16,901 Steps

2 April 2018 – 16,901 footsteps or 11.3 km, says my pedometer app, and I won’t argue. Though I could, instead, just call it a fairly long walk on a bright blustery day …

Either way, the outing gives me happy hours tracing a rough rectangle through a downtown-ish subsection of Vancouver.

I have a destination in mind, which sets my general direction. It is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first such scholars garden to be built outside China, meticulously accurate and created with the help of 53 master craftsmen from China, 950 crates of traditional materials and strictly 14th-c. building methods.

And so down the hill I go to False Creek, and follow its southern shore east to its stubby end by Main Street. Mostly I’m striding along, enjoying sun, fresh air, choppy water, bird song, spring blossoms — and all the other people enjoying all the same things.

But I do pause, right there where the creek proves itself a false creek, to watch a chalk artist create a great big labyrinth on the pavement.

And then I’m around the curve, doubling back to the west, now on the north side of the water. I’m watching for the exit to Carrall Street, which is unfamiliar territory for me. My preoccupation makes this cluster of inukshuk on the rocky shoreline particularly appropriate, given their traditional way-finding role.

The inukshuk (plus a large sign with a large arrow) do their job. I right-turn away from the Seawall and walk north up Carrall Street, heading into Chinatown.

Bold stripes splashed by sunshine onto an apartment building opposite the Classical Chinese Garden.

Equally powerful design inside the Garden, here created not by nature, but by careful human attention to every detail.

I linger.

And then I leave, walking north still, heading toward Burrard Inlet, out of Chinatown and into Gastown. It’s an entertainment district, a tourist district, and a magnet, this holiday weekend, for Vancouverites as well.

Laugher and music and clinking glasses on outdoor patios. But if you look sideways to the edges, to the margins, not everything is pretty-pretty.

Another alley-edge a few blocks over, and the most fully-executed street art RIP that I have ever seen.

I keep moving, now west to Cambie, where I turn south and start homeward. The streetscape evolves again. Here in the pavement at the intersection with Robson, it issues a call to bibliophiles.

The open book is a visual cross-reference to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library, just a block away.

But you don’t have to go even that far! Crouch down, and read the terra-cotta inserts …

On south, now approaching the Cambie Bridge over False Creek.

I go right by the new Parq Vancouver entertainment complex — all very whizzy it is, with its hotels, spa, casino, and bunches of restaurants. Yawn, don’t care. I’m more taken with the rich colour and lines of its outer skin; the flags right-angle from their staffs in the brisk breeze; and the construction cranes reflected on the façade, just below that oval inset balcony.

Bridge ramps converge overhead.

I climb.

And I cross the bridge, looking east toward Main Street, remembering the chalk artist and his labyrinth, hours and hours ago.

The final climb, hoof-hoof-hoof, and I’m home.

I check my pedometer app, and learn how to translate this particular day’s adventure into a set of numbers.

But really, the point is the adventure, not the numbers.

(Even if they did give me a post title.)

Down the Bluffs with Doris McCarthy

3 November 2016 – Finally on the Doris McCarthy Trail! We found it in spring — and also found it closed for restoration. Grrr. It has now reopened, and we are back. (Thanks to Phyllis’ perseverance, I must add.)

I knew of the artist Doris McCarthy; even, decades back, attended a showing of her works at which she was present (though I was too shy to approach her). I also knew vaguely that she had long lived out on the Scarborough Bluffs.

Now the artist and the place come together beneath our feet, as we start down the gravelled trail. Signs warn cyclists to dismount, to respect the steep slope.

partway down the Trail, with Lake Ontario already visible

Not that steep, we agree, as we march on down, Lake Ontario already in view.

The day is sunny-cloudy, but not raining, so we are content. And anyway, how could you not be content, with views like this?

view west, from foot of Doris McCarthyTrail

Down there in the distance to the west, Leslie Spit. Up close, rusty fall colours in the shrubbery. Linking the two, great striated bands of glacial material, layer on layer, North America’s most complete record of Pleistocene geology.

Smack at the foot of the Doris McCarthy Trail, a sculpture.

Passage, by Marlene Hilton Moore

Passage, it is called, and it is perfect. The work of Marlene Hilton Moore, a tribute to both Doris McCarthy and the Bluffs she loved so much. We peer down the ribs …


see two columns of dates along the spine, & rush back to the plaque for help.

One column tracks major events in the life of Doris McCarthy, from birth (1910) to years training in & then teaching art, to her 12-acre purchase of land on the Bluffs (1939) and subsequent establishment of first a cottage & then a permanent home on the site (Fool’s Paradise, 1946), her travels & honours as an artist, her induction into the Order of Canada (1987), her donation of Fool’s Paradise to the Ontario Heritage Trust (1998), & her death, age 100, in 2010. Fittingly, the Trust now runs her beloved home as the Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence Centre.

The other column tracks major events in the life of the Scarborough Bluffs. It starts a little earlier: 23,000 B.C., when Lake Iroquois is first formed.

We amble westward on the lakeside trail, enjoying the warmth, the breeze, nature’s extravagant textures.

heading west along Lake Ontario, from foot of Doris McCarthy Trail

And, oh, in a while, the path successively narrows and finally ends.

Scarborough Bluffs, looking west

We turn back, explore our way to the east; explore, too, what else is on offer, along with those sweeping vistas.

