All posts by meanderer007

Travels with Charli (and Stef)



One of my favorite books, and one of the first travel books I ever read, was John Steinbeck’s Travel’s with Charley.  I loved that book. Now we had our own version of that.

When we talked about visiting Stef in B.C. we hoped he could spend a day or two with us. Much to our surprise he was enthusiastic about our visit and suggested that we could go on a short road trip with him and his girl friend Charli. No doubt the possibility of our paying for much of it helped whet his appetite. We ended up going on a 5-day road trip to Vancouver Island and Saltspring Island. And we learned a lot about our son Stef.

It was great to fun travel with Stef and Charli. Stef is a great traveller. He comes from a family of travellers. His grand parents (my parents) were great travellers and I really believe their descendant’s have inherited the travel bug. We all love to travel.

My parents did not even have a car for many years. I remember when they finally bought one and we were able to go on road trips. Our first trip, that I can recall, was one to my aunt and uncle and cousins in St. Catherines Ontario. I was unbelievably excited. I was bit with the travel bug and it has lasted forever. I think all of my children inherited that gene, though one of them, Patrick, who was adopted, earned it by nurture rather than nature. We all love to travel.

But no one in our family loves to travel more than Stef. I know a couple of years ago when as far as I knew he had no money, he somehow managed to make a trip to Belgium to see a big international music festival. I don’t know how he did that, but he did.

As a result of his travels he seems to have friends around the world. Partly that is because he is  a social animal. I don’t know where he inherited that gene. As soon as we got into the car to travel from Whistler, where we picked them up,  to Vancouver Island Stef was bouncing with excitement. His enthusiasm was infectious. Our ears were sore from his enthusiastic tirades. That made it fun for everyone. Poor Charli did her best to hang on. The rest of us tried from time to time, without much success to temper his exuberance. He filled the days with joy.

Stef had researched where we could go and what we should see. Yet , we found out, he was a meanderer like us. We could change course at any time. He just liked to travel. it didn’t matter too much where we went. His grand parents would be proud. His parents were proud. We were amazed at how well he had researched and organized where we could go. Stef and Charli were both very easy to get along with. Both were quite willing to try something new. They were kind and considerate to the old folks, even when they got cranky.

Chris and I were astonished and we loved coming along for the ride. It was great fun. Yet, even though he made many suggestions where we could go, Stef was always happy to take suggestions from others, and change course. A real meanderer. Stef: thanks for the ride! When do we go again?

Lonesome Doug



There is an amazing tree at the west end of Vancouver Island called Lonesome Doug. We did not find Lonesome Doug, a lonely Douglas-fir left all alone  in the middle of a vicious clear-cut forest. We had seen photos of Lonesome Doug but felt we did not have time to try to find him. So he remains alone and unseen by us.

All the trees around it had been felled. Hence the name. Lonesome Doug is a massive tree. It pokes right through the forest canopy in this area called the Tall Tree Capital of the World. It actually had no limbs at all until it reached the top of the surrounding canopy. In other words all the surrounding trees were not as tall as the lowest branch of Lonesome Doug! This is a very big tree. Thank goodness it was saved, but I wish they had retained some of his neighbours too.

Lonesome Doug is about as tall as a 20-story building. Its trunk is wider than a truck. Apparently it is the second-largest Douglas-Fir tree in Canada. And now it is a freak in this clearing in the rain forest. Lonesome Doug has enough wood to fill four logging trucks or to frame five 2,000 sq. foot houses. That one tree could be sold for thousands of dollars, but thankfully it was saved. I don’t know why. It is one of the last Douglas-fir in coastal B.C. where 99% of them are already gone. And some people want to take them all! Sometimes the rapacity of men is inconceivable. It takes a rain forest like this to grow such a massive tree. Here it rains 2 out of every 3 days so the big trees are happy. Such trees love flat valley floors onto which the rain water flows. Even though we did not see Doug, we were very lucky because it did not rain.

For many decades the predominant method of logging in B.C. was clear-cutting. The loggers just cut everything down. There was no time for sloppy sentimentality. According to Harley Rustad,

“The introduction of mechanized feller-bunchers—capable of chopping, de-limbing, and cutting trees to length—made it possible for loggers to clear a hectare of second-growth forest in a matter of hours. But few machines are capable of felling old growth; the trees are too big. Every great tree that is cut down on Vancouver Island is done by hand. While it could take 500 years for a fir to reach fifty metres tall and two metres wide, it can take a skilled faller with a chainsaw five minutes to bring it down.”

