Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Land o' Lakes

Victoria is surrounded on three sides by the salt chuck, and a tidal stream runs through it, so it's easy to forget that we have lots of lakes in the area, too. After stopping at Esquimalt Lagoon for a while toda, I decided to take a look at three of our lakes.
Thetis Lake Campground was my first residence in the Victoria area. The campground is not on the lake but on a hillside next to it. This must be in a nearly arid microclimate because the oaks, arbutus and Douglas fir like dry soils. Thetis Lake Park has lots of trails through the hilly woodlands as well as a shoreline trail. It's hard to believe we just exited the wettest, coolest spring I can remember. So much of the soils of Victoria are thin and rocky and dry out quickly. It can pour one day and the next day you would never know it. Thetis was the Mother of Achilles and I often wonder how the lake got its name. Perhaps it was the fifty Nereids. At any rate, those ancient Grecian Goddesses were a bloodthirsty lot, often demanding victims. Maybe that's why the lake periodically takes a life. The water is shallow near the little beach but quickly drops off. Almost every year there is a drowning here.
Prospect Lake is quite different. It's not part of a park so it's surrounded by cottages. The older ones are modest but comfortable, but the newer ones have taken on airs. The little park at the north end is fine for picnicking, but the water at the end is mucky and full of alga. Today the mud was alive with bullfrog tadpoles, almost grown. They had sprouted legs but still had their tails. Hard to see, they leap into the water at my approach.
Elk Lake and Beaver Lake are popular for swimmers, canoers and fishermen. Right next to the Pat Bay highway, these connected lakes are familiar to visitors coming from the ferry or the airport. Ducks and geese are so plentiful that they raise coliform count to unacceptable levels at times, leading to closures. But most of the time the water is fine for swimming. The bass don't mind swimming in duck doo, and I saw a young guy haul in a pretty big fish one day.
Thetis Lake and Elk Lake are accessible by bus. From the bus stop by the Shell station it's about a half kilometre walk to Thetis. There's a bit of a walk from Elk Lake Road to Beaver Lake, too.
As far as I know, no bus goes by Prospect Lake, but all three of them are quite accessible by bike. Thetis Lake is right next to the Galloping Goose, and Beaver/Elk Lake can be reached in a number of ways, either along the highway or on back roads. In fact, for a fairly fit rider looking for a good workout, a nice circuit could be made of all three lakes. From Thetis Lake take the Goose to Burnside Road. Then take Prospect Lake Road. These back roads are lightly traveled but are narrow and winding, so you have to be careful about cars being driven faster than the
driver's abilities. If you then turn right at Goward, the road leads to Interurban. Turn right again and turn left on Quayle Road Which connects to Beaver Lake Road. I used to do this route pretty regularly before old age caught up with me. Wasn't going fast enough, I guess.

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