Colour! Motion! Wild Life!

2 June 2023 – West from home today, into Pacific Spirit Park on the University Endowment Lands — 55 km of trails woven through 874 hectares of forest, bog, cliff and beach.

Amidst the grandeur, small perfect cameos.

The bold colours today, of an old burn…

the swirl of a dancing tree root…

and — we are in a forest after all — a resident brown bear.

Oh, all right. He came later.

The Basics

31 May 2023 – Forest. Water. Sunlight.

Sasamat Lake Trail, Belcarra Regional Park, Port Moody BC.

Umbrellas / 9.3 / Umbrellas

28 May 2023 – As in: umbrellas to start, then 9.3 km of downtown walkabout, and umbrellas to finish.

We agree to meet under the umbrellas that, with seasonal variations, make a canopy for Bill Curtis Square right behind the Yaletown-Roundhouse station for Skytrain.

We have only one destination in mind — a specific café considerably off to the north-west of our current False Creek-ish location, overlooking Coal Harbour on Burrard Inlet. Apart from that… well, let curiosity and our impulsive feet set our path.

Feet lead us north on Hamilton Street, among old Yaletown warehouse complexes now spiffily repurposed — as are the railway ties that now serve as benches along the way. Doubly repurposed: old growth forest timbers cut into railway ties, then repurposed for structural use in these warehouses, and now re-repurposed into handsome benches.

My friend’s back informs us that the decorative metal support is at exactly the right angle for lumbar comfort.

North of Nelson, tiny Yaletown Park — just 0.17 hectare (= 0.4 acre = ohhhh, handkerchief size), and proof that tiny downtown parkettes punch ‘way above their weight. A few towering horse chestnut trees, a few old concrete chunks repurposed as benches; that’s all, and it’s welcoming, calming, silent.

Twice as large & exponentially more dramatic, sθәqәlxenәm ts’exwts’áxwi7 — or, Rainbow Park — at Smithe & Richards is the City’s newest park. Website bumf proclaims it is “a park of the future, with innovative design, dynamic play areas, art installations, and multi-dimensional walkways that go far beyond the traditional concept of a park.” PR language if ever you read it… and, you know what? they’re right. This park is all of that. We wandered its levels, as entranced as any child, and revelled in the interaction of ages, cultures and interests, all welcome and all accommodated.

Still on Richards & approaching West Georgia, more downtown amusement through more downtown interplay, this time of building design, plantings and reflections. We know we’re supposed to hate English Ivy for its destructive ways with building surfaces… but, damn, it looks so good.

From macro to micro, from decorative to utilitarian: a worker above Granville at West Hastings shows a cranky traffic light who’s boss.

On & around & on some more & finally west along Burrard Inlet into the Coal Harbour area. Lunch, coffee and a nod to the Coal Harbour Marina…

as we reverse gears: from zigzag north-west to zigzag south-east, starting right here on Nicola Street.

Fresh baby-spring leaves, glowing in the afternoon sun…

and, one block farther south, a fresh new condo building mural (The Light Beyond the Mountains, KC Hall).

My friend peels off once we hit Pacific Blvd — places to go, things to do — but I saunter on.

Down through Sunset Beach Park, north side of False Creek, for yet another look at my all-time favourite Vancouver Biennale sculpture: 217.5 Arc X 13 by French artist Bernar Venet (no “d”, it really is Bernar). With the Burrard Bridge as background.

On along the False Creek seawall, into George Wainborn Park, full of grass and trees and shrubs and plantings and a handsome water feature, with another dramatic apartment-tower mural to set it all off.

The sign warns us that “this decorative water feature is not intended for human access.” The gull is doubly indifferent. He can’t read and, anyway, he’s not human.

I am human, and I keep my hands and feet where they belong.

Which is to wander yet more of the seawall before cutting back north to Pacific Blvd, where it intersects with Davie Street.

I wave fingers at those umbrellas, tucked away behind the Skytrain station…

and hop a bus for home.

