/toitier hoods in the city. The Royal Victoria Yacht Club was just down the block.
(How much you wanna bet that gull takes a shit before leaving the top of that mast?
I don't know why a cruising vacation in a non-tropical setting never occurred to me before, but I've now vowed to take my family sailing somewhere around Vancouver Island. From the plane, I could see hundreds of coves, islands, etc., just waiting to be explored!
Every beach I saw in Victoria was littered with drifttwigs, driftsticks, driftlogs, and drifttrees.
Most of it was weathered and smooth and the natives hadn't missed any opportunities to build beach forts.
I haven't traveled sans-kids in a while and instead of enjoying a little Dad-alone time I found myself constantly looking for and taking pictures of things that Otis and June would enjoy. The Cadboro-Gyro park down by the water, for example, was AMAZING! That dragon was taller than me! And there was an octopus slide that you could climb up inside! AND A ZIP LINE!
I'd assumed that my flights would get fucked up and planned to arrive in Victoria a full day ahead of my workshop. My flights didn't get fucked up (thanks Air Canada!) and so I had a full day to kill! I filled it with hiking and exploring. First stop: Mt. Finlayson. The bottom of the mountain was like a rain forest. Cool, damp, and overwhelmingly green. Everything was hairy with moss.
Silhouetted moss on a low-hanging branch.
I think this was a manzanita, but it was much larger than what I'm used to seeing. Interesting, too, how it grew around this carving.
Up a little higher, things got steeper and drier. Here's the dry brown top of the mountain compared to the lush green bottom.
(Sarah doesn't like how Adirondack trails tend to dispense with the switchbacks toward the top of the mountain and just cut straight up the face. Sarah would not have enjoyed this trail.)
Mt. Baker, the looming view from pretty much anywhere in Victoria.
Some trailside flowers for Otis, who very much enjoys looking a trailside flowers.
Olympic National Park. (All the views from Canada were of America.)
And then I decided that diagonal photo divisions were going to be a thing on this trip.
From the top of Mt. Finlayson, I spied this old railroad trestle and decided that finding it would be my second exploration once I descended.
Otis! Look at the size of this dandelion! Holy moly!
Does the maze of roots covering the trail make it easier? Or harder? Hand-holds or tripping hazards? I think it probably evens out.
Returning to the car, I took a look at the map and thought I'd check out some waterfalls before leaving the park. I'd seen lots of warnings not to cross the Trans-Canada Highway on foot since there were no crosswalks, traffic lights, or pedestrian bridges. Since the waterfalls were on the other side, I figured I'd have to drive down the road a ways, do a U-turn, and come back, so that's what I did.
Well, a "ways" turned out to be ten miles. (Not many U-turn opportunities on the Trans-Canada Highway.) When I parked and started down the trail to the waterfall, I started wondering how all the water would flow to the other side of the highway. The answer, it turns out, is through this large, short tunnel leading almost directly from where I was to where I'd been. Oh well.
They call this Niagara Falls because it's the same height as its namesake. Rather than make me impressed with the height of this one, though, it made me less impressed with the height of the other.
I found a little cave tunnel and started climbing up. I looked over my shoulder at one point and put my hand down without looking. Holyshityuck!
Remember that trestle from before?
Up on top. I didn't go out too far because the height was making my legs a little wobbly.
I guess the trestle wasn't that old.
Next stop: Witty's Beach!
A crane and some low-tide kelp sticking up out of waters between me and the USA.
It's hard to make out from this (artsy-fartsy) picture, but Witty's Beach is huge at low tide. A big sand flat in front of a waterfall-fed lagoon sticks out about a quarter mile past the high-tide line. There were families with dogs and kids all over it.
Hike and beach down, I headed into town for a burrito lunch. It was pretty good: fried chicken, rice, beans, salsa, guac, and sour cream with a fancy bottle of locally-made cola on the side. (Chicken was a little over-fried... 7.5/10) I walked it off with a jaunt around downtown Victoria. It's, like, a proper city! With buildings and people and everything! And seaplanes and fancy bikers too!
One of the streets is paved with wood. "Bad idea," thought I, but a nearby plaque informed me that the creosote-coated blocks had been there for over a century.
Hike #3. The plan was to do the hard hike (Mt. Finlayson) in the cool morning and then cool off in the post-lunch heat with a dip in the Sooke Potholes. Everything went according to plan, except it turned out to be a little too cool out for dipping. (A little too cool in, too: the water was freezing!)
