Up the Mountain

29 October 2019 – Not the world’s largest, but very beautiful & just fine by us. We’re east of Vancouver atop Burnaby Mountain, in the Burnaby Conservation Area, with its 26 multi-use trails that cross-cross some 28 km within the park’s 576 hectares.

Good thing they’re multi-use, because we have multi uses in mind: two to go haring up & down on their serious bicycles, and two to go walkies at an altogether gentler pace, enjoying views from high up and connecting with this far-west end of the Canada Trail. (I’m in the walkies brigade, as if you had to be told.)

We start in the wondrous Playground of the Gods, more than a dozen wooden sculptures created by Japanese sculptor Nuburi Toko and his son Shusei, to honour the relationship between the twin cities of Burnaby and Kushiro.

The sculptures are dramatic, in a dramatic setting, views westward across Vancouver to Georgia Strait and even the Fraser River.

Many soar …

some angle …

and they’re all confusing for this Pileated woodpecker, who keeps tapping away, certain that somewhere in all this wood there must be an insect or two.

Onto a trail, into the woods, we play Spot-the-Nurse-Logs, and agree this one is queen of them all: six sturdy babies, climbing straight up.

After-the-rain rich smells everywhere, and the slightly acrid smell of late autumn, rustling leaves underfoot. Near our feet,  tiny-tiny mushrooms …

and ‘way far below our feet, over the cliff edge, down in Burrard Inlet, some freighters.

Orca whales through the trees, entirely out of place if you’re being literal about whales & water, but just fine if you can relax into their being in their part of the world.

And a happy rock, to send us back to town.

We catch up with the bicycling brigade. The visitor wins admiration for doing it on his gravel bike (not owning a mountain bike); the local rider wins admiration for choosing to bring us all to this location, and for being cycling guide.

We’re all as happy as that rock.

 

Water & Woodland

3 October 2019 – We’re in Stanley Park, that 400-hectare bulge of West Coast rainforest where False Creek swells into English Bay, Burrard Inlet and beyond that the Strait of Georgia, all of it part of the Salish Sea.

I get dizzy trying to grasp all that, but I don’t have to. We’re firmly on land, in the Park, and we have a more-or-less plan: Seawall for a while, then up onto Merilees Trail where we can overlook the Seawall and Burrard Inlet, then … ummm … then probably forest trails around & back down.

Which is pretty well how it works.

Fresh, breezy fall day, bright sun, sparkling water, then into the forest. It is terrific.

Somewhere past Second Beach, heading towards Fergusons Point, this circle of stones in the water. Not a random act of nature; too deliberately placed for that. Perhaps someone’s tribute to Don Vaughan’s Waiting for Low Tide installation in False Creek?

From mute, stationary stones to a noisy, busy dog. He is splashing furiously through the water just off Third Beach to chase — yet again! — the stick thrown — yet again! — by his patient owners. Another, lazier dog watches from the shore; we watch from our viewpoint high on Merilees Trail.

We stick with the trail, thank you, despite the passing (male) hiker who crisply informs us it is “boring” and we should immediately drop back down to the Seawall. Our choice rewards us, and eventually, with a bit of hacking about, here we are at Prospect Point Lookout.

We can look down-down-down to the water, and we do. We can look up-and-to-the-right to Lions Gate Bridge, and we do. We can also look straight overhead to watch a seaplane arc through the sky.

And we do.

Now we turn inland, away from ocean views to follow first Prospect Trail and then the Bridle Path, curving down through the heart of the forest.

It is quite, quite magic.

Nurse logs everywhere, their decaying old growth feeding voracious new growth in the forest’s endless cycle of regeneration.

They come every which shape. Sometimes a craggy island of stumps, rising from a sea of forest litter all around …

Sometimes a single shoulder-height remnant of trunk, silver-tipped …

Sometimes horizontal instead, smothered in mossy green …

with luminous white mushrooms glowing nearby.

Oh… I don’t know they’re mushrooms. Maybe they’re toadstools? I wasn’t rude enough to tip one over and check its gills (brown-to-black in a mature true mushroom, still white in a mature toadstool).

But maybe it’s just as well we keep our ungloved hands to ourselves. Later on, one online photo of Death Cap mushrooms — now proliferating in Vancouver, reports tell us — looks suspiciously like our guys. Though maybe not: Death Cap seems to have a silky smooth cap; ours are ruffled.

So I don’t know, and I don’t much care, because I think they’re beautiful, and all I want to do is admire them, not eat them. (Still, if you can identify them, please do.)

By now we’re obsessed with nurse logs, playing spot-the-hidden-nurse-log as we walk.

And look, there one is. A huge mound, a long-buried nurse log surely, with its new growth, now mature trees, rising triumphantly above.

There is a whole lot of “rising triumphantly” going on in this forest.

What’s the scale? you ask; how high would a human being rise against that vee?

This high.

Getting pretty far down the Bridle Path by now, soon we’ll hit Lost Lagoon and begin to rejoin urban bustle.

One more soaring tree before we go  …

and we finally emerge from the trails into the noise and parking lots — but also the amenities — where city streets butt up against parkland near Second Beach.

Into a brew pub! And into big bowls of clam chowder.

 

Almost-Rain

13 November 2017 – Almost-rain puts a pearly grey sheen in the air, sets it shimmering & dancing with everything below.

But at first I am thinking defensively, not collaboratively. I am thinking, “How do I inject some colour into all this grey?”

So I nip into a corner store & buy this $1 pair of stretchy gloves …

which I waggle at my amused companions as we board the bus. “Whoaaa…” says one. “I want a pair.”

We’re headed for the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, the magnet being the weekend “Artists for the Environment” exhibition and fundraiser. The art exhibit, videos & other presentations are almost exclusively indoors, but in fact we spent most of our time wandering the grounds.

Discovering the shimmer, the bright dance, of almost-rain.

I risk wet knees to get close, admire the interplay.

But it is one of my sharp-eyed friends who spots — from his full height — a tiny silver soldier figure, tucked among pine needles at the tree base.

More knees-to-ground.

Later, circling the VanDusen’s Stone Garden, we cock our heads at the sheen on vertical slabs, the wet leaves plastered in random origami folds against the rock by wind & rain.

We creep up on the bright red maple leaf — real? painted?

Painted.

And perfect, I think; the perfect complement to Nature’s own work of art on the rest of the slab.

Later, another complement — and compliment — to Nature’s works of art: Earth Art 2012 “Transformation Plant.”  Two rings of upright stones, wedged closely in position with tightly packed cut wood & smaller stones.

The installation is the work of New Zealand sculptor Chris Booth, who has done kinetic environmental sculptures all over the world, this one in collaboration with Musqueam elders & advisers, the indigenous people of this place.

Prompted by the title, we look for the “transformation plant.”

And there it is, right in the centre, a juvenile western red cedar that, 5 years on, is still barely taller than the encircling rings of stone.

Ah. But.

Think kinetic. Think decades from now.

That sprig, wrote Booth in his project diary,

would flourish over the years into a beautiful tree as the stone slabs (‘petals’) slowly opened up like a flower because of the fungi breaking down the stacked wood, recycling it into humus.

I’m still thinking about the dance of Nature, the ways humans dance with (and against) Nature, as we take the boardwalk across the Cypress Pond, to head for home.

More shimmer.

I’m into it now.

  • 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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