That puts the whole process into perspective. Lonesome Doug has probably been standing for a 1,000 years! In other words he was already about 500 years old when Christopher Columbus “discovered” North America. He was a seedling at about the time Leif Ericson was building sod houses in Newfoundland.

The image of Lonesome Doug is a powerful one. I think it shows us what clear-cut logging is all about. As Rustad said, “Heroic life persevering amid destruction.” Destruction is the key. Sometimes I really think capitalism is anti-life. They call it creative destruction, and sometimes that is true, but all too often it is just destruction. I think it is really vandalism. Maybe even desecration.

The Globe and Mail called this tree “the loneliest tree in Canada.” Some people fear that because the surrounding forest has been felled, the wind will ruin Lonesome Doug. Yet he was surrounded by 150 year-old Hemlocks that had grown back after a massive storm. In other words, Doug must have been alone then too. He can take the wind. Doug is tough. Maybe he will make it. Lets hope.


Vancouver Island: From Sooke to Port Renfrew


They say that Vancouver Island is the place “where the rain forest meets the sea.” WE travelled a part of Vancouver Island, from Sooke where we were staying to Port Renfrew on the western side of the island.


Our first stop was Whiffen Spit where we took a long walk along the curling (meandering) spit. it reminded me of Point Pelee. I loved the smell of the sea and the sound of the gulls.  We saw a seal meandering in the bay.

This was a lovely bunch of flowers growing out of an ancient log on the beach.

Stef and Charli


We made a brief stop at Sandust Beach where Chris did a very stupid thing. She walked down the path after Stef said, “It starts off flat.”  This was true. It did start that way but it did not end that way!  Gradually it got steeper and steeper and this made it impossible for Chri with her store bought knee and hip. She walked almost all the way down before coming to her senses.  it was  particularly treacherous where the path consisted of mangled twisted roots.

At the end of the drive we reached Port Renfrew. This felt like the real west coast. Rustic, relaxing, casual, beautiful. It felt like I was at the end of the world not just the end of Vancouver Island.

After exploring the dock at the end of the bay, looking at gulls, dreaming about what was across the bay, (we had been told it was the start of the famous West Coast Trail) we got to Renfrew Pub. Here they advertised, “Wilderness within Reach.”  That seemed entirely true.


Saltspring Island


One of the things our son Stef had planned for this road trip was a visit to Saltspring Island.  While Chris and I had been there, it was many years ago and we were quite game to see it again. Stef said there were some friends of  his there that he wanted to visit.

Saltspring Island was originally inhabited by various Salishan peoples before it was settled by European pioneers in 1859. At that time it was called Admiral Island. It was the first of all the Gulf Islands to be settled and has become  the most populous of them all. It is also the largest and most frequently visited of all of the islands. It was the first agricultural settlement in what was called the Colony of Vancouver Island and was the first island to permit settlers to acquire land by pre-emption. Neither the settlers nor the government of Britain (who controlled Canada a the time through its colonial government) made any treaty with the local indigenous people who acquiesced in allowing the new people into their territory.

Settlers were allowed to occupy and later purchase land if they first “improved” it. At least they considered it improved. This was the primary way that land passed into the hands of settlers. They could purchase it for $1 per acre. As a result of this method there is a fairly good historical record of what happened to the land.

I am not sure what gave the “authorities” the notion that they had the right to sell land that they themselves had never purchased. In law the violates a fundamental principle: there is Latin phrase we lawyers use that means, you cannot convey a better title than you have. It is an interesting notion they inherited as a result of being English or successors to the English.

The early settlers included African-Americans, Hawaiians, English, Irish and Scottish. Most of them were subsistence farmers. Many abandoned the farms they “bought” after they were not able to make a sufficient living. Most of those who survived needed side jobs fishing or logging to make a go of it.

The Indigenous people called the island xʷənen̕əč. Other Saanich names on the island include was initially inhabited by Salishan peoples of various tribes. Other Saanich place names on the island include the following: t̕θəsnaʔəŋ̕ (Beaver Point), čəw̕een (Cape Keppel), xʷən̕en̕əč (Fulford Harbour), and syaxʷt (Ganges Harbour). Don’t ask me to pronounce those names.

