Skyline Trail in Highlands National Park

By DAMI - Last updated: Saturday, September 20, 2014
The end of the Skyline Trail in Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island has spectacular views of the sea and allows you to walk amongst unique growth on the windswept bluffs.

The end of the Skyline Trail in Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island has spectacular views of the sea and allows you to walk amongst unique growth on the windswept bluffs.

We’ve been going to Highlands National Park for several years and have hiked many of the trails and stopped at all the lookouts to admire the views but this time we decided to finally do the Skyline Trail which was one of the few treks we hadn’t made in the park.

We decided to do the entire trail loop and went counter-clockwise taking the right fork in the trail where the loop begins. It seems most people do the Skyline clockwise or just take the left fork and go straight there and back to the boardwalks at the end of the trail, we wanted to do it different and we’re glad we did!

The trail crosses open fields with short stubby trees and grasses and some swampy marshy plants. There are great views of the ocean as you descend the trail which is pretty much downhill all the way until you get to the start of the boardwalk which is probably the most iconic section of the trail and perhaps the entire park.

The winds blowing off the sea in Highlands National Park leave the trees bent and twisted in to lovely sculptures.

The winds blowing off the sea in Highlands National Park leave the trees bent and twisted in to lovely sculptures.

The highlight was coming around a corner in a tall bushy section of the trail and I saw the hindquarters of a large moose! We finally saw a moose, these famous Highland Moose that we have often heard of and hadn’t yet seen.

He was munching leaves and was making his rutting sounds. It was amazing to crouch quietly in the bushes in the sunshine and watch him. He was huge but very peaceful looking and it was nice to stop and watch him rubbing his large antlers on the trees.

The highlight of our walk on the Skyline Trail was being able to stand quietly and watch this beautiful Moose eat some leaves just off the trail!

The highlight of our walk on the Skyline Trail was being able to stand quietly and watch this beautiful Moose eat some leaves just off the trail!

After we left we saw a few other hikers and they asked if we had seen the moose as I guess when a moose is spotted the word gets around pretty quick. I’m not surprised some people never see any moose on the trail; we passed a lot of people who were talking incessantly as they hiked and this would make any moose want to hide especially when they are talking about the economy and foreign affairs!

We walked along the boardwalk and stairs along the ridge of the highland hills and had an amazing view overlooking the Northumberland Straight as it shimmered in the sun. The trail from the end of the boardwalk to the start of the boardwalk is the most dramatic for views of steep sloping canyon walls but also for the interesting plants and flowers that grow along the wind beaten and wide open fairly bare slopes of the hill. There is an entire miniature world of plants we don’t see back in New Brunswick and it was fascinating to stop and see the tiny flowers and berries that snuggled against the rocks.

Stark and bare yet still life thrives in this desolate place.

Stark and bare yet still life thrives in this desolate place.

All in all the Skyline trail was nice, I don’t think it would rank as the best trail we’ve done in Highlands Park but then again there isn’t really any lack luster trails either; every season makes every trail different and there are bogs and elder forests and rocky trails with amazing views so wherever we go we are always happy to see something new.

The boardwalk has benches to sit and take photos and enjoy the view of the Nova Scotia Coastline.

The boardwalk has benches to sit and take photos and enjoy the view of the Nova Scotia Coastline.

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Victoria, British Columbia: The trip of a lifetime!

By DD - Last updated: Saturday, August 16, 2014
The Beautiful view of the Washington Mountains from Craigdarroch Castle In Victoria, British Columbia.

The Beautiful view of the Washington Mountains from Craigdarroch Castle In Victoria, British Columbia.

Mama D and DD just returned from an 8 day trip to Victoria, British Columbia and it was one of the best vacations we’ve ever had. We packed a lot in those 8 nights and 7 full days of sightseeing. We hope this itinerary will inspire you to plan your own trip to Victoria, British Columbia, one of the best destinations in the world!

To minimize jet lag, we went to bed early every night, between 8 and 10pm. We were early for breakfast and the dining room was quiet which was a bonus.

We enjoyed the ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver. We couldn't have asked for better weather.

We enjoyed the ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Day 1

We took a day trip to Vancouver with Pacific Coach Lines. We had to get to the bus depot early and left the hotel at 7 am. The station really could use a makeover as it is the blandest and boring places ever. Our morning driver with a Scottish accent was a grumpy character. We were fortunate to be waiting in line along with a British couple from Yorkshire going to an Alaska cruise. They had a great sense of humor and laughed about it all.

