Goodbye / Hello

30 April 2017 – And so it is time.

Goodbye, Toronto …

and hello, Vancouver.

“Traveller, there is no path,” says Antonio Machado (1875-1939). “Paths are made by walking.”

 

And Then the Sun Came Out

20 March 2017 – “You’ll have to climb a big hill,” warns the little girl, her eyes very wide. “Then that’s what I shall do,” I promise her. And I do.

Puffpuff-pantpant.

The sun is out, and so am I.

I decide to visit Bloedel Conservatory for a hit of instant summer, and seek further directions from passers-by when I alight from the bus. Turn right at that corner, they tell me, and then right again. And up the big hill, chirps their daughter.

Puffpuff-pantpant indeed. Made all the puffpuff-ier by my decision to portage more or less straight up, cutting across the roadway’s gentle (but lengthy) topographical S-bends.

All worth it. Like every other visitor, I pause for a photo before I enter — rounded honeycomb dome of the Conservatory up close, jagged mountain peaks ‘way out there, and a bright flag in-between, snapping in the breeze.

In I go. Instant steam all over my glasses. It clears. I peel off my jacket & relax into the warmth.

Tropical vegetation & waterfalls …

and tropical birds, flying free — though some of the more spectacular ones are sufficiently habituated to their own perches that the Conservatory can post signs telling you who each one is.

Which is why I can so confidently introduce you to Mali — their Greater Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

Doesn’t he look pleased with himself? He has just watched a Conservatory employee tidy up beneath him, and he is as cavalier about it as any aristocrat being pampered by the help.

By the time I leave, I’m eager for cool bracing air. I find myself breathing it in deeply & gratefully as I wander downwards through one of the quarry gardens.

White-tipped snowdrops along the path play visual call-&-response with white-tipped mountains to the north …

local birch play against all the tropical plants inside …

and our own sturdy mallards & Canada geese swim peacefully about. A crow plays Tease-the-Tourist with me for a while, always flying off before I can take his picture.

I’m down at the bus stop now, but with all this sunshine on offer, why would I hop back on a bus? Especially when the route home is downhill all the way?

So I hoof down & down, and down some more, piling up block after block on Main Street.

And I am rewarded by one of those sidewalk signs I so dearly love, the ones that toss a hit of Philosophy With Attitude in your direction, all in a few lines.

The only thing wrong with it is … I can’t go in and order a latte.

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

18 March 2017 – At the risk of sounding entirely like an infomercial, there really is more.

More reigning to the rain than I’d noticed in my previous post.

So … stop!

And walk around the corner with me to see the rest of the parade.

There’s someone with a big purse hung straight down …

and someone with a potted plant (I think) balanced forward …

and someone with assorted gear slung backward.

Each also with a coffee cup, you’ll notice.

And an umbrella!

 

Symbol City

3 March 2017 — Just a selection of symbols from my own list-to-date, you understand. Images that snag my Toronto eyes; make me exclaim, with delight, “Ohhh, that is so Vancouver!”

Vancouver is trees.

Moss on tree trunks, in the rain …

typical tree trunk, on a residential Mount Pleasant street

palm trees, out there alive-alive-0 in mid-winter …

W. Broadway near Granville

fir trees on industrial wall murals …

detail, an Industrial Flats mural

and tree stump art.

one of two, in front of Telus World of Science, Main St.

Vancouver is people.

First Nations …

Main St., just north of Terminal Av.

Asian …

a shop nr E 15th & Fraser

and everyone.

"Human Structure," by Jonathan Borofsky, Southeast False Creek

Vancouver is pop-up community gardens, in boxes that can move on to the next site …

close to the Cambie Bridge

and clouds on mountains …

North Van, from the Industrial Flats nr Main St.

and clouds all over the sky.

top, with solar panels, of the Solar Bike Tree outside Telus World of Science

Vancouver is Cloud City …

a mural in Industrial Flats

and Rain City …

W. Broadway between Granville & Cambie

and Every Weather City.

truck in Main St. parking lot

With a scoop of ice cream!

 

Sun City

27 February 2017 – Vancouver knows how to get even. I twice label it “Wet City” and what does it do? Next time I go out the door, it pummels me with sunshine.

But my initial thought is not for the sun, as I stand on the Main St.-Science World Station platform; I am thinking about the mountains. About how they pop up, at the turn of your head, at the flick of an eye, where you don’t expect them at all.

