I grew up on the prairies. The flat lands where you can watch you dog run away...for three days! Manitoba is, largely the remains of the ancient floor of Lake Agassiz, a vast lowland that collected the run off of melting glaciers. So, if you find yourself looking down you are not so much on a hill but more likely peering into what used to be filled with water whether it was a vast inland sea or a cavernous river bed.
There are the rolling hills in the Southwest Turtle Mountains area and the buttes of Riding Mountain as one heads Northwest...The green rolling farmland near Minnedosa is truly lovely, most especially when the shadows are long in the early morning or as the sun sets on a hot prairie night. Then there are the desert-like Carberry Hills, Sand, sand everywhere! But, mostly it is flat.
The prairie's vast flat horizon offers a unique phenomenon that, I think is as much part of my soul from growing up surrounded by it as is my new surroundings that permeate my senses and heart every day. I'm talking about the "Big Sky".
Venture out on most any country road, zig zag down the quarter section roads and it doesn't take too, too long to be in the middle of nothing but miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. Farmland on all sides, flat as a pancake straight to the horizon. It is a sight to behold, this vastness of fields of grain topped by a blue dome. Do a 360 and take it in. This is the prairie Big Sky. Go to this same spot after dark, park yourself on the warm hood of your car and be struck by how small you are under all those stars. The Milky Way snaking it's way across the twinkling sea of stars. So many stars that sometimes our favorite constellations are lost in it all. The Northern Lights are a whole other kind of wonderful...maybe we'll talk about that another time.
My new home by contrast is anything but flat and totally absent of a Big Sky. It's beauty is different in every way but, no more or less so.
Climbing Mt. Work under a near full Moon, the hills shadowed in cool blue brought shivers. The feeling of isolation was also very different from the prairies. Maybe because the chances of man or beast surprising you in the middle of a quarter section is slim. Walking up a tight, irregular trial where cougars lurk is a little different...spider senses were tingling! Popping out at the top is well worth it...silent, peaceful, a little eerie but, if i had a bedroll I would have stayed the night. Maybe I'll wait for a heatwave.
Mount Douglas is a good lookout one can drive up. The summit offers up unobstructed views up the peninsula, the Alberni summit, Victoria's downtown, Sooke Hills and everything in between. Close to home is the Dominion Observatory also a drive up and a great view over Prospect Lake and a neat spot to look down on soaring Vultures and Eagles as they circle slowly in the thermals.
Mt. Finlayson is a challenging hike. I climbed it a few times when I first moved here and after a 4 year break, I revisited the 450m summit after ascending the 1.5km of swithbacky trails. The lookout is mostly great but one also has a perfect vantage point to Bear Mt. which has gone from a wild hill full of trails and no doubt bears to an overgrown, cookie cutter suburb complete with a big hotel and two golf courses...it's pretty disgusting...
So, getting up some hills is easy, others are a slog and on the way up you wonder why you're not doing something else. The reward to the chore is seeing your surroundings from a perspective not always appreciated. Not all vistas are awe inspiring or even how you expected them to be. Sometimes things are so clear you never want to come down. Go down we must and often it is easier, possibly making the next hill we must climb seem less daunting...