The Boards, the Fox & the Big Red Fish

24 October 2020 – I’m back on Port Moody’s Shoreline Trail, subject of a very enthusiastic post last March 1st. I’m still enthusiastic, for all the same reasons: it is a charming, diversified trail cupping the eastern end of Burrard Inlet, offering forest, seascape, mud flats, history, signage and wonderful stretches of boardwalk.

I’m amused to see that I’ve photographed the same sinuous curve of boardwalk both times.

(Can you blame me?)

The sea/mountain vistas are as soul-lifting as ever.

But something has changed, something more all-encompassing than the seasonal difference between March and October. Back then, COVID-19 was not yet the context of our lives. Now it is.

Polite signage all along the Trail keeps reminding us of the new requirements that go with this new reality: physical distancing, and one-way traffic. Outward bound on the foot path as usual, but now back on the paved path previously reserved for cyclists.

And — just in case the printed word isn’t enough — we are forced to lock eyes with our highly respected, much-admired provincial health officer. Who among us would flout a directive from Dr. Bonnie Henry?

I follow the boardwalk back into the forest, still on the footpath, enjoying as always the many “nurse logs” (this one proud mother to triplets) …

and also some one-off delights, such as this slender tree, neatly fastened into its bark sheath with a line of fungi buttons.

But then, after a few more kilometres of forest, shoreline and boardwalk, I’m ready to turn back.

And that takes me to the Fox.

Not that fox. I just threw him in — the work of an unidentified mural artist near Fraser & East Broadway — because I like him so much, and think you will too.

No. Changing direction out here on the Shoreline Trail means switching over to join this Fox …

where he trained before dipping his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s on 12 April 1980 — the start of his planned run all the way back to the Pacific.

I’ve always known the broad outline of the Terry Fox story, but now, in pandemic, I think about it differently, react viscerally. When this young man lost his leg to cancer in 1977, he responded by deciding to raise money for cancer research with a cross-country Marathon of Hope. It didn’t end well for him personally — he had to abandon the run in northern Ontario, when they found the cancer had spread to his lungs — but it has continued to work wonders for cancer research. As of April 2020, more than $800 million has been raised by millions of people, in annual Terry Fox runs and other events in more than 25 countries world-wide.

But it’s not just a cancer story, is it? It’s for all of us. It reminds us that while bad things happen, they are part of life, it is then up to us to decide how we will respond.

The thought stays with me, even as I turn onto a side trail that follows a sparkling creek back toward town. It’s back of mind, I’ll grant you, especially when I fall into a game of kick-the-ball with an eager King Charles spaniel, but the theme of resilience, of bouncing forward to rise to the challenge, stays with me.

And then I discover the Big Red Fish.

I’m well up the creek by now, and I see the artwork on Noon’s Fish Hatchery (home to the Port Moody Ecological Society) …

before I notice the cedar house pole being carved in the open shed just opposite.

First I step in, to admire the pole — the colours, the grain, the sinuous lines, everything — and then I step back, to read the signage.

It’s another story of adversity, resilience, and rising to the challenge.

Adapted and survived … Adapted and survived …

I think about wise adaptation on my bus-ride home.

Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

31 August — Just back from a six-day escape to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, visiting much-loved family and friends in an area that always uplifts me.

I say “much-loved” for many reasons, but after all these decades recognize that one of them is the resonance added by sheer passage of time. Part of the worth is in the while — a concept I borrow from John Fowles, who first deconstructed “worthwhile” this way in his 1964 book of personal philosophy, The Aristos.

Count back on your fingers and, yes, I posted “King, Queen and Moose” not from Toronto, but from the home of my friends Sally and Owen in North Vancouver. I sat there at Sal’s laptop, looking out over their back yard to the fence dividing it from the trees and shrubs of Mount Seymour Provincial Park immediately beyond.

The shrubs include blackberry bushes, up against the fence. Which means ripening blackberries are more than a sign of changing seasons, they signal potential danger. Black bears love blackberries, and literally turn gate-crasher on occasion, once they’re that close to residential properties with other potential sources of food.

(Sally once emailed me the photo of a black bear foraging in their yard. All I could send in return was a raccoon sleeping in my birdbath.)

Of course the visit included some hiking about! You can’t be in British Columbia, halfway up a mountain, and not go walking. First target, Old Buck Trail, which sets off halfway up Mount Seymour Road. Various other trails split off, such as this Empress Bypass option, but I stuck with the main trail.

I hadn’t brought my pedometer, and settled for a 90-minute outing instead right on Old Buck itself. First I went up (and in these mountain ranges, up is up), awe-struck by the huge stumps of long-ago trees. Yes, I’ve seen them before, but they never fail to move me.

