With the students back at UVic, I thought it would be a good time to focus on one of the most amazing little getaways in the whole city. Just at the back of Parking Lot One, off of Ring Road, is a whole other world where it feels like a chance encounter with a fairy would be more likely than with another person out for a walk. I am referring to Mystic Vale. The beautiful ravine park that stretches almost from Henderson Road to Cadboro Bay.
The name likely comes from a book about aboriginal lore by D.W. Higgins who refers to the creek winding through the bottom of the ravine as 'Mystic Spring' in his book The Mystic Spring and Other Tales of Western Life, published in 1904. While I have never walked through the park on a moonlit night, I can attest to the magical feeling of the place.
Once you have parked in Lot 1 at the far right corner, you will see a broad path leading into the trees. Shortly after you start down, there a second narrower path forks off to the left but then follows in the same direction, go this way. You will know you are in the right spot when about twenty metres later you have reached the top of a wood and earthen staircase that zig-zags down the side of the vale. While on the day that I went this week the creek was dry, generally when you get to the bottom you are greeted by the gurgling of the creek and you can look up as the trees seems to span over the top of the ravine creating a cathedral like space with the sun shining through the branches.
Directly across from the stairs that you will initially come down, there is another set of stairs that leads up to an open field that you can walk through back to Henderson Road. In my opinion, the nicer walk is along the creek which twists and turns among the trees. There are a couple of little bridges that cross the creek and trees that have fallen over the years in various states of decay. Near the end of the trail you can see the dramatic impact of an invasive species, as English Ivy has covered almost every tree you can see. The path finally takes you just short of Sinclair Road, to Hobbs Road near Cadboro Village. As you walk on Hobbs, about halfway along there is another path just to your left which will take you back up to the university and eventually meet up with the Alumni Chip Trail, behind the student residences.
While the whole loop only takes about twenty-five minutes, it feels like you are getting away from the city for far longer.