Through the Skytrain station’s north-facing window, for example.

looking north from Main St.=Science World Skytrain station

Right there, apparently at the north end of Main St., but more precisely across False Creek and across downtown Vancouver and across Burrard Inlet and behind North Van. Right there. I allow myself a small, tourist-y wriggle of delight. In my Calgary days, the mountains were always leaping into view — but even then, I loved every flash. Never got tired of it.

What fun to be playing peek-a-boo with mountains again!

I decide to ride the train right to its Burrard Inlet terminus, Waterfront Station, and then walk back south through the city.

A choo-choo train station when it opened in 1914, now — to use the jargon — an “intermodal transit link” and beautifully restored to boot. People stream in, for various Skytrain lines; or out, into the city; or onward, connecting with SeaBus for the ride across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver.

Whichever, they stream through a glorious lobby, in all its Neo-Classic splendour.

"The Station" - Waterfront Station, Skytrain

I stream out, first to play tourist on Granville Square facing the Inlet and the iconic sails of Canada Place. And the mountains …

Canada Place on Burrard Inlet, facing north

I don’t have a very firm plan of action, but I do have the Official Walking Map of Downtown Vancouver. And I have my own two eyes, showing me inviting pathways southward through green space.

Which lead me to the dolphins. Well, I think dolphins. Something heraldic & fanciful & marine, in any event. Very elegant.

window ornamentation, Sinclair Centre

They adorn the lower ledge of elegant windows in an elegant, restored building. The Sinclair Centre, I read: now a shopping mall, but very upscale, and brought into being by connecting four heritage buildings via an atrium. I don’t go in; I just smile at the dolphins. I’m pretty sure they are smirking, not smiling, but the sun is shining and I don’t mind.

Onto Grenville Street proper for a while, I pass an alley and — of course! — turn into it. I’m up for some alley art, that’s my Toronto training.

No alley art.

But who could resist a pink-&-gold playground? With a hopscotch painted in at this end, and dotted arcs for basketball (or perhaps ball hockey) farther down?

off Granville, between W. Pender & W. Hastings

Something leads me sideways, don’t remember, but here I am on Howe St.and — boom! look! I recognize that! (I’m still at the stage where I can’t anticipate what will come next, geographically; I can only enjoy whatever appears, awarding myself modest extra points if I recognize it.)

Yes, the Vancouver Art Gallery, which I visited just days ago with my friend Sally to see the Susan Point exhibit. Now I walk on down into Robson Square, and half-climb steps back up, to just right here, to position Abraham Etungat’s “Bird of Spring” just so against the VAG façade.

looking north to the VAG from Robson Square

And on down through Robson Square, very uncompromising concrete at its lowest level, then climbing up, literally up, into more greenery, and up again on narrow pathways, and I’m not sure where I’m headed, or if it is public property. But no gates, and it is appealing, so I keep climbing.

landscaping on upper level, The Law Courts

Terraced shrubbery & plants around me, but I become fascinated by that tower, and the reflections mirrored onto it. The influence of where I am, surely, but … don’t they remind you of totems? Twenty-first century urban totems?

tower detail

No exit up here, it turns out, all doors locked. I rewind my steps, down onto the sidewalk, see I’ve been up in The Law Courts landscaping.

I turn onto Smithe St., no particular reason except that eventually it will feed me onto the Cambie Bridge.

And then, at Homer, I have another of those “boom! I recognize that!” moments.

This time thanks to a walk last fall with my friend Louise, who pointed out The Homer. An apartment building with ground-level retail when first built in 1909, and that same combination today. Except that tenants undoubtedly now pay a lot more rent, and the ground-floor sequence of a dye works, a steam cleaner, an ice delivery service & a corner store has yielded to a very elegant café & bar.

Fair enough, The Homer has been restored to elegance as well.

bay windows of The Homer, at Homer& Smithe

Happy with my discoveries, my rediscoveries, I let Smithe St. guide me onto Cambie Bridge. Where I hang over the edge to gaze lovingly at False Creek (inconveniencing the cyclist who, rightly, thought that side of the shared track belonged to him). And flick my eyes upwards at those mountains again.

view eastward into False Creek, along the north side

I think I’m done with them, as I hit ground on the other side and walk east into Mount Pleasant.