A frog at the Vancouver Aquarium.

A frog at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The ferry ride to Vancouver was awesome. It is number one on the National Geographic 10 best boat rides in the world. We spotted a sea otter and had lunch watching the islands go by. It was windy on the upper deck but we had our wind jackets. The ocean was calm and DD didn’t have a problem with motion sickness. Once in Vancouver we took a cab from the closest stop – Empress Hotel – to go to the Vancouver Aquarium. We enjoyed our visit very much and hope the belugas, dolphins and sea lions will stay. We got back to Victoria with Mama D’S friend and her 8 year old son who came for the night to spend the next day with us.

 

Young Queen Victoria was out welcoming visitors and she even came inside to chat while we were visiting on our guided tour.

Young Queen Victoria was out welcoming visitors and she even came inside to chat while we were visiting on our guided tour.

Day 2

We started the day with a guided tour of the Legislative Building where we had to leave before the end to go to our Hippo tour, an amphibious bus that goes in the water.

Mama D and her friends ready for Hippo to go!

Mama D and her friends ready for Hippo to go!

It was a fun 1.5 hour tour for an 8 year old boy who sat on the right side of the bus to make sure he would get splashed while rinsing the bus when we came out of the water.

The amazingly small world of Miniature World in Victoria, BC. The tip of my finger is smaller than a dime.

The amazingly small world of Miniature World in Victoria, BC. The tip of my finger is smaller than a dime.

We came back to our hotel – Harbour Towers – for lunch and then went to Miniature World where we were transported into another time and dimension. After the visit our friends still had some time before their return to Vancouver so DD and the boy went to the Bug Museum to look at some giant cockroaches, tarantulas and a colony of ants living in translucent tubes. We went with our friends to the Pacific Coach Depot and DD had a long chat with the Security man – a retired pharmacist -who at 80 years old with cancer was still trucking.

The real life size diorama of the seashore animals at The Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

The real life size diorama of the seashore animals at The Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

Day 3

We spent the whole day at The Royal BC Museum and watched 3 IMAX movies: Rocky Mountain Express, Vikings Journey to New Worlds, and Island of Lemurs: Madagascar. What a day! We had a picnic right outside in the park, past the coat check where we were able to leave our insulated lunch bag while we visited.

They have picnic tables right outside the Royal BC Museum with trees and birds.

They have picnic tables right outside the Royal BC Museum with trees and birds.

While we were waiting in line for one of the movies, we had a nice chat (and a good laugh) with a retired preventive medicine practitioner who was wearing his 3-D glasses as he thought they were his regular sunglasses! He had such an interesting story, having traveled to 40 Countries and studied in Chicago with 7 degrees… it seemed like an incredible journey and DD asked him if he had seen the Twilight Zone episode where a compulsive liar is abducted by aliens because he knows so much and then he is forced to admit it was all lies and then when asked by his patrons where he had been, they don’t believe him of course. Anyhow, the episode is called “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby” and the man with the 3-D glasses had seen it too!

The historic and famous Fan Tan Alley of Canada's oldest China Town in Victoria, BC.

The historic and famous Fan Tan Alley of Canada’s oldest China Town in Victoria, BC.

Day 4

We visited the lobby of the Empress Hotel, shopped at the Salvation Army, Value Village, and walked through China Town’s Famous Fan Tan Alley.

The vegetarian restaurant Green Cuisine at Market Square in Victoria, BC.

The vegetarian restaurant Green Cuisine at Market Square in Victoria, BC.

We had lunch at the vegetarian restaurant Green Cuisine where Aunty J works and DD was able to have a meal in a restaurant which hadn’t happened in a long time! Of course she wasn’t able to have any of the soy based meals but at least she had a nice plate with lots of rice and veggies.

Collection of knots at the Maritime Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

Collection of knots at the Maritime Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

After lunch we went to the Maritime Museum where we were told about the resident ghosts in which DD doesn’t believe and attributed the knocks in the wall to carpenter ants.

The world reknown oldest working birdcage elevator at the Victoria Maritime Museum in British Columbia.

The world reknown oldest working birdcage elevator at the Victoria Maritime Museum in British Columbia.

We took a ride in the oldest birdcage elevator in North America which is 2nd on the National Geographic list of the world’s best elevator rides! Unfortunately we weren’t able to see the courthouse because there was a private party.

The Atlas Moth at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens measures 10cm.

The Atlas Moth at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens measures 10cm.

