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Natural wonders on the Galloping Goose Trail in B.C.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) sponsored my participation in this campaign. All opinions are my own.

SOOKE, B.C. – The Grand Canyon sounds pretty darn grand. The Rocky Mountains conjure up images of stark, rugged peaks and picture-perfect alpine lakes in shades the Crayola crayon people never imagined. And just about everyone knows about Niagara Falls.

But even a veteran travel writer like myself was baffled and left with a blank stare on his face when someone on a trip I took to B.C. last year with Tourism Vancouver Island said we would be visiting the Sooke Potholes. Being a polite Canadian and all, I just nodded my head and said, “Sure, if you represent the tourist board and you want me to see some potholes, I guess they’re pretty good ones.”

Riding the Galloping Goose Trail on Vancouver Island. – JIM BYERS PHOTO

We were on a tour of Sooke B.C., (a wonderful community just west of Victoria on Vancouver Island and definitely the sort of place travel folks like to call a “hidden gem”) and were heading out to explore an old train line that used to run between Victoria and Sooke. It’s called the Galloping Goose Trail, and it’s now a well-maintained (but not paved, at least not all of it) route that’s wildly popular with walkers, hikers and cyclists. We were on a tour of Sooke using electric bicycles provided by Rush Adventures. Sooke and Victoria being somewhat hilly, the electric part came in handy more than once.

We slowly made our way through leafy forests east of Sooke. It was a cool but sunny day, with the spring sun slanting through the greenery overhead, deer browsing through the underbrush and birds chirping in the trees. We passed small ranches with horses and then made our way over a fantastic, curving wooden bridge that crosses a deep valley.

The Galloping Goose Trail runs through lovely forested areas from Victoria to Sooke, B.C. – JIM BYERS PHOTO

We also found an abandoned home on a creek, which was a bit mysterious and quite cool to check out. Wildflowers were in bloom and the creek positively gurgled at us as we walked along.
But that was just the prelude. In a few minutes we came to a parking lot and rested our bikes. After a short walk (maybe 50 feet) we stood at a viewing station, peering down at a series of beautiful pools and waterfalls that spilled down a narrow canyon, with deep black rock and pure water and towering pines.

Maybe it’s me, but if I’m in the business of promoting Sooke to visitors I’d petition the government to change the name. I mean, calling these things potholes is like suggesting the Grand Canyon is a run-of-the-mill ditch.

They don’t have a sexy name, but the Sooke Potholes are a marvellous feature of Vancouver Island. – JIM BYERS PHOTO

You can’t go wrong with the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Victoria-Colwood if you want to try the trail, as the property is literally a stone’s throw away. You’re also in a great spot for exploring both Sooke and the better-known charms of downtown Victoria, which is only a few km’s away.

Located a short drive east of Sooke, with great access to both Sooke and Victoria, the hotel features large, stylish rooms with bright splashes of colour that give the place a boutique feel.

All rooms feature deluxe bed linens and a wide range of amenities to make you feel at home, including an in-room refrigerator, coffee-make, microwave, iron and ironing board and hairdryer. Wi-Fi is free, as are local calls. And you can catch the big game on the 42-inch flat panel television.

Rooms are spacious and comfortable at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Victoria-Colwood.

A lot of cool hotels I stay in have lovely décor and fancy bath products. But not enough have the kind of space I need on the road. That’s not a problem at Holiday Inn Express and Suites, which are built for both families and working business people. You’ll find plenty of storage and desk space to go with the TV and other bonus features, so it’s a great spot for road warriors and family vacationers alike.

There’s also free breakfast, including eggs, turkey sausage, hot and cold cereals, pastries and a pancake machine that kids (okay, and some of us adults) love. Not to mention free coffee in the lobby all day long, an indoor and outdoor pool and a fitness centre that’s open 24/7.

The apple pie is both immense and incredibly tasty at Mom’s Cafe in Sooke, B.C. – JIM BYERS PHOTO

Victoria is the best-known city in the region, but there’s plenty to
like in the nearby town of Sooke. Mom’s Café makes apple pies the size of a basketball, with around 50 apples per pie. The pastry is flaky and wonderful and the apples have just the right cinnamon kick. They also make creamy chocolate pies and lemon meringue pies with waves of meringue piled on high.

Closer to the Sooke Potholes attraction, where we rented our bikes, is a fine dining spot on a pretty bay called Stickleback West Coast Eatery. Try a burger or fish tacos with one of Vancouver Island’s fine craft beers and soak up the atmosphere on the patio.

Sooke also is home to the Seaweed Lady, aka Diane Bernard. She makes organic facial and skin products out of nutrient rich seaweed she harvests at low tide and sells them under the Seaflora label.

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