3 X “The Big 2-4”

22 May 2023 — It’s the last day of the 24th of May holiday weekend, indelibly rebranded for me as “the big 2-4” after I heard two laughing teenagers refer to it that way.

I celebrate with a walk a day, nothing huge, just 6K or so each time, but satisfying, and — it turns out — with some similarities:

  • each begins at a scenic waterfront attraction to the west: Granville Island, on False Creek; Devonian Harbour Park, on Coal Harbour, south shore of Burrard Inlet; Dundarave Park, on the north shore of Burrard Inlet in West Vancouver, west of Lions Gate Bridge
  • each leads me initially eastward along a seawall bordering the water: False Creek South Seawall; Coal Harbour Seawall; Centennial Seawall
  • each has me, at some point, turning inland to pavement and other options.

And each is entirely satisfying. Big vistas with all three — oh, these west-coast mountain/seascapes — and happy people who take it all in as they walk/bike/skateboard/kayak their way through the day.

I revel in it, I gawk at it, and in the end I am most touched by three very small side-moments in all that splendour.

Fresh off my ferry ride to Granville Island on Saturday, I pause a moment at the top of the ramp. The “ferry dock” inscription is faded to near-invisibility, but the upright beams nicely frame a pillar of the art deco Burrard Bridge beyond.

But while that pleases me, it’s not what touches me. What touches me is the busker under the red tent kiosk on the right. Nobody pays any attention to her, as they mill around, but I sit and listen. Her instrument is an Andean panpipe, and she is playing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The haunting melody drifts past me on the wind, and I supply the words in my mind. “I heard there was a secret chord / that David played and it pleased the Lord…” Surely David also played it on a panpipe, the way I am hearing it today.

Sunday has me hop a bus to the very edge of Stanley Park, where I drop down through Devonian Harbour Park to Coal Harbour. This stretch of Burrard Inlet is named for the viable coal seams they thought they’d discovered, c. 1860 — not so, but the area later prospered through ship building before becoming parkland and residential/commercial.

I’m just off the bus when I stop flat to admire this sculpture. No. Not the sculpture, though it deserves admiration. The title describes it: Search, by J. Seward Johnson Jr., is a full-size bronze figure of a woman looking for something in her purse.

What stops me is that flower. Someone has carefully placed a parrot tulip blossom in the opening of her purse. The blossom has faded a bit by now; the tribute is still fresh.

What a start to my walk!

Today, Monday, I hop two buses for the longer trek right through the city, on through Stanley Park, across Lions Gate Bridge to the north shore and on west to Dundarave Park in West Vancouver. It’s a cool (16C), cloudy, blustery day — perfect atmospherics for the large-scale drama of this waterfront. Huge timbers hurled in by the ocean, boulders and rocks and stones, beach pea and other rugged first colonizers, freighters in the “parking lot” awaiting their turn to carry on to the Port, mountains as backdrop, wheeling gulls and crows, even a pair of bald-headed eagles. All of that.

And, yet again, I am stopped flat by an unexpected detail, a micro in all that macro. This time it is near the end of my seawall walk, but once more it is a human figure.

Note that use of language. I didn’t say “human,” did I? I said, “a human figure.” On Granville Island, the figure is human-human; in Devonian Harbour Park, the figure is bronze-human. This time… it is wooden-human. Driftwood-human.

See? There on the left. A hiker has paused in front of Lions Gate Bridge to admire the view, right hand to right hip and left hand to left kneecap. (Admittedly headless, but accidents happen.) On the right, a unicorn (perhaps) has also paused, to keep Headless Hiker company…

No, not constructed. I look it over and can find no carving, no joins.

I am so amused by this, it makes up for the lack of salmon burgers in the café where I finally stop for lunch.

Beauty, High & Low

18 May 2023 — High, low, all around.

Beauty high,…

the Greenheart TreeWalk , snaking its way through the forest canopy of the UBC Botanical Garden

and beauty low…

a shadow fern, keeping a real fern company on a rock down there at ground level.

