8 November 2022 — So there we all were, we downtown Vancouverites, tucked up in our little beds and minding our own business… and this morning we wake up to snow.


We should not have been surprised. We were warned. Yesterday, we woke up to proof that winter had arrived — the freezing level was again drawing its sharp horizontal line right across the Coast Range Mountains. Bright above; dark below.

“Freezing level,” as in, the altitude at which the temperature is currently 0 C, causing precipitation to land as rain below the line, and as snow above.

But surprised we are anyway, because we always are.

This bicycle, for example, did not take cover in time.

And most of the city’s deciduous trees & shrubs are equally surprised, since they haven’t yet had time to shed their leaves.

It makes for magical combinations, as a friend & I discover in a mid-day visit to the VanDusen Botanical Garden. There wasn’t that much snow to start with, and by now some has melted, but despite blazing sunshine the air is still crisp, and snow still lingers.

Peer over the walkway edge into a gully and, look, dark pebbles gleam snow-free but the ground plants are entirely white and even the conifers play white-against-green.

West side of the Cypress Pond pedestrian bridge — star of my deosil walk — where a distant Red Maple blazes bright, but is outshone by the moss in the nearby Cypress. This is such a neon-green smack in the eye that I almost miss the traces of snow, still smudging some of the branches.

Neon green moss? I don’t know how neon neon can be, until we walk farther west, toward Heron Lake. A bush shines red, over there beyond the snowy grass by the lake, but I am transfixed by the neon green outline of the mossy tree branches right in front of me by the path.

(Sorry, I can’t account for that turquoise flash in the tree trunk.)

Finally, just as we’re about to head indoors to warm up, proof that gold can be just as punchy as red or moss green — especially when all wrapped up in white, for contrast.

We stroke the Larch’s silky needles, and go find ourselves some hot chocolate inside.

300 Metres

16 December 2021 – One of my discoveries since moving here is the inclusion of “freezing level” data in winter forecasts. Unlike some of my other fascinations (such as moss on trees, or crows), I’ve never blogged about it. Until now!

The “freezing level” is exactly what the phrase suggests it will be: the elevation at which the air temperature is 0 Celsius and water freezes, including moisture particles in the air. In other words, it is “the line that separates snow and rain.” I take this pithy quote from the adorably named website, which will tell you a whole lot more about the topic, but that’s the gist of the thing.

It’s important information, when you live in a mountainous terrain and want to know if driving a particular highway at a given elevation will be merely misty with a wet road surface, or snowy with ice beneath your tires.

I knew all that long before I realized that I could, with my own eyes, see the data. See the freezing level — just by looking across the city, on across Burrard Inlet, to the Coast Range mountains beyond.

On 13 December, Environment and Climate Change Canada warned us: “… For most areas, showers are expected, but freezing levels are hovering around 300 metres and the rain could turn into snow in the Fraser Valley and over higher terrain.”

At 1:02 pm, on 13 December, I took this picture:

See that neat horizontal line? Powdery white above, dark below?

There’s the freezing level.

I now look for it, every day.


    "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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