Otis, check out these flowers!
This wonder of nature was right down in the river bed! Amazing how destructive a raging river can be and yet how gentle!
The aforementioned potholes, foregrounded by some dried-out and soon-to-be-dried-out flowers.
I froze my aching feet in the water next to this guy for a little while.
Back at the Executive Suite, I ate a couple carrots and crackers and decided to go for one more walk and to the Yacht Club I went! I came across a sign that said "EXPECT DEER," looked across the street, and saw a deer. Here is that deer having been chased (by me) to the island over by the sign.
Methinks a gull or two has been smashing some shellfish upon this rock.
Kelp and a whole lot of sailboats.
On Monday morning I got to work. I'd signed up for a music encoding workshop as part of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria. It was excellent. So good to have some time set aside to work on the kind of coding projects that I usually feel guilty for spending so much time on at home.
The campus is beautiful too. Like much of Canada, it makes a great effort to acknowledge and embrace the indigenous cultures that came before European settlement. These were the two tallest totem poles I found on campus.
I don't know if I was supposed to wander into this tent outside the First Peoples House on campus, but here's a totem pole in the works.
I'm glad I thought to bring my running shoes! There was a lot to see in the evening. I stopped to take a picture of this tri and an old guy came up and offered it to me cheap. (Said it's been there since February.)
If Sarah and I lived in or around Victoria, we would almost certainly eat lunch here on a regular basis. (Cattle Point in Uplands Park.)
I came back and had dinner in the car.
The southeast corner of the U Vic campus has a HUGE fenced-in dog park. Oh, if only I had some greyhounds!
The shingled siding of an old fort-like building on campus.
Sarah and I love hanging out in parks when there's lots of people hanging out in parks. The weather was spectacular the whole time I was in Victoria and folks came out in droves in the evenings. Here's a few of the sunset gang in Cadboro-Gyro park.
I went a different direction every time I went running. For run #2 I went out to Ten Mile Point. One of the really nice things about Canada is the dedication to public beach access. This made all of my runs a little longer than expected. This particular vista featured a maple-leaf butt bucket and a leather (!) couch!
Phyllis Park view point. (Again, of Mt. Baker.)
Sunset flowers on the last leg of the run. (It was supposed to be a 45 minute run. Turned out to be an hour and a half.)
Flowers outside the music building on campus. Lotta nice gardens on the U Vic campus. I meant to go check out the big garden, but ran out of time!
Here's some flowers on the "Alumni Chip Trail" (a 3-mile loop around campus).
And a few more in a nearby neighborhood.
Baby snake! (Late at night is when they come out!)
I tried to organize the other folks in my workshop to go out and get poutine and beer on the last night, but had no takers. No matter! The poutine was delicious and...
...it turned out to be a good night to be in a pub in Canada. Here's the Raptors winning game six!
More diagonal line nonsense.
OK. The workshop may have been the occasion for traveling to the west coast, but the real highlight was the post-conference trip to Berkeley! Since I was sure to get only a fraction of the cost covered by SUNY, I figured why not turn the trip into a personal vacation, too? We'd hoped to all go to Victoria as a family, but Sarah couldn't get out of work. The next best thing, then, would be to all just meet up in the Bay Area, so that's what we did!
Sarah and the kids flew out to SFO on Friday. The kids are great travelers, but with a short layover (and several miles between gates) in Chicago, she was glad to have purchased a folding wagon for transporting kids and kid paraphernalia in the airport. They made it across country with no big hitches. I flew down the same day and snuck into the hotel room after everyone was asleep.
And then... Off to Berkeley! The original plan was to go camping with our friends the Hoyts, but when that fell through we decided to just stay at their place and do day trips. This was a good plan. The kids remembered each other from when we'd visited a couple years ago and didn't waste any time. Here they are in Tilden Park, waiting for napping June in the car to wake up.
Quick hike around Lake Anza with plenty of adventure: side trails, slippery slopes, rocks to climb, secret forts (above), and more poison oak than you could shake a eucalyptus branch at.
Plenty of graffiti on this bear-box-protected trash can.
There was a sign advising visitors to steer clear of algae and "pond scum." I spotted this pond scum hanging out on a little peninsula and decided to stay back.
Otis found a flower. (Otis found a lot of flowers. The other kids did too. We had to institute a no-more-picking-flowers rule.)
