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.

 

 

 

Westward Ho…

16 February 2018 – You’d think I was already as west as it gets, but no! Not in Vancouver terms. Here we are in West Van this grey-shimmer morning, following a good chunk of the West Van Seawall.

It is a delightful 5.6 km ribbon of pathway, snaked between Burrard Inlet to the south and a still-active CN railway track to the north. Community gardens and luxuriant growth screen the tracks; we are free to enjoy the long views across the water, with Lion’s Gate Bridge to one side and those Coast Mountains to the other.

We see fish as well. Though not in the water…

A whole little gathering of these mosaics, a 1994 project (if I interpret signage correctly) of grade 6 Irwin Park students called “The Meaning of Peace Goes Beyond Words.”

More artwork as we walk along, some official — such as Bill Pechet’s outsized chairs — and some definitely spur of the moment. A predictable moment, any time you have quantities of rocks to hand.

We walk out one of the wooden piers, then blink at all those feathers at our feet. Some of them bloody. Our speculation is cut short by a middle-aged man leaning against the railing.

“I can tell you what happened,” he says.

Picture it: gull minding his own business in the waves; eagle on high, looking for breakfast.

“He just snatched up that gull, plucked it clean of feathers right here on the pier. And look!” Our informant points to the top of a very tall tree back from the water’s edge. “There he is! Digesting, I guess…”

Next pier along is Ambleside Pier. Long distance, I pay more attention to the near-by gull, posing for his moment of fame (I hope he’s watching for eagles), than to the human activity out on the pier.

A handful of men out on the pier, dropping their crabbing paraphernalia into the water. Each one of them, presumably, armed with his valid Tidal Waters Sports Fishing Licence. Large signs specify exactly what they may take, and how many, how often.

Heading back toward the car, I am again gob-smacked by happy palm trees, out there in a Canadian winter. This particular time, I am also pleased by their dance with the spidery bare-branch Something, right next door.

My friends indulge me. Other pedestrians stride by without a glance. I guess they are all used to palm trees.

But my friend slow down as much as I do, to eye the ducks. We’ve been fascinated throughout the walk by convoys of these boldly marked black & white ducks. They seem to cluster much more than other ducks I’m used to — sometimes bobbing head-down beneath the water one after another like an aquatic chorus line, or all swirling in one direction, or suddenly exploding in two opposite directions.

Or, as here, stretched in one long scribble across the silvery surface.

They make me think of the Bufflehead duck that I know (sort of know) from back east, simply because they are also black & white. My friends do a better online search later than I manage to do, and identify them.

Barrow’s Goldeneye!

Aren’t you glad you know that?

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "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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