But of course I’m not.

I stop to admire the painted building at Ontario & East 8th, and there, above it all …

view north past Ontario& E. 8th

dancing with the sky & clouds … the mountains.

Post-Script

Yes, the sun shone all day like crazy & at one point I was carrying my jacket, not wearing it.

This morning I stepped out into a snow flurry.

Leapin’ Lizards!

3 October 2016 – Little Orphan Annie had no idea just how much leapin’ they could do — once transformed into a range of the Canadian Rockies. Neither did I. In fact I’d never heard of the Lizard Range, but here it is, with peaks soaring to 2,360 metres (7740 feet).

lizard Range in dusk silhouette

The range enfolds the town of Fernie, BC, along with the cold & fast-running Elk River. I’m getting to know all this because, after more happy days in Vancouver & the Lower Mainland, I’m up in the mountains with my Ottawa friend DJ. She’s now a winter-time resident of Fernie, and we’re making a quick fall escape to the family chalet.

First full day, we’re out of town, on up through Mount Fernie Provincial Park to Island Lake and our planned hike around the lake. Brilliant sunshine, & more beauty thrown casually around than seems possible. Except … there it is.

Island Lake, nr Fernie BC

We read the Trail Condition notices. We do not want close encounters with any wildlife larger than a red squirrel, definitely not with moose — whether angry (lower right) or merely mating (upper right).

on Island Lake Lodge notice board

We check the trails map, though our choice is dead simple: follow that jagged red line to circumnavigate the lake.

area trails

After sandwiches in bright Muskoka chairs at water’s edge, we set out.

And soon, sure enough, our first view of the island in the lake.

the island that gives the lake its name

Lake Trail is relatively flat — “flat” being a highly relative term, in the Rockies. With altitude (over 1,000 metres) making the ups & downs even steeper for unaccustomed lungs.

But rewards at every turn. Sunshine & still water double every image.

on the Lake Trail

Later, another double: this time human. An acrobatic young couple glorying in strength, agility, sunshine & each other.

near Island Lake Lodge

We pause in Mount Fernie Provincial Park on the way back out, to read more trail signs. These are for mountain-biking trails, with mountain attitude in every trail name & description …

detail, mountain bike trails through Mount Fernie Provincial Park

Past Perfect Parks

A quick salute to my last walk in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, once again prowling all around Main St. but this time hunting its near-by parks, not murals.

Special thanks to Carla …

nanny Carla, in Mount Pleasant Park

who combines first-rate nannying skills with artistic ingenuity & local knowledge. With her help, I find the other parks on my hit list: some for what they contain (an upright piano, in Robson Park), & two above all for their names.

Tea Swamp Park reminds you it used to be a swamp.

And then there’s the park with the original name, Guelph Park, still on display. Except that is historic information, not current. What began as a prank gained neighbourhood support, and the City eventually gave in. The current signboard bears the now-official name: Dude Chilling Park. Really.

False Creek, True Fun

28 September 2016 – Remember the first image in my previous post? Louise & I are hanging over the railing of the Cambie Street bridge, about to cross north to downtown Vancouver, but pausing to watch dragon boats flash through the waters of False Creek below.

Now I am “below.” Where it is a whole other world than the one of pelting cars overhead. Here, immediately right here, is the John McBride Community Garden, complete with its very own … well, I’m not sure what! Not a bird house; perhaps for either bees or butterflies, as the art work suggests?

bee house,JohnMcBridge Community Garden, Wylie & W1st Av.

One gentleman is working away in the larger part of the garden stretching on to the east. He is fully occupied; I do not intrude.

view of John McBride Community Garden eastward along False Creek

On I go eastward, following the road closest to the water. I have done no research, this is a whim, I am simply determined to follow False Creek as much & as long as I can.

So here I am on West 1st Ave, with sleek new condos typically rising on the south side of the street, facing parking lots and occasional disused industrial facilities by the water’s edge to the north.

at W1st Av & Cook

Hoof, hoof, hoof-hoof-hoof — and then a happy surprise: Hinge Park.

I walk in, enchanted as we always are by unexpected delights, pause by one pond to eye what looks like a very playful submarine sculpture ahead.

on Hinge Island, W2nd Av & Columbia

I follow a path to get closer, and discover that, playful or not, this sculpture also earns its keep. It serves as a covered bridge over the stream.

