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.

 

Silver & Light

9 February 2018 – We’re in Stanley Park, tracing its perimeter as we walk the Seawall. A cloudy day, the water a silvery sheen but, here and there, one moment or another, a piercing pinpoint of light & colour.

The incandescent yellow mound of the sulphur terminal, for example, as we approach Prospect Point. It is across Burrard Inlet on the shores of North Vancouver, not close, but look, it draws the eye.

Very close, the reflected arc of Lion’s Gate Bridge, a broken dark scribble on the shining water. Shining, too, rectangles of bright windows in a single focal point of sunshine through drifting clouds.

A backward glance as we round Prospect Point, and that sulphur pile still pulls the eye. (No need to keep the eye instead alert for roller-bladers — we pedestrians have a designated path of our own.)

More sunshine slanting through the clouds — another momentary focal point in the seascape. This time it’s a freighter laden with containers (I see containers & I think photographer Ed Burtynsky, every time), picked out bright against the water, clouds & backdrop mountain range.

We’re around the point of land, curving back eastward toward English Bay and False Creek. Now the sun offers more than a spotlight; it offers a whole sky.

But not quite yet! We must yet pass Siwash Rock, and walk into the sunshine around that next fold in the land. Still, there it will be — the freighter is the promise: no longer a single focal point of light, but part of a larger light-bright whole.

And so it is. We round that fold of land & walk into sunshine.

Past Third Beach, past Second Beach, past English Bay (with a sideways diversion to a café) … and onto a False Creek ferry.

Next stop, the purposeful (& successful) hunt for wind chimes to suspend from my upper balcony. Come to think of it, they too are “silver & light” (even if here silhouetted black).

I see them, and hear their mellow, deep bong, as I type these words.

I Flirt with a Lion

9 March 2017 – And with a lighthouse. And a whole lot of mossy trees. And clouds who are too busy flirting with mountain-tops to notice me.

And with a dragon.

Who also doesn’t notice me, perhaps because he is too busy chin-chinning with the lion.

Aren’t I the coy one? All will be revealed. Soon.

I’m in Stanley Park — the 405-hectare downtown park that Vancouverites rightly adore & tourists rightly visit in droves.

Though the droves have not yet arrived, this damp & still-early morning. My only fellow passenger, when the bus reaches its Stanley Park terminus, is a young woman bearing a carefully-swaddled kayak paddle. She strides off, clearly knowing where to go.

Which is one up on me, since I have no idea where I am or where, precisely, to go. But I don’t care, since … how can I lose? A random walk anywhere will be just fine.

For example, down to this suitably massive chunk of tree, honouring the BC lumber industry.

Lumbermen’s Arch, it is called, and it is the latest (1952) focal point in a clearing that has been a meeting place since the West Coast Salish people first began using it thousands of years ago.

I continue downhill on pathways that remind me, absolutely unreasonably, of bits of High Park in Toronto. Perhaps it’s the downward slope, the shrubbery, and the water ahead. Except Grenadier Pond (High Park) does not also offer a suspension bridge!

Even peek-a-boo, I’m in love with the bridge.

Built in 1938, officially named First Narrows Bridge, but pretty well always called Lions Gate Bridge. No, I don’t know why, but it’s more appealing to flirt with a lion than with a first-narrow …

I am diverted by the sound of yet another small plane droning its way overhead. Some have been helicopters, some seaplanes; I tilt my head to this seaplane  as it climbs above Burrard Inlet, silhouetted against the clouds draped around (maybe) Grouse Mountain.

Don’t hold me to that Grouse Mountain ID, I don’t really know, Grouse may be a bit farther to the east. Well, anyway, part of a line of very handsome cloud-draped mountains.

There’s a slipway down onto the beach and I take it. Instant flash-back: I’m visualizing an entry-point I used to take onto the beach at St. Peter Port in Guernsey, during a visit several years ago. The resemblance is probably slight, but …

but Guernsey is on my mind. (Spoiler alert.) I’ll be there again in May! As you will see.

I head east, but look back west, now able to see pretty well the full length of Lions Gate Bridge. Stretched gracefully across the Narrows, as sinuous as any cat inviting your admiration. (Oh, I’m getting silly.)

Passing ducks are nowhere near as impressed as I am.

Then I look east, and walk on east — and turn my attention to a dragon.

Effigy of. The 1960 replica of the figurehead of the SS Empress of Japan, which — says the plaque — from 1891 to 1922 carried Vancouver’s commerce to the orient.

Now you know what I was blithering about at the start of this post. Here is the dragon, and there, tucked neatly under his chin, is the lion.

But I am diverted once more! Good-bye lion, good-bye dragon; I have a lighthouse to track. Down there on a point, with (I think) North Vancouver & Mount Seymour in the background.

It looks like the beach will soon-ish collide with the seawall; I spy some steep steps, and climb to the adjacent path. I would here love to insert some informed comment about the state of the tide … but that wouldn’t fool you for a minute, would it? I have no idea.

On the path now, still heading east, and I dodge up-slope a bit, to indulge yet another of my BC obsessions: moss on huge tree trunks. But look, this time it’s like a quadruple-hit in Scrabble: big old fir trees AND moss AND the ocean AND a lighthouse.

By now the visitor droves are beginning to arrive.

We dodge each other politely on a narrowed section of path just west of the lighthouse. I wait, camera at the ready, for one group to pass, meanwhile admiring the ability of a young mother to calm her little boy, who is  hiccuping with distress. “Darling,” she says, “I promise, we will come back tomorrow. And mummy will have a surprise for you. Yes, really!”

A seagull is also listening in. He doesn’t care.

Seagull & I, we are at the Brockton Point Lighthouse, which guided ships in and out of Coal Harbour 1890-2005, when newer technologies made it superfluous. But still handsome. Still deserving our respect. One of our icons.

Speaking of icons!

I salute a couple of Canada Geese before I turn back west.

Then I’m onto the bus, back across town to the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood where I’m staying, and off the bus in time to fall into the Main St. outlet of Cartem Donuterie. This mini-chain is a legend, says local friend Louise, and who am I to argue with insider info?

Especially when it includes a hazelnut mocha doughnut.

 

 

  • 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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