Somewhere beyond here, short of the Baden Powell junction but not by much, I turned about.

At least as high as I went, the trail was much like this — a smooth, clear dirt path.

Just as the ancient stumps move me, so do the great columns of contemporary tall trees. The path moves gently among them, and I think a bit about paths, and making one’s path (thank you, Antonio Machado), physically and otherwise.

I remember, too, that tai chi is sometimes described as “walking meditation.” I don’t specifically meditate when I walk, but I do usually feel myself expanding out into my surroundings, somehow.

Then, sometimes, the elegant columns of trees give way to great bursts of nature’s very own mixed media: rock and moss and other layered vegetation and spikey remnants of old logs and forest, forest, forest.

But no, I don’t spend the whole six days in the woods.

Soon I’m deserting this far corner of North Van for a visit to Vancouver proper — across Burrard Inlet by Seabus, then south on the Canada Line (built for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics), and out onto Cambie St. at Broadway. Where I grabbed this shot northward up Cambie, sightlines back to North Vancouver and the framing mountains beyond.

Mountains and ocean, Vancouver is the Rio of the north.

But even here, walking with my friends Louise and Rolf through residential streets over to Main Street and then south… even in this dense bit of cityscape, there’s still great exuberant nature. (When I lived in Calgary, a semi-desert climate, and came visiting, the sheer humid profligacy of Vancouver’s nature always smacked me in the eye and up the nose.)

My friends waited cheerfully while I eyed the detail of growth on city trees. Like this one.

We had lunch one place, lattes somewhere else, prowled shops with strong design sense… and finally good-bye and back north I went, retracing my way via the Canada Line to the Seabus again. Where I was charmed by these little girls, their noses pressed against the ferry’s front window, party balloons to one side.

Another walk, still in North Van and on Mount Seymour, but setting out from the little community of Deep Cove.

 That’s Sally’s back, in an early stretch of our chosen hike, up the Baden Powell Trail to the Deep Cove Lookout. The lookout is aka Quarry Rock — indeed a succession of big old rocks, but no sign anywhere of past let alone present quarrying. So, go figure.

Sal characterized this as an up-and-down trail, probably an hour each way. The footing was at times smooth and the path gently curving, but in other places the path twisted narrowly among trees and boulders, intensely scored with tree roots and rocks.

It was also much less solitary than my Old Buck outing! Then again, a weekend morning vs weekday. More people than we really wanted — oh, the cherished illusion of being alone in nature — but at least everybody observed pretty good trail etiquette.

Even the dogs behaved themselves. Including a snowy white little pooch who clearly had been having a wonderful time in mucky streams. Her owner observed her four black legs, and quipped, “Her name is Emma, but we may have to call her Boots.”

Finally there we were on Quarry Rock, looking over the Indian Arm inlet of the ocean, with the village of Deep Cove itself hidden away to the right.

Going back down, I lost track for a moment. So many ups and downs enroute… where we really descending? Yes, we were. Sometimes on the twisty paths I described above, sometimes on stairways pressed against rock faces, like this.

Yah, finally, indeed down and walking along the Deep Cove beach, with all the boats bobbing in the water and great red and yellow blocks of kayaks set out, waiting their turn for some action.

We consider hanging around for Deep Cove Daze [sic], but resist.

It’s going to be all the usual late-summer, small-community mix of booths and games and noise and T-shirts and organizations with their  tables… and it is tempting… but we have other plans.

Which involve lunch on a patio elsewhere, so it’s easy to leave. But not before paying tribute to this metric flower bed!

One last walk, days later and down in the Lower Mainland where I’ve joined family for the final few days of my trip. Karen and I head out to Watershed Park in Surrey, one that she and husband Tim know well, both on foot and on their bikes.

I’m luxuriating all over again in the sights and smells and texture underfoot of these west-coast trails. Some of the scenes are the sort of thing I anticipate…

But some are not!

At first I tut-tutted, a graffito in such a setting. Then I realized I rather liked the face — just a bit Picasso-esque, don’t you think? And also realized it is if anything an improvement on the concrete ruin it adorns.

This last photo takes us back to West Coast Classic, and is a bit of a cheat. Well, only in time, not in place.

I took this photo of a “nurse log” right here in Watershed Park, but some years ago. Karen had explained the phenomenon to me, that of an old rotting log nurturing new life, and I remember being so happy to find such a good example of it.

And now I’m home. Posting this from Toronto, and planning my next walk right here…

  • 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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