And those portholes frame great views.

inside the 'covered bridge'!

A couple of fellow walkers give me a tip: back up along this path — yes, this one right here — and go see the beaver lodge. When the city rescued a formerly buried stream and created this park from old industrial grounds, assorted wildlife moved in. Including beavers. Whom the parks people didn’t want, and whose lodge the parks people promptly destroyed.

So the beavers built it again. And the parks people said, “Oh, all right.”

beaver lodge #2, Hinge Park

Another tip from the same fellow walkers: visit Habitat Island, just ahead. It’s part of Hinge Park, and accessible across the gravel. (At least at low tide, I’m not sure about high.) Off I go, here’s the gravel — and a view of the city to the east.

gravel walkway to Habitat Island

More tales of wildlife doing what it wants to do, not what the parks people plan: once Habitat Park was created, a heron arrived. And a hump-back whale. (Several people told me the whale story, so I believe it. I trust he got out again.)

Planned wildlife here, or so officialdom hopes. Then again, Purple Martins can be annoyingly picky.

Purple Matin tower, Habitat Island

No problem about wildlife acceptance here! Crows love this dead tree. One loves it enough to bully another back into the air, and away.

ravens being ravens...

Complete contrast to the raucous crows: someone meditating on a rock.

meditation on Habitat Island

By now I’m enjoying wonderful mixed-use trails along False Creek and into a succession of parks. Next up, the Millennium Olympic Village Park, legacy of 2010, when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics.

Two huge bird sculptures in the park, always a total draw for small children.

in Millennium Olympic Village Park

Also a handsome columnar sculpture, the Olympic Truce Installation, created by Corrine Hunt, who incorporated the artwork of the 2010 medals into her design.

in Millennium Olympic Village Park

In a while I reach Main Street, end of the trails and parks. Right across the street, a big warehouse district. It is  gritty as all get out, but also on my walking agenda, because a number of its buildings feature in the Vancouver Mural Festival.

Aha! I haven’t told you about the VMF, have I? Well, my stay near Main St. coincides very nicely with the  Festival — whose murals are almost all near Main Street as well.

So the next portion of this walk is devoted to that warehouse area — which will be part of my next post, devoted to murals.

Which in turn explains why that foray is not part of today’s narrative. Instead, we’ll jump over all that, and pick up again at East 6th & Main. I’m now homeward bound, striding along, but I’m diverted by white letters on a black wall, in the shade of a large tree. I draw close.

neatly stencilled on the wall, E6th St. & Main

I pause. I enjoy the shade. Then I walk on south, back to the East 12th latitude and my Airbnb home.

 

 

3,364 Km Later…

26 September 2016 – No, I am not in Toronto any more. I am walking north across the Cambie St. bridge in Vancouver, hanging over the rail with my friend Louise to admire dragon boats beneath & mist-draped mountains beyond.

Cambie St. bridge, looking east

We are going walkies, Louise & I, not out to do a bucket list of Vancouver sights, though she is indeed taking me on a sort of tour. Along the way we will drink good coffee, surely enjoy some kind of organized art exhibition (she is an artist, as well as an ESL teacher), but, most of all, we will enjoy the quirky sights that amuse her in her own rambles.

I am all for quirky.

Next up, a quirk indeed — revealed if you carefully position yourself just so on Homer at Smythe to view the heritage building diagonally opposite.

The Homer, Homer & Smythe

“See?” she says, gleefully. “It’s  called ‘The Homer,’ but from here, the tree obscures the second word. You can imagine it is known simply as ‘The.'” We giggle, and swap memories of a greasy-spoon icon in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood, known locally as ‘The Goof,’ since some burned out letters mutilate the proud neon claim of ‘Good Food.’

Just a little down Homer from The The, we contemplate a sidewalk that makes way for a tree.

Homer, nr Nelson

People & their dogs swerve right & left; the tree continues to stretch ever more majestically into the sky.

Still on Homer, but down in (I think) the Yaletown neighbourhood by now, and a quick detour into one of Louise’s favourite cafés. She loves the coffee, the food, the old building and, most especially, the name.

café on Homer nr Helmcken

Tourists get to ask the obvious question. I learn that the owner believes we should notice & celebrate any small victory that comes our way — including good coffee.