Adventure #2: the Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
We did a little hike from down by the Rodeo Lagoon up to some of the old forts up on the hill. I made the foolish mistake of showing the kids some blackberries on the side of the trail. We spent the rest of the day policing berry-picking and monitoring small hands in search of food getting dangerously close to more poison oak.
This green appendage is Augie's head.
Augie head and Augie dad.
June took a little while to warm up to the idea of hiking. The day before, she'd refused to set foot on the ground. But once she did, the whole gang wove their way along the narrow trails through the ice plant.
Boys and Dave upon a hill.
Fort number one. A little dangerous for kids, but that didn't stop them. (Battery O'Rorke, according to the map.)
I'm imagining Goofus with the red spraycan and Gallant with the blue. (The white hands I'm not so sure about.)
Otis with Annabel down in a shadowy tunnel.
They keep the outside of the forts pretty clean with green paint. Most of the doors inside are welded shut. The occasional open room, though, is covered in graffiti.
Augie shouts at the ocean, Otis observes.
The second best bridge. Most of it, anyway.
San Francisco has a real problem with overcrowding. We were trying to avoid going into the city, but Otis was pretty excited about driving over the bridge so we went in anyway.
Dave and his old man had a special treat in store for the kids when we got home: a freaking pool! I almost passed out blowing the thing up, but then Dave's dad Phil showed up with a leaf blower and we had the thing inflated in about thirty seconds. The pièce de résistance, though, was the sink-to-hose adapter that facilitated filling the thing up with hot water from the kitchen. Luxury!
Adventure #3: Beach day at the Bo'!
Driving over Mt. Tam, we started getting a little nervous. There was an aggressive fog blowing over the top, so thick at points that large drops of water were falling off the redwoods overhead. It was pretty gray when we got down the beach, but that didn't stop the kids from running into the icy water.
We met up with another old friend, Ryan, who, with his wife Annalise, had likewise multiplied in the form of a small child. Said child (a little afraid of the ocean and therefore not pictured above) and Coffee the dog (not at all afraid of the ocean) came along.
All of the kids were excited about the various beach treasures they found in the sand. I suggested making a museum. They took the idea and ran with it.
Some folks have to go to work. So after a delicious breakfast at Jenna's diner, the Mt. Carsmans were on their own. Our flight left early Wednesday morning, so we booked an Airbnb near SFO for Tuesday night. We left Jenna at the diner, Dave took Annabel to theater camp, we took Augie to swim camp, then we packed up and left on our own adventures.
There were a number of places that I'd seen while we were living in Berkeley and always wanted to visit with kids. (We didn't have any at the time.) The first was Codornices Park which had a giant, terrifying staircase that June insisted on climbing. But that's not why I wanted to go...
GIANT SLIDE BUILT INTO THE HILL!
I always thought this was an amazing idea for a playground: the whole thing is built out of scrap materials. It's rickety as fuck and you might think it would never fly in the USA, but somehow they get away with it! (You have to sign a waiver when you go in.)
The best part, though, is that the entire playground is constantly being built and rebuilt by the kids as they play on it. If you go around a collect five splinters, pieces of trash, or bent nails, you can borrow a tool. They have hammers, saws, clamps, nails, and buckets of paint. We found our splinters and traded them for a saw and got to work.
Our first project was just cutting a piece of wood in half. Then we tried building a bench onto the side of one of the play structures. That turned out to be a little tricky so we brainstormed...
Otis eventually came up with the brilliant idea of building a ladder! Perfect project. We got to work.
It took a little while (you can only have three nails at a time), but we built a functioning ladder and propped it up against the side of this building.
One last stop before retiring to our Airbnb: the Wave Organ! We parked by the SF Yacht Harbor and walked over. Sarah pointed out this J70's name and I had to take a picture.
So, the way this works is that there are these long cement tubes that go down around and into the water. You can stick your ear up next to them and hear the waves as they slurp and gurgle around. Some of them needed to be dug out of the sand that had collected, but some of them worked just fine.
Sarah! Stand next to that sign with Juniper since she's about to turn two!
Little pink flowers on the wave organ.
A little less of the GGB than we saw before.
Sushi dinner in Burlingame! (I didn't document it, but for the record, Otis was very enthusiastic about eating raw fish.)
Rising early the next morning, we dropped off the rental car, hopped on the air train (pictured above), and embarked on another (pleasantly problem-free) trip back across the country. Smooth sailing!