Two Dozen Things We Love About This Place: A peak experience at Mount Douglas (23)

Lesia Kuzyk becomes emotional on this sunny day atop Mount Douglas when she talks about how the Saanich park rates and what it means to her and her children. It’s a place to connect with nature, explore, reflect, and rejoice.

“It’s No. 1 for me because of the wildlife we see — different bird species such as owls — and the fungus we see and the size of trees. Some of the Douglas firs down below are enormous, and then there’s Garry oak meadows, and in the spring the diversity of flower species.”

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Kuzyk, 37, hiked the mountain from the parking lot on Blenkinsop Road with her son Dawson Shepard, 7, and Rosie Shepard, 4.

“I thank Sir James Douglas for having the foresight to put this tract of land aside,” Kuzyk said. “It’s such a gem. This is my favourite place to come.”

Douglas put the land aside in 1858 as a government reserve. After 1889 it was protected as Crown land and in 1992 was transferred to the municipality of Saanich.

Ask Greater Victoria families enjoying the sunshine at the lookout, couples hiking leisurely with coffee in hand, cyclists racing up the paved road, or runners leaping up rocky outcrops toward the 213-metre peak, and many count Mount Douglas among their favourite excursions in the city.

Brenda Byrne, 50, climbs Mount Douglas weekly and says it’s her favourite natural gem in the city. She and her husband Mike Bryne, 53, enjoy the diversity of trails that range in difficulty.

Erna Beunder, 49, says Mount Tolmie can be too short a hike, whereas Mount Finlayson in Goldstream Park can be too far out from the city and too long a hike, making Mount Doug “just perfect.”

Jonathan Blokmanis, 34, takes his one-year-old daughter Alison, and three-year-old son Rowen, up the mountain through all seasons — though he prefers the sunny scrambles.

“I’d say it’s up there with all the scenic beaches Victoria has to offer and spectacular nature spots like Goldstream Park and the outlying parks. We come here all the time, rain or shine.”

Fans of Mount Douglas cite: stunning panoramic views; the close proximity to so many of the region’s neighbourhoods, the access by paved road or trails named after local pioneer families; and the diversity of plants from ferns to flowers and trees, including massive western red cedars and Douglas firs, and wildlife.

The regional park is bounded by Cordova Bay Road, Cedar Hill Road, Blenkinsop Road and a few smaller roads.

Mount Douglas is easily accessed at the foot of Shelbourne Street in Saanich, where there is parking. From there it’s a steep 1.5- kilometre drive, cycle or walk up paved Churchill Drive — closed to vehicle traffic until noon seven days a week — to the summit.

A four-year-old atop the peak for the first time exclaimed: “I can see all the countries from here. I can see Africa.” That may not be true, but one can catch views as far as the Olympic and Cascade mountains.

Kuzyk recalls a moment just after her now seven-year-old son was born. “He was six weeks old. I came up here as my first Mother’s Day and it was very special,” she said, tears welling in her eyes.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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