Read, Scuff — the rest of the story

15 May 2023 – Remember this street corner?

You met it last post, when I started scuffing back into visibility a poetic sentence that began in a loop there on the corner, and then straightened out to run north on St. Geroge.

I read/scuffed/read/scuffed this much:

“Listen the buried stream gurgles its longing to return to daylight & moonlight…”

I ended with three dots, convinced there was more to find, north on St. George, but my scuffing foot was getting cranky. I promised to return, and look for the rest.

And I do!

I walk prudently in shade, in today’s oppressive heat, as laser bursts of sunlight break through the trees’ protective cover.

Back at the St. George / East 11th corner, I discover my scuffing foot will have no excuse for crankiness today: wind seems to have cleared all the litter from the stretch of sidewalk I still want to read.

You see? We are picking up where we left off, with that word “moonlight” closest to my feet.

I walk on.

to nourish





& you

The complete sentence:

“Listen the buried stream gurgles its longing to return to daylight & moonlight to nourish ducks bracken ferns salmonberry & you”

I find this hauntingly beautiful, magical. It brings powerfully to mind an equally anonymous artistic impulse I encountered in Toronto — the Stealth Art Collective — whose tributes i used to find out on Leslie Spit. I am sorry to see that their latest post is dated July 2022.Click on the blog anyway; it is worth the visit.

May the Collective return! And, if it never does, my thanks for all that it added, in words and transient art installations, to the Spit over many years.

Read, Scuff, Read, Scuff (Repeat)

12 May 2023 – I’m walking north on St. Geroge through residential Mount Pleasant, just about to cross East 11th. Quietly friendly and human-scale heritage homes; warming temperatures; the season moving from cherry blossoms (now carpeting the ground, not trees) to showy Iceland poppies.

Important further information, for what is about to happen: this area slopes northward to what was the natural end of False Creek before all the infill took place, and many now-buried streams lie beneath these streets, still part of an invisible watershed.

I’m looking about happily as I walk. I almost don’t look down, just there on that far corner.

But then I do. And, only faintly, faint enough & further camouflaged by dappled light & fallen blossoms that I have to squint and blink at it, I see one word inscribed — how long ago? — into still-fresh cement in a neat cursive hand.

The word is…


There must be more, I think, and i start to scuff dead cherry blossoms out of the way.

There is more! The words first spiral around the fatter space of the street corner, then carry on, straight-line, north on St. George.

the buried

It is so hard to read! I keep scuffing, keep guessing, keep reading.




longing to




& moonlight

Dot-dot-dot, because there is more. I’m pretty sure there is more. But that next stretch of sidewalk is encrusted with muck and yet more cherry bloom litter. Ya basta for now.

I’ll return, I will. And I’ll share the rest of the message with you.

Meanwhile, let’s all honour that hidden stream by enjoying our own daylight & moonlight. Let’s enjoy them like crazy!

Because we can, and it no longer has that privilege.

GOA: Bob, JB Fletcher, an Angel, a Crow, some Bare Feet and a Dog

11 May 2023 – Yes, all of that — plus a go-round with airport security in Cranbrook that ends in laughter.

Exploration and chit-chat in Nelson, and the very next day we meet Bob. Well, BOB. In a manner of speaking.

BOB is the Big Orange Bridge that spans the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, and carries traffic up and down the main body of the lake. We are grateful for it, don’t get me wrong, and enjoy the nickname, but still — eyeing the colour scheme — think it might more accurately be called the Big Orange (Mostly) Bridge. Except then the acronym is BOMB. So maybe not such a good idea.

By whatever name or colour scheme, BOB does its job, and we drive on up the lake with two destinations in mind. First, Ainsworth Hot Springs, home to my vague memories of an actual soak in the springs so long ago, and then on to Kaslo, where I have no memories at all but we have a lunch-spot recommendation.

Ainsworth is not large, and we are immediately drawn to the JB Fletcher General Store (this photo courtesy of the tourist board, and thank you).