The island has had some interesting history since contact. It became a sanctuary for refugees for black African Americans who wanted to escape the racism of the United States. Many of the blacks left California in 1858 after the state of California passed discriminatory legislation against African-Americans. Representatives of the refugees visited the Governor, James Douglas, about what kind of treatment they could expect. Douglas was in fact a Guyanese man of multi-ethnic birth and assured them that slavery had been abolished here more than 20 years earlier and that they would be well treated on the island. By an interesting twist of history, a little more than a 100 years later the island again became a refuge for American draft dodgers and deserters during the Vietnam War.

Located between Mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island has a population of 10,557 inhabitants. For such a small population, Saltspring Island has a surprising number of well known people. Particularly artists and entertainers seem to love it. The notables include Randy Bachman of the Guess Who, Canada’s most famous artist Robert Bateman, former CBC host Arthur Black whom I regularly listened to about 20 years ago, Brian Brett a very unusual poet, novelist, writer, and raconteur who I listened to on CBC’s Sunday Edition, a couple of days later on our way back home. It is also home to  Stuart Margolin, an actor who played Angel, an extremely colourful character on one of my favorite television shows of all time, Rockford Files with James Garner. Musicians Raffi and Valdy also call the island home.  Ronald Wright author of one of my favorite books on Indigenous issues, Stolen Continents also lives there. For a community about 2/3 the population of Steinbach they sure do punch above their weight in famous people.

These are not famous people. They are Stef, Charli and their buddies. After lunch we drove a short distance to the Wild Cider a cider bar where we met 6 of his friends. The young people were from around the world. 1 was a Saltspring resident, and he was partnered with a girl who now lives there two but came from Nova Scotia. One young couple was from New Zealand the other from Australia. World Citizens. They all seemed to be great friends enjoying each other’s company. They even put up with Stef’s old folks hanging around and included us in the conversation. Chris and I sampled a flight of ciders. Pretty good cider.

We spent so much time at the Cider Bar with Stef’s friends we had no time for anything else. We headed back to the ferry and then drove “home” to Sooke. It was a great day.

Vancouver Island LIghtnouses




I am not just an orchid guy. Or a bog guy. Or a waterfall guy. Or an autumn leaf guy. No I am  a man of many parts. I am also a lighthouse guy. I love lighthouses too. Actually I am a sucker for lighthouses. And that has got Chris and I in trouble on a number of occasions. Someday I will have to blog about that.

One day on Vancouver Island we went to see Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site, on Fisgard Island. Because of work in the park we could not get close to it the day we were there.

It was the first lighthouse built on the west coast of Canada. The light station and lighthouse were built in 1860 to guide vessels into  Esquimalt harbour. Part of the reason to reinforce Canadian rights to sovereignty over its colony on the west coast against the ever greedy Americans.  In other words, the Americans were as greedy as the British. 25,000 American miners had come to the area 2 years earlier in search of gold in the Fraser valley. If there was gold to be found there the British wanted it for themselves.

The Sheringham Lighthouse on Vancouver Island, like so many lighthouses was born out of tragedy. During the last part of the 19the century and the first part of the 20th centuries the South Coast of Vancouver Island saw more than 240 ship wrecks! As a result the area gained an unwelcome reputation as for its treacherous shoreline and was called by many, the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

On January 20, 1906, the steamship SS Valencia left San Francisco bound for Seattle and Victoria with 173 passengers on board. Late at night during awful weather, which sadly is not uncommon on the coast, there was little visibility and the ship missed the turn into the Juan de Fuca Strait   On board were 173 passengers and crew.  During the dark night of January 22, in foul weather and with very limited visibility, the Valencia missed the turn into Juan de Fuca Strait and steamed directly on to the rocks near Pachena Point.  Sadly, 137 men, women and children died as a result.

Both Canada and the Americans held inquiries and determined that they had to make efforts to improve navigation on the west coast.  After the inquiry, the Canadian government decided to build 12 more lighthouses on the coast including this one at Sheringham Point.



The lighthouse is located on a spit that veers prominently out to sea, a pretty good spot for the light. This is the view from that spit. Long before first contact, the site was used by the Ditidaht First Nation (now called the T’Sou-ke First Nation) and called by them p’aachiida which means “sea foam on rocks.” The foam can be seen on the above photographs.

The light station and lighthouse were both built in 1912.

At first I was very disappointed even though I could easily walk to the lighthouse. It seemed there was no vantage point to get a good view. You can’t really photograph a lighthouse from right under it. You have to be some distance away to get a view of it in its setting on the rocks and by the sea.  At first I could only get a shot from the top of the stairway.


With some extra efforts I found a place to get what I thought was a better view. Then I was happy. The lighthouse was declared a Canadian Heritage Site in 2015.