Rocks, for example, along the beach …

beach rock

and beautifully crafted little bird nests …

at path's edge

and, of course!, an inukshuk, out on a point.

inukshuk, beyond the tree

Finally we loop back once again to Passage …

marking the foot of the Doris McCarthy Trail

and head back up the Doris McCarthy Trail to the city streets of Scarborough.

It is, we agree, much steeper to climb than to descend!




Bye-Bye Summer

23 September 2014 — Saturday’s walk takes place on the last weekend of summer. It’s the very last full day, in fact, with autumn officially arriving on Sunday.

How agreeable that we should say good-bye to the season with summer-worthy weather. (After days in the low teens, I might add.) Sunshine, light breeze, thermometer hitting 22 or so — perfect for this weekend’s festivals. I decide to start my walk with the Bloor-Ossington Folk Festival in Christie Pits Park, then continue eastward on Bloor & see what happens next.

Also what happens before! I’m still a few blocks from the park when I spot this enigmatic message neatly written on a church wall at Bloor West & Ossington.

church wall, Bloor W at Ossington

I’m intrigued that the “no” is in the same hand as the rest of the sentence. Was it an after-thought? Or was its position a design decision, nothing to do with meaning at all? (Come to that, what is the meaning?)

Almost immediately, I see another, more comprehensible message. Artists who fail to make the cut for Nuit Blanche (the all-night, city-wide art extravaganza being held October 4) are invited to strut their stuff in Les Rues des Refusés. What a concept! I must visit the website & check it out.

Next up, Blue Lady:

Theatre of Human Health

She — well, this doorway — leads to The Theatre of Human Health. I don’t try the door, but later wish I had.

Finally, I’m at Christie Pits Park. Not a lot of action this early in the day — some cheerful white tents with music-related art, crafts & accessories; one performance tent, with what is probably the day’s first performance taking place; one rehearsal tent where I linger a bit, watching the guys try things out.

Bloor Ossington Folk Festival, Christie Pits Park

Then I amble on eastward along Bloor. I suppose I should be striding, or even power-walking, but today’s weather invites an amble, so that’s what I do. There’ll be time enough for scurrying when winter hits.

I’m just nicely into Korea Town (over by Euclid), when I notice this corner convenience store. And yes, the first thing I see is the name.

Six Penny mural by #kizmet32 #aphok #tiles

Next I see the artwork. Very nice. I particularly like the cats.

Walk on, walk on, and I’m at Markham St., just west of Bathurst. The block south from Bloor is lined with restaurants & arts-related shops, and today everybody is out on the street as well. It’s a big Sidewalk Sale, with free entertainment thrown in. This steel pan musician, for example.

steelpan on Markham St

I buy a slice of warm cornbread at the stall set up by Southern Comfort Restaurant, and cruise the block as I nibble.

The whole city is outdoors, it seems; we all want to take as much advantage as possible of the warm weather while it lasts. Restaurants & cafés still have their doors & windows thrown open to the street; the winter-time barrier between Inside and Outside has yet to be imposed.

Bloor West & Brunswick

Just opposite, right across Brunswick Avenue, more street-sale activity. Just one man this time, with long rows of books, his back to a neighbourhood tavern landmark, the Brunswick House (The Brunny).

sidewalk books outside The Brunswick House

No, I do not follow the sign to Poutineville. I have had poutine. Once.

Soon I’m getting into University of Toronto territory, passing its sports centre, Varsity Arena. The big signboard highlights the football team, but on the field today, all the action is soccer. And lots of it, too, male & female.

soccer practice at Varsity Arena

I overhear a (male) coach pep-talking a group of female players. “If you play tomorrow like you’re playing now…” he begins. I am dying to know the rest, but a huge truck grinds past and it is lost. Damn!

Just past the Royal Conservatory of Music, just before the Royal Ontario Museum, there stand the Alexandra Gates — guardians of the north end of Philosophers Walk. It runs between Bloor and Hoskin Av. to the south, tracing its way along the ravine that still marks where Taddle Creek ran until they buried it below ground. The Walk is much less substantial than it used to be, for buildings (Uof T, ROM, & RCM) have encroached on either side. Yet despite everything, it is still magic, still a retreat from the noise all around.

At the moment, the Bloor St. end of the Walk is marked by more than those 1901 gates. A human being has tucked up against them, engaged in an activity that predates them by … oh … a millennium or two.

making an inukshuk in the sun at Alexandra Gates (1901), ROM & Bloor St W

He is making an inukshuk. Another man has squatted to engage in discussion; I think of joining them, but decide not to. I quite like the mystery, the gratuitous delight of the scene. It is street theatre.

More street theatre the other side of Avenue Road, but in a very different mood. I see another of the city’s ghost bicycles — the white-painted bicycles that mark fatal cyclist accidents. This young man died less than a month ago: 31 August.

ghost bicycle, Bloor W near Queen's Park

And yet more street theatre just east of Yonge, with yet another change of mood. Music! Brass-combo jollity! And all for a very good cause.

outside The Bay, on Bloor E at Yonge

Of course I drop something in the trombone case. As do many others.

One last photo a few blocks farther down Bloor — and how fitting, near the end of my walk.

window display, Rogers Cable, Bloor E

I don’t know why a cable company showcases walking stick-figures, but it does, and has for years. Any time I pass, I stand and watch for a bit. I catch myself falling into the scene, scuttle-scuttle, back-and-forth.

And then I scuttle-scuttle home.


    "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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