It is now a not-for-profit museum, and we’re tipped to this fact by the large poster in the front window.

We study it, and upon entry praise it to the young woman who greets us. She beams: she is the museum’s volunteer curator, and one of the people who slogged through the restoration that helped bring an 1896 general store, closed and abandoned in 1973, back to life. Though abandoned, it had not been ransacked, and once determined citizens (starting with Fletcher’s daughter) got the campaign going, they had all the original materials (floors, counters, shelving, gas lights, coffee grinder, etc) still in place.

We enjoy the visit, stuff a donation in the box, and walk on up to the hot springs resort.

I recognize nothing, and don’t mind. The springs are now enclosed in a sleek but simple &welcoming resort complex, owned and operated by the Yagan Nukly people (the Lower Kootenay Band of Creston BC). We don’t visit the hot springs themselves, we don’t even stay to eat lunch. We do — as travellers sometimes must — ask for the washrooms.

Where, on the toilet stall doors, we discover this: a poster explaining the Angel Shot.

We’d never heard of it. We are impressed. My friend immediately took a picture to share with restaurant-owner friends in Fernie. Please follow her example, help spread the practice.

Our goal in Kaslo is pretty simple-minded. Have lunch! Oh, and, walk its streets.

Lunch at Bluebelles is everything my friend’s source has promised. After that, we’re all set to go walk-abouts. It takes us lake-side, where I am promptly captivated by the sight of a steamship, up in dry dock at water’s edge. Memories of RMS Segwun, in Gravenhurst Ontario!

Here, it’s the SS Moyie, the oldest known intact vessel of her type in the world.

She was launched in 1898 as the Canadian Pacific Railway’s first “Crow boat,” to carry passengers on to Nelson from Kootenay Landing, the terminus for their Crowsnest line. She served in various capacities until 1957, was sold to the City of Kaslo in 1958 for exactly $1.00, and pulled up into dry dock.

Now a heritage site and under constant care, she is open to visitors through the summer season. But not yet, not while we’re there, so we admire from the sidewalk and trace the signs of her history: the pier, disappearing now beneath the surface of the lake…

and the old railway station and a vintage caboose.

Back to Nelson, and, the next day, out of Nelson and finally off to Fernie.

First the ferry across Kootenay Lake (judged part of the highway, therefore free)…

then a stop in Crawford Bay, on the east side of the lake, to enjoy the beauty and craftsmanship of the Barefoot Handweaving Studio/Gallery…

and then drive-drive-drive, and suddenly we are only 93 km from Fernie.

Or, as we discover once in town, FURnie.

Not the only sign to amuse us along the way. We remember Sew It Seams (fabric accessories) in Nelson, and Yack and Whack (hair salon) in Kaslo…

We walk around town, my friend fascinated to see its transitional spring-time face. She and her husband winter here, and are usually back in eastern Canada by this time of year. So… Fernie without snow? It’s a whole new world.

Up on the mountain complex of the Fernie Alpine Resort, for example, where the past season’s ski posters show their age…

and will soon be replaced by hiking signage. Most chairs are already off the various ski lifts, lined up for servicing, and the lifts themselves are under inspection.

We kick back for a couple of days, and then it’s time for me to head home. My friend drives me to the Cranbrook airport, where we discover that — oops — my gift jar of Haskap compote, purchased back at Thomasina’s in Princeton, counts as a liquid and exceeds airport security limits. Fortunately, my friend lingers at the security doorway. Much laughter as the security staff hand it over to her, and we tell her she is damn lucky this particular limitation is still in place.

The trip had lots of laugher. I’m happy to leave from an airport small enough, with personnel humane enough, to keep the laughter still part of it.

Footnote: my most excellent friend did not scarf down the compote! She swaddled it carefully, and mailed it to me. Canada Post delivered it, intact. I handed it over to its intended recipient, intact.

More laughter.

