Among our family and friends Tom is famous for his bear-went-over-the-mountain style of travel.
Pick any trip we’ve taken and there’s a story to go with it of him standing on a beach pointing across a body of water, or up at some remote peak of a mountain range and saying “let’s try to get to there.” These days he finds such places even before we leave home by way of Google Earth. So occasionally I’m somewhat prepared.
Needless to say, we’ve thrashed through a lot of trail-less wilderness and scrambled a lot of surf-slicked boulders trying to get back before the tide catches us. We’ve spent whole days digging the truck out of the sand near Loreto, waved sheepishly at surprised loggers on large machinery in Montana, almost perished from aching arm muscles during a squall on Hood Canal and severely shortened the usable life of a rental car on the east coast of Baja.
Getting through the hair-raising part has usually led to a great experience. We’ve camped on gorgeous remote beaches, swam with puffer fish, hauled home beautiful blue-green stones to add to a new walk way.
In Victoria earlier this month I inadvertently set Tom off on another “what’s-out-there” tour when I expressed the desire to walk along the sea wall where the piper used to stand to welcome the Princess Marguerite.
He didn’t believe that last part. And judging from my fruitless Google search for proof, I may have dreamed the scene. But he’s there, in my memory, a lone figure standing at attention at the end of the breakwater as we sailed by leaning on the brass railings of that majestic old ship, accompanied by the mournful tones of that oddest of instruments. (I’m part Scots. I love the bag pipe. And my Uncle David, who for years marched in a pipe band wearing a badger skin and a base drum, says the bagpipe was introduced into every country at some time in history. The Scots just never got the joke.)
So with a free afternoon in Vic, after we’d seen all the boats in the Classic Boat Show, we climbed in the car and drove along the southern edge of the Inner Harbor, meandering between high-rise hotels and condos, aiming generally seaward. Together we have a pretty good sense of direction and before long the piers and warehouses of Ogden Point hove into view and just beyond them, the breakwater.
I insisted we walk out the top of the wall, sure that once we got to the end there’d be some way to climb down to the lower blocks where the surf was breaking. And I was right, and the walk back was a lot of fun, dodging flying spume, watching diver’s bubbles rising from the depths, laying on warm granite in the lee of the wall to gaze balefully out at the Whale Watch boats rushing past.
But before that we stood at the end of the breakwater, beside the lighthouse and looked around.
I saw the Olympic Mountains across the Strait and the city at the other end of the harbor. Meanwhile, Tom pointed across the harbor mouth at a rocky shoreline dotted with ramshackle houses and said, “I wonder if we can get out there.”
I rolled my eyes. “Of course we can get out there. That’s the end of Esquimalt. We take the Johnson Street bridge, it’s just a couple of blocks down from the hotel. In fact, I’ve been wanting to go out there to see Dockside Green.”
To which he replied: “Say what?”
And that’s how we ended up exploring Esquimalt Sunday morning, that and trying to find an alternative to our hotel’s lukewarm continental breakfast.