Down at Hamilton & Helmcken now, definitely prowling Yaletown, I shrug past glittering shops to stroke the twist of rusty metal that makes this bench a sculpture.

Hamilton & Helmcken

l laugh when Louise points out the refrigerated units inside Living Produce Aisle. Reflected towers jumble the shot, but focus on those living sprouts, just waiting for your selection. I know similar stores are found else where, but it does seem… so very west coast.

sprouts sprouting, on Hamilton nr Davie

We loop back on ourselves, find ourselves again on Homer with The The in sight. This time approaching from the other direction, with other things to admire.

Nature’s gift of sparkling blue hydrangea blossoms …

shrub on Homer, nr Smythe

and the City’s gift of scattered leaves, pressed into these sidewalk slabs as they were being laid.

sidewalk below the shrub

Quick steps into another café, this time not for the name on the wall but for the chandelier — of coffee cups, what else?

a café nr The The

We lunch at some point, on an outdoors patio ( take advantage while you still can), and then check out this year’s Word on the Street — a festival of tents and vendors and talks celebrating books & literacy.  We visit a whole stretch of tents on the closed street bordering the Vancouver Public Library central branch.

Where, to my delight, I see they have quite literally posted various words on the street.

Word on the Street tents, next to VPL Central Branch

I had to look it up. I means a tambourine or similar instrument.

More tables & displays just inside the library, in we go.

entering the VPL Central Branch

Soaring architecture, as you may notice — the 1995 work of Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, who first stamped himself on Canadian (and world) consciousness with his Habitat ’67 complex in Montreal.

We acquire pins & bookmarks & leaflets and even a book apiece, then visit the library itself — eventually up to the Special Collections on the 7th floor, where we also see the maquette for the building as it will appear once the planned 8th & 9th floors (complete with public rooftop park) are added.

maquette showing VPL as planned with additional floors

One art gallery visit only, to the Bill Reid Gallery on Hornby, which honours Haida Gwaii culture, and his personal contribution to that culture — both in greater public profile and respect, and in the jewelry, sculpture, paintings and other artistic works he created imbued with its spirit. If you have a 2004 Canadian $20 bill, you possess an example of his work: it features two of his sculptures, Raven, and Spirit of Haida Gwaii.

portait of Bill Reid, in Gallery stairwell

There are many other images & examples of his work (and other artists) in the Gallery, but I am especially moved by this quiet portrait hanging in the stairwell.

Finally, late afternoon, we head back south. We’ll meet again for dinner, but for now we part, Louise to home, me to my Airbnbn nest in Mount Pleasant.

At Broadway & Main, I look north to the water.

view north from Boradway & Main

The mist has lifted, the mountains dance in the sunlight.

My Sally-day in Vancouver

16 April 2014 — When I posted “From Lake to Pond to Pavement,” I was nowhere near Toronto. I was 3,350 km to the west, in Vancouver — more specifically, in Sally & Owen’s home on the slopes of Mount Seymour, quite close to Deep Cove. I’m in B.C. for a family wedding, and so glad to spend time with dear friends as well, including these two.

I arrived Wednesday; Thursday is my Sally-day, full of Vancouver-style contrasts.

First up, a prowl through the community of Strathcona, just east of downtown Vancouver’s Chinatown. “You’ll like Strathcona,” promised Sal before we set off — and I do, right from our first moment on E. Georgia Street.

row houses, E. Georgia St., Strathcona

Why does this make me think of St. John’s, Newfoundland? Also a seaport, but ‘way back east on the Atlantic, some 7,314 km from Vancouver, and with a totally different history. Maybe it’s the bright colours? Whatever, I love it, and the walk starts — you’ll pardon the dreadful pun —  on a good footing. (Groan.)

Lots of signs tacked to hydro poles — some hand-made Go Slow signs, like this one…

Strathcona local signage

… and others advertising wonderful things. A Perogy Lunch & Yard Sale, for example, which would be totally tempting except it’s being held on Saturday, when I’ll be at the wedding. (So the perogy-fest promptly loses all appeal.)

We pass this tree stump with its living roof, advertising the Pollinator Corridor Project.

bee habitat in host garden, Strathcona

It’s so nifty. By placing habitat in host gardens, the Project aims to provide shelter & forage for the pollinators (Mason bees), add to local green space, and connect people with each other, their community, & nature.