GOA: Murals, Stained Glass, Urban Myth & Art-Deco Dentistry in Nelson

7 May 2023 – – And now here we are in Nelson, tucked up in a verandah-graced unit in a heritage building just off the busy energy of Baker Street. I’m trying to sort out my memories of Nelson and realize I’m not sure I have any — which is pretty well a sure sign that I don’t. I do remember a visit to the “Hot Rats” (aka Hot Ratulations, aka Ainsworth Hot Springs) back in 1980 or so, when my partner and I visited his sister at her back-to-the-land homestead on the east side of Kootenay Lake. But did we spend time in Nelson?

One shake of the head tells me it doesn’t matter; I am here now. And it is sunny and mild outside, and we are bouncing to explore.

Happy chance lands us in Herridge Lane, running between main-drag Baker and uphill Victoria streets, from roughly where we’re staying until the lane bumps into a mountain and can’t go any farther. Mountains are part of the deal, this is more or less a city terraced up its mountain slopes, and staircases abound. Today, we roam horizontally, not vertically.

Herridge Lane rewards us.

A young man pulls in to park, just as I take a photo of this charming mural wrapping an entire small laneway building, charming because of the way mother & baby animals touch noses at the corners.

Young Man is eyeing us in a friendly but speculative way. We chin-point to the mural. “Love it!!” we say. He beams. “There are lots of murals in this lane, just keep going. And… thanks. This building, this mural, is mine.” We idly ask his business. “Cannabis,” he says. It’s a factual statement, no particular inflection.

He says no more about that, but does tell us about “underground Nelson.” He’s only lived here 7 years, he warns us, he isn’t sure of all this, but… “Apparently the original Nelson is now underground and this Nelson is build on top of it. Dunno… some mud slide, or flood, or something? I heard there used to be underground tours…”

We tuck this away for later investigation. Meanwhile, we stick to what we can see, right here on the surface. This doorway, for example, next to Cannabis Man’s office building, with its evergreens and wildflowers…

and, a block or so farther long, the whole back wall of the Capitol Theatre, with old show ads and additional murals like this one.

Other people chance-met at street crossings encourage us to keep going. “More in the next block!” says one fellow whose pony-tail may be silver-white,but is still thick and shining. He’s more sure of the murals than he is of underground Nelson. “Yeah… heard something like that…”

Ohhh, never mind. What we see right here above ground is plenty, all of it informed by laneway context.

Stickers on a rusty stand pipe…

a duck flying into some gas (hydro?) meters…

leaving behind a whole dancing choreography of artwork, wooden crates & doorway.

Dapper Dan twirls his cane above a pick-up truck…

and Pensive Paul slouches against the wall as he contemplates eternity (or, more likely, the smart phone in his hands).

We veer onto Victoria Street for a while, then rejoin Herridge Lane for the bit we had missed.

It rewards us with this glorious stained-glass greenhouse (built by a man who used to do set-design in Vancouver, we are told by a cheerful fellow clearing brush nearby)…

and then, in Hall St. Plaza where Hall butts into the Lane, with Dancing Woman as happy companion to a couple of Coffee-Break Women (who gave permission to be photographed).

A few blocks checking out Baker Street, where we discover that this 1933 Scandinavian Church is now a dental clinic…

and a smiling young woman climbing the steps tells us, “It almost makes me happy to keep an appointment.”

Across the street, the signboard for AFKO, Association des francophones des Kootenays Ouest…

which is a reminder, as are the diverse skin tones and accents all around us, of the many cultures that call this area home. Prospectors up from the USA in USA in 1886; incorporation in 1897 as Nelson (after a typical fuss about which British Big-Wig name to choose); and more arrivals ever since.

And, of course, before all that, some 10,000 years as home to the Ktunaxa, Saixt and SyiLx indigenous peoples.

A few more murals, an afternoon visit to the #23 streetcar museum on Kootenay Lake…

and a conversation with a life-long Nelson resident, and streetcar museum volunteer. We quiz him about the streetcar, and then about Underground Nelson. He chortles. Some wet patches in the lower reaches of some old buildings, he says; people like to call them underground rivers, but really — dramatic pause — they’re sewers. More laughter.

