Left, Right, & Over the Tracks

1 March 2020 – I think this will work. I’m on a promising creek-side trail in the woods, there is even a finger pointing the way …

but it still seems a good idea to check.

So I ask two fellows walking the other way if I am indeed headed for the Shoreline Trail. Yes! they say: left around the tennis courts just ahead, then right-ish around the soccer field, over the tracks, and then follow the trail signs.

Works perfectly. Brisk march left / right / over the tracks; then slow-step to read the signs.

I note the bear-in-area warning; nod respectfully at the Terry Fox Training Route sign; nod equally respectfully at the Great Trail (formerly Trans Canada Trail) sign, thinking about its +24,000 km across this country; read the mudflats warning; and finally turn onto the pedestrian option on the Shoreline Trail (the paved cycling track is roughly adjacent but, in this wooded terrain, usually out of sight).

Shoreline Trail is neither long (2.3 km one way) nor difficult (mild ups & downs), but beautiful, rich in habitat, and brand new country for me. It cups the eastern end of Burrard Inlet out in Port Moody, some 20 km or so from Vancouver.

Established in 1859 as part of the colony’s defence against potential attack from the U.S. (those pesky Americans), Port Moody had brief, bustling glory when, in 1879, it was officially chosen to be the western terminus of the new Canadian Pacific Railway. Alas — especially for the speculators — the CPR soon changed its mind, and pushed on a few more kilometres west to the newly-named community of Vancouver. Port Moody is now a small city, within Metro Vancouver.

Given all this, I am not surprised to learn there is a plaque in town to commemorate the city’s one-time status as western terminus of the railway — but no plaque to honour William Van Horne, the imperious CPR president who, by his route choices, determined the fate of so many communities.

That’s history, back in horizontal time. I re-immerse myself in vertical time, the here-and-now of the Trail beneath my feet, and the discoveries it offers me.

Mudflats, oh yes, all along the Inlet …

and boardwalks, at strategic locations.

Many little pedestrian bridges over the numerous creeks, with new greenery, like these Western skunk cabbages, just beginning to unfurl in the boggy areas …

and great shaggy fern beds & other ground cover all around the path, with the occasional nurse log as well.

This particular “baby,” as you can see, has long since shot free of its nursery and now soars to the sky.

I read more signs about habitat — the indigenous Douglas squirrel, for example, and bird life including sparrows, kingfishers, bushtits, towhees. This is an area rich in salmonberry, blackberry, thimbleberry, they tell me, and feel compelled to note the frequent presence of the banana slug as well. I’m sorry to say I don’t see any of the above, not even a banana slug. (Umm, not so sorry about that.)

I do see a great blue heron, though, patiently poised out in the mudflats, and I pass a nesting area.

This particular colony is close to a pond. Reading yet another sign, I learn the pond was man-made — created to support amphibian life, such as the indigenous red-legged frog, Pacific chorus frog, long-toed salamander, and the northwestern salamander.

I’m all in favour, glad it’s there — but I also notice that cluster of homes just beyond, and think how much we take away from nature, even as we now put more emphasis on its protection and restoration.

My turning point is down by the Old Windmill Park Site. I can’t guarantee these are the remnants of a windmill, but it seems likely, doesn’t it?

Shoreline Trail is such a pretty trail, winding as it does through woods, its edges softened with underbrush and ground cover, made even more inviting with the occasional bench.

This particular bench is framed by an arc of tree trunk; the next one sits by one of the many creeks, opposite the only metal relic I see along the way.

More Trail, more creeks, often with a cautionary “Salmon at work” sign, urging us to respect these waterways for the life they support.

I connect once more with the side-trail that  brought me here from town, and head back toward city streets. I pass trees with their lower trunks encased in wire cages, meant to protect them from local beaver. But, sometimes, the beaver get there first.

I think once again about our urban relationship with nature: a man-made wetland pond, but housing just above; protection for that colony of heron nests, but wire mesh to thwart the beaver.

So, when I’m back in town, and pass this handsome sculptural representation of a salmon run that adorns one flank of an office building …

I think about the real creeks I’ve just visited, home to real salmon runs.




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  1. Thanks for sharing your lovely walk. 🙂

  2. I expect that a revisit later in the year would be very different. I wonder did it feel damp?

    • not damp – oddly, here on the rainy coast, I find the weather much less damp than I did in Toronto – as for seasonal visits, I’ll be taking a visiting friend & some local ones there in April, when yes, we’ll see seasonal differences

  3. The tidbits I learn! Who knew you Canadians were preparing for an onslaught of marauding Americans? I like the idea of cautioning people to think about “Salmon at Work” and was pleased when we first moved out there at the number of similar signs, everywhere, even on city street drains. It’s nice to see that Skunk cabbage coming up, right? I’ve seen it here, too!

    • so here’s another tidbit: when those pesky Brits burned down the White House, back whenever that was, it was not an unprovoked act of vandalism, it was an act of retaliation — revenge for the four-day invasion of York (nowadays Toronto) by pesky Americans, during which occupation they burned down York’s little parliament building (on what is still called Parliament St., though no longer housing a legislative building); another tidbit: Kingston was the capital of Upper Canada, until Brit authorities decided that, given American enthusiasm for land, it would be wise to move our capital off the shores of Lake Ontario and inland somewhere safe – hence, Ottawa… you guys did threaten and/or invade us various times you know (War of 1812, doctrine of Manifest Destiny, etc) – our first railway line across the country, and the strong NWMP presence in Yukon during the Gold Rush, were all about hanging on to the real estate — though of course from the perspective of indigenous peoples, we are all invaders and land-grabbers, and who cares which thief has the upper hand at any given moment, since they are all equally invalid – on that note, where you are, do most public events now start with an acknowledgment that it is taking place on the historical, traditional and unceded territory of the ______ [fill in name of relevant first nations]? it’s standard practice here, but not one I knew back in Ontario

  4. My grasp of history is terrible, and what little I learned, I forgot. 🙂 Thanks for reminding me of a few keys points! The indigenous piece though, that one I never seem to forget – the individual case facts may be lost on me, but not the over-reaching concept of what we Europeans did to this continent (and others).
    I noticed the acknowledgment you mentioned in something I was reading about Canada and I thought it was wonderful. The US seems to me to be way behind Canada in terms of attempting to at least have a look at the reality. The concept of “First Nations” is another concept I don’t hear much down here. A walk (did I mention it? I think so) through UBC Botanical Garden with someone who works there prompted a discussion of the Golden Spruce. The fine points were handled with more sensitivity than would have been possible if an American gave the tour. 😉 Good talking to you, Penny!

  5. p.s. So maybe this somewhat heightened awareness is more prevalent on the west coast of CA? Maybe that’s because the tribes have a little more visibility in BC? What do you think?

    • This same protocol may now be in use in other parts of Canada where people now “live, work and play” on traditional and unceded First Nations’ territories. I must ask some friends, and update my knowledge.

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

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