Fisherman’s Wharf and the keen pleasure of flaunting success



After we finished our glorious day at Butchart Gardens we drove into Victoria to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. We had been told this was a ‘must see.’

I have to tell you something odd about me.  I don’t like to go boating, except for gentle rides on a calm day.  Nothing exciting. I prefer my excitement on land. I don’t want to own a boat. I did at one time, but I think the happiest day of my life is when I got rid of that boat. I would be willing to sit on a boat on a calm day and sip a glass or rum. Or get a ride on a boat with a competent Captain on smooth seas. Rough waters are not for me.  I am not scared of water. I have swum all my life and always love that. It’s just that boating is not really for me. I guess that makes me a landlubber.

Notwithstanding all that, I love wharfs and harbours. I have no idea why that is the case. I love to walk on the dock and look at the boats. I just don’t want to own one.

Frankly house boats are the same.  I love to look at them but don’t want to own one. There were many elaborate house boats here in Victoria. I assumed that many people actually lived on them. They looked cute, but I would not want to live on one. Why live on a boat?

Here the house boats had another disadvantage. People like me!  I came walking on the dock with no thought in mind other than snooping.  I did not see a single person sitting on the outside of his or her boathouse sipping a rum on this gorgeous day. Where were they?  Hiding inside to keep away from snoops like me? I would be doing that if I owned one. How boring is that?

I assumed that these people had one pleasure in mind when they bought such a house boat. Flaunting their wealth.  Flaunting success gives a keen pleasure.


Fisherman’s Wharf is a floating boardwalk with an entire neighbourhood of floating houses painted in vibrant colours including cool pinks, lavenders, and blues. There are, of course, restaurants and bars aplenty.

It was a beautiful place on a beautiful day.

Breakfast with Stef


Stef and his friend Charli. This photo has nothing to do with the post below.

I had an interesting experience when I woke up our first morning in Sooke B.C. where we stayed for 5 days—I had breakfast with my son Stef.   Get this, for breakfast Stef ate a Long John pastry, very gooey, a heated up wiener left over from last night, and Ketchup chips! About as nutritious as last week’s laundry.

Butchart Gardens: One last look


I now this is over indulgence, but I really thought Butchart Gardens are worth one last look.


In 1964, the owners of Butchart Gardens installed the constantly changing Ross Fountain was installed in the lower reservoir to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the gardens.

Goethe wrote that, “flowers are the beautiful words and hieroglyphs of nature, with which she shows us how much she loves us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “the world laughs in flowers.” These guys were smart.

Butchart Gardens: revisted



Stef and his friend Charli did not have to be dragged kicking and screaming to Butchart Gardens. Charli has great taste.



In 1888 Robert Pim Butchart began to manufacture cement in Owen Sound but moved to British Columbia because they found rich deposits of limestone in the area. In 1904 he and his wife Jennie established a home here on Vancouver Island.

As Theodore Roetke said “deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.”

In 1907 they hired 65-year old Isaburo Kishida of Yokohama of Japane to design a Japanese Garden for them. In 1909 when the quarry was exhausted they set about turning what was left into a Sunken Garden. Nowadays they would turn it into a golf course. It took 12 years to complete.


In 1909, when the limestone quarry was exhausted, Jennie set about turning it into the Sunken Garden, which was completed in 1921.

In 1926 they turned their tennis courts into an Italian garden. In 1929 they converted their vegetable garden into a rose garden. It has won awards for the best rose garden in North America.

In 1929 they gave the gardens to their grandson Ian Ross for his 21stbirthday. Not a bad birthday gift. Sure beats what we gave our grandchildren.


I love the views of the sunken garden from above

I was surprised to learn that the gardens are still privately owned by the Butchart family.  Currently one of the great great granddaughters of the original owners is the operator. We have a lot for which we must be grateful to them.

William Blake said, “eternity is in love with the productions of time.”

Butchart Gardens: the Most Beautiful Garden in the World?


I don’t know if the Butchart Gardens of B.C. are the most beautiful in the world. I haven’t seen them all. I just think it is the most beautiful garden I have ever seen.


I love flowers.  I don’t love working in flower gardens so much. Does that make me a bad person?

I love Water Lilies almost as much as orchids

The gardens are really a suite of gardens in Brentwood Bay British Columbia just outside of Victoria. The gardens host more than a million visitors a year.


Butchart Gardens is open 365 days a year. I have a hard time comprehending that in Canada a garden can be open all year. Where else but B.C. could they do that?