“We’re going to Swan Lake,” I tell my husband as I grab my keys and diaper bag.
“Where?” he asks, a puzzled look on his face.
“The nature sanctuary, not the ballet,” I say.
We’ve driven past the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary a zillion times since moving here. Often I’ve seen the sign and thought “we should check it out” but there’s always been something else to do. Then one of the other moms from Sunshine’s school suggested taking the younger kids there after dropping the older kids off at school. Swan Lake is halfway between our place and school, so it worked perfectly for us.
We arrived there at 9 am. Lily was just as excited and curious as I was. Actually, I was almost laughing at her excitement. It made me happy too because we haven’t done much hiking yet this year but I want to do more. Lily could barely wait for me to get Jade into the Ergo carrier, much less wait for our friends to arrive from the school drop-off. To distract her, I suggested we look for birds in the trees. Then we did a short loop near the parking lot. Finally, when she said she had to go potty, we went to find the Nature House.
Lily and Jade were both delighted with the Nature House. There were stuffed birds for them to look at, a turtle in a tank, and birds’ nests to hold. Lily looked down at a large map of Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary and Christmas Hill, tracing her fingers along the trails and saying, “We should go hike there.” She peered through a set of binoculars at pictures of birds around the lake. Jade also wanted to explore and touch everything.
In a few minutes, our friends arrived. We bought some duck food and headed back out to the lake.
We found a small dock with an octagonal bench in the middle of it. The kids began tossing the flattened oats to the ducks, who flew up onto the boards to eat. Then we walked along the edge of the lake, on a boardwalk through willows, to the bridge over the lake. More Mallards followed us here, swimming in the water by the bridge or waddling along the bridge behind us to pick up oats the kids had dropped.
We also saw a pair of Canada geese, a red-wing blackbird, a grey heron, swallows, and a few other birds. Further along the trail, we found a small slug on a leaf eating away. We let the kids pick dandelions, but we also saw other wild flowers, including cattails and horsetails.
Across the lake from the Nature House, we found another dock or viewpoint on the lake. I stopped to nurse Jade, who was getting a bit tired of riding in the Ergo behind me. The kids fed some more of their oats to the mallards who flapped over to see what we were doing. They pretended to be riding a train on one of the benches while one of my friends took pictures of them (these photos are all hers—I didn’t have my camera that day).
We continued our walk around the lake, making sure to keep the kids close to us. We encouraged them to “buddy up” and hold hands. Lily, whose default pace is a jog, wanted to go further ahead. Jade, now in the Ergo in front of me, fell asleep.
The trail wound through the trees, up and over some rocks to a viewpoint of the lake from the top of the hill, then sloped down through a meadow towards some spreading willow trees. One of my friends shared her memories of coming here as a kid with her brother. I had to speed-walk to catch up to Lily, who was running ahead while singing “Let it go, let it go…”
We made it back to the Nature House to use the washrooms again. Then we went down to the lake one last time to feed the ducks the rest of the oats. Finally, as Jade’s naptime approached, we said goodbye to the ducks and the lake and promised we’d be back again soon.
Getting there: Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary is located just off Highway 17 and MacKenzie Ave in Victoria, BC. There are clear signs and parking is free.
Baby-friendly: Parts of the trail are wheelchair and stroller accessible. If you want to do the whole loop around the lake, however, I’d recommend a baby carrier as it gets narrow on the other side.
Kid-friendly: There was lots to see along the hike. The girls enjoyed feeding the ducks while we visited. And the Nature House offered plenty opportunities to explore further and learn more.
For more information, drop by the website.