Day 5

Aunty J picked us up at the hotel and drove us to the Butterfly Gardens and to the Butchart Gardens where we started with an awesome and refreshing boat tour.

What a beautiful day Mama D, Aunty  J and I had at the Butchart Gardens.

What a beautiful day Mama D, Aunty J and I had at the Butchart Gardens.

It was a very hot day, especially in the sunken garden but it was worth it. We were parked in the rabbit section: how cool on such a hot day! We ended the day with a stop at Aunty J’s house where we ate cherries and blueberries watching hummingbirds and admiring her collection of wooden mechanical toys. We had the chance to hear her better half play an original song on the piano for us!

The Best Western Premier Prestige in Sooke, BC on Vancouver Island is one place Dami and I would love to stay at one day.

The Best Western Premier Prestige in Sooke, BC on Vancouver Island is one place Dami and I would love to stay at one day.

Day 6

We booked a private all day guided tour with Trev’s Adventure Tours of Victoria and it gave us a better idea of what Victoria and its surrounding was. We saw some neighborhoods around Victoria and went to many places tour buses don’t go. We had a picnic at the Lagoon behind Hatley Castle watching birds and later visited – among other places – the Best Western Premier Prestige hotel in Sooke where DD and Dami would love to stay at one day.

The very popular Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia.

The very popular Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia.

Day 7

Our last day was spent visiting Craigdarroch Castle, Government’s House’s Gardens, another lunch at the Green Cuisine Restaurant at Market Square on Johnson Street, and lastly we took a boat taxi ride to Fisherman’s Wharf and we walked back to the hotel.

Another popular place to visit in Victoria, BC is Fisherman's Wharf where more than 30 permanent residents live in boat houses.

Another popular place to visit in Victoria, BC is Fisherman’s Wharf where more than 30 permanent residents live in boat houses.

What a nice trip! We could’ve have easily spent another week as there were more places to visit but it will have to be another time. We loved our hotel and loved the city. Our room was facing the harbor where we saw the Harbor Air planes, the boat taxis, the ferries from Washington USA, the Empress Hotel lit up at night, the seagull families on the roof of the hotel across the street, the fireworks on August 3rd, and the beautiful sunrise. We loved Victoria, BC and will return one day!

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A Beautiful Day to Fly to Victoria, British Columbia

By DD - Last updated: Saturday, August 16, 2014
DD and Mama D on the Air Canada Express flight from Vancouver to Victoria BC: the smallest plane we've ever taken.

DD and Mama D on the Air Canada Express flight from Vancouver to Victoria BC: the smallest plane we’ve ever taken.

They were calling for thunderstorms but fortunately the risks had disappeared by the morning and we were able able to fly! No delays, no glitches, it was a perfect trip. I (DD) met Mama D in Montreal and we flew to Victoria, British Columbia where the weather was warm and not too humid. The isolated picnic bag was great to have and I was even able to get ice at the shop past security. From home, I used frozen peas to keep the sandwiches cool; what a great idea!

We flew with Air Canada on this Express plane from Vancouver to Victoria, British Columbia. It was a short fifteen minute flight.

We flew with Air Canada on this Express plane from Vancouver to Victoria, British Columbia. It was a short fifteen minute flight.

The flight from Vancouver to Victoria was 15 minutes and the view was the best I had since Hawaii! It took no more than 10 minutes to get our suitcases, and then we got our tickets for the YYJ shuttle which was a deal considering they bring you straight to your hotel (79$ return for 2). The ride was nice and so was the driver who described the scenery all along the way.

The view from our flight from Vancouver to Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada

The view from our flight from Vancouver to Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada

We got an early check-in at Harbour Towers Hotel and fortunately our room was ready! We have booked a King bedroom suite with a harbor view and got exactly what we wanted! We enjoyed listening to the sound of the seagulls and the boats and hydroplanes.

Mama D resting on the balcony after a long day of flights across Canada

Mama D resting on the balcony after a long day of flights across Canada

We went grocery shopping at Thrifty foods and took a cab back. I made a delicious bolognese pasta sauce, prepared our lunches for the next day, made pancakes for breakfast and we went to bed at 8 PST which is 11 for Mama D and midnight for DD. What a long day! We woke up the next day at 5am before sunrise and had a good needed restful sleep.

We took a cab back to the hotel with our grocery bags.

We took a cab back to the hotel with our grocery bags. Out of 85 cab drivers with Bluebird Cab Taxis, we had this driver 3 times!

 

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