Ah well. Every city needs an urban myth or two.

We eat splendid thali dishes from a Baker St. South Indian restaurant for dinner, and plan the next day’s GOA. It will take us up-lake to Ainsworth & Kaslo.

GOA: Rocks, Rivers, & Hand Rolled Ice Cream

5 May 2023 – GOA, as in “Girls’ Own Adventure” — a cross-BC road trip worthy of the Boy’s Own and Girl’s Own papers whose plucky content entertained British youth from the 1880s to the mid 20th century.

Our Adventure ran from Sidney (Vancouver Island) to Fernie (nearish the Alberta border). According to online metrics, this amounts to 1,003 km and 12 hours 13 minutes of ferocious driving.

Or, alternately, a week of relaxed driving.

In our case, several days on Vancouver Island; a night in Princeton in the Similkameen Valley (which I described in a post about an earlier visit); and three more days around Nelson in the Kootenay Valley, before finally puttering on through Cranbrook to Fernie.

All the way: towering mountains, tumbling rivers, valleys flaunting orchards/vineyards/cattle/sheep. Also all the way: snapshot moments.

Here are some of those moments, Vancouver Island to Nelson.

On the Island, the rocks, driftwood and rolling waves of French Beach Park, down on the Strait of Juan de Fuca…

and my souvenir from that bit of beach-combing: nature’s own arrangement of seashell clasped by seaweed, later sewn into my hat by a kind and skilled Island friend.

Later that day, the Kinsol Trestle, just north of Shawnigan Lake. Originally a railroad trestle, now part of Canada’s Great Trail from sea-to-sea-to-sea, it still spans the Koksilah River and it is still one of the world’s tallest free-standing timber trestle structures, at 187 m. long and 44 m. high.

We ferry back to the BC mainland, and take the Trans-Canada Highway east to Hope, where we join Highway 3, aka Crowsnest Highway (for the Crowsnest Pass, at the Continental Divide by the Alberta border). With only minor deviations on subroutes, we will follow the Crowsnest all the way to Fernie.

Through Manning Park, with mist thick on those Cascade Mountains…

then — after a night in Princeton and breakfast at Thomasina’s (where we eat well and discover Haskap-berry compote) — on along the highway as it follows the Similkameen River…

and later, same highway, but now following the Kettle River,in the Kettle Valley and into the town of Midway.

We’re in Frank Carpenter Park, where, as you see above, somebody has thoughtfully protected one of the trees with a blue face mask. Somebody else, more official and more to the point, seeks to protect human beings with this warning attached to the hiker’s etiquette checklist:

We do not meet a bear. We do drive on to Grand Forks, where, to celebrate sunshine and warmth, we decide to search out an ice cream cone. We ask a couple of passing women for advice; they reply, “Market Place Ice Cream.” We follow their directions. It’s past a bunch of plastic, next to more plastic, but… ooooo…. looks promising.

Inside, I see waffle cones are available, and that’s as exotic as I know how to get. My friend — who has bothered to read the list of offerings — instead asks for hand-rolled ice cream. Chocolate, please.

“Hand rolled”???

I watch the process in amazement, and bless the fact that she ordered first. I will definitely switch my own order.

First, the cheerful woman spills the cream and fresh-grated chocolate (Callebaut, thank you very much) onto her cold plate, and starts vigorously mixing the ingredients with two ulu-shaped knives.

Once the mixture has thickened and hardened exactly just enough, she spreads it into roughly rectangular shape, neatly divides the rectangle into four strips, and rolls them up. Here she is rolling the final, fourth segment, with the third roll just visible on the lower right.

Next she stands the rolls tidily upright in a bowl and — since enough is never enough — adds real whipped cream and more chocolate sprinkles.

Et voilà.

We are awe-struck. This turns out to be the only ice cream we eat all trip. What else could compete?

After that, we drive on very happily to Nelson, tucked on the west arm of Kootenay Lake. It will be our home for the next few days.


    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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