Part of my joy is the jump on spring I gain just by being in Vancouver. It turns out that Toronto has a warm (mid-teens) & sunny few days as well, but back there nothing has yet sprouted, whereas here I am surrounded by green grass, blooming spring flowers & great bursts of flowering shrubs. Magnolias and more, here at E Georgia & Princess.

Strathcona homes, E. Georgia & Pincess

We’re at E. Georgia & Jackson when Sally squeaks with delight. “There it is!” she cries, pointing to a café with Finch’s Market painted on its big front window. Turns out she works near the original Finch’s, on West Pender downtown; here is the relatively new (& new for her) branch operation just on the border between Strathcona & Chinatown.

Finch’s Market, 501 E. Georgia

Of course we go in, have lunch. Pear/blue brie/roasted walnut sandwiches, exotic as all get-out, love it. I top this with a ginger-fresh lemonade drink that’s the real thing, the ginger just slightly sears the throat on the way down. (And that’s all the food review you get from me.) We eye some of the market produce, but don’t succumb, and just as well because we head next even closer to Chinatown…

bike in Strathcona, nr Gore Av

… where I stop to admire this bit of bike art, and then hustle to catch up with Sally. She has spotted a little shop advertising home-made pies.

We wheel right in through that door, and emerge carefully balancing a strawberry-rhubarb pie, so fresh from the oven we are cautioned to keep the top of the box a bit ajar while it continues to cool. We promise.

Next, we head for the one planned event of the day. It takes us into the heart of downtown, where all those roads twirl their way into the northern end of the Granville Street Bridge, near Pacific St. We’re here to visit a glossy, flossy, pull-out-all-the-stops architectural/urban development exhibit called Gesantkunstwerk.

Signage explains all that German means, more or less, “world through total design.” The exhibit shows what is planned for this bit of the waterfront: a 50-storey residential tower by Danish “starchitect” Bjarke Ingels and a surrounding complex of mixed-use low-rise, all of this driven by the development company, Westbank.

We work our way through the photos, maquettes, videos and wall boards. There’s a lot worth taking in; people are reading, watching and snapping photos of the displays like mad. Sal & I end up taking… not selfies, let’s call them “you-ies.” Each other. Here is Sally photographing me as I photograph her, through the glowing maquette of what is yet to come.

Sally, in the Gesantkunstwerk exhibit

Right outside, we look at a remnant of what used to be.

on lower Howe, next to Gesantkunstwerk

Along one flank, some graffiti; beyond that, the bridge. This will be some amazing transformation, a whole lot of new housing stock plus shops & services for all those new residents..

view from lower Howe toward Granville St. Bridge

And now for something completely different (says Monty Python). But no, not totally.

The theme is still redevelopment, housing & ancillary services …

wildlife tree, Lynn Canyon Park

It’s a Wildlife Tree, just like the sign says; a wonderful BC strategy I first admired on Vancouver Island last year. Don’t cut down all the old, dead trees — repurpose them! Leave them there to serve as shelter and, at least where woodpeckers are concerned, vertical snack bars.

We’ve left downtown by now, as you might have guessed; we’re back in North Vancouver in Lynn Canyon Park — 617 acres of park around Lynn Creek, with trails, ecology centre, café and yes! a suspension bridge over the creek. Less well-known & smaller than its west-end Capilano cousin, but great fun to cross. And free.

Bouncy, bouncy.

 

Lynn Canyon suspension bridge

The creek tumbles down a waterfall to one side of the bridge …

Lynn Creek, by the bridge

… while on the other side,  we walk the usual ridiculously gloriously stunning west-coast forest-scape, with Nurse Logs and all …

a Lynn Canyon trail

… as we make our way to 30-Foot Pool.

We watch in fascination as two young men start stripping down at Pool’s edge. Really? And the plan is…?

The plan is to get down to their skivvies, then with whoops and yelps run very quickly into the Pool and dive beneath the surface. Which they do.

the shock of 30 Foot Pool

And then scamper right out again, still yelping but now with a certain anguished overtone from the shock of the cold water.

Honestly, even rocks have more sense than that. This inukshuk, for example, stays put.

inukshuk on edge of 30 Foot Pool

But Sally & I don’t. We head back along the trail, across the bridge (bounce, bounce), and home.

To a warm dinner, and strawberry-rhubarb pie.

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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