Vancouver is the final stop on the Salish Sojourn, and on the last day of our trip, we decided (somewhat predictably) to take a hike. There have been a number of hikes on the Sojourn, but this outing would be an urban adventure. Our destination: downtown Vancouver and a walk that would cover the entire waterfront.
The skies were overcast, a distinctive Vancouver grey, when we arrived at the Granville Public Market, the beginning and end point for our expedition. We had put off procuring breakfast, for we believed that the Public Market on the island would be open, but much to our dismay, the vendors were still setting up; the Public Market doesn't actually open until 9:00. Moral of the story: Google ahead.
We did manage to find an open coffee shop, so after a restorative muffin and a cup of java, we were ready to go. Light sprinkles of rain dusted us as we embarked on the first leg of the trip, bearing east along False Creek. Lined with apartment buildings that graze the clouds, False Creek is one of Vancouver's upscale and expensive neighborhoods. Once an important source of food for native tribes — the shores teemed with oysters and clams — today the seafood beds are gone, replaced by condos, runners, and bikers.
The remains of the Olympic Village (Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics) sits at the eastern end of False Creek. We pass between it and the geodesic dome that resembles a silver golf ball and belongs to the TELUS World of Science complex.
Our route now trends north, away from the water as we pass through a sleeping Chinatown, and then reach Canada Place, the cruise ship terminal on Vancouver Harbor.
The size of these vessels is startling. As we arrive, passengers are disembarking from an Alaskan cruise, and the ship is absolutely monstrous. Its rows of cabins and windows neatly blend into the backdrop of apartment buildings; it is as if someone dared to take a hotel to sea. I don't have any desire to take a cruise — I prefer solitary travel — but it is difficult not to be impressed by these substantive vessels.
We are now following the northern edge of the city. The rain is still holding off, and the temperature is in the low-sixties; very pleasant for walking. We stroll through Harbour Green Park, and at the western end, encounter an odd building that stands on stilts. There is no sign to indicate what it might be: my guess is a first defense against the rising tides of global warming. A later search on the internet reveals that it is a piece of public art, or possibly a million dollar retirement home.
A moment of decision looms, however: when we reach Denman Street, we can either bear west and pick up the west coast of Vancouver, or turn north and cross into Stanley Park. The northern turn will add a few miles to our trek. We are a bit tired at this point, and the shorter west coast route seems appealing. On the other hand, when we will have this chance again?
North it is.
We cross into Stanley Park, and for the first time, move through quiet woods, away from cars and people. Rather than attempting to circumnavigate the entire island, we decide to cut up past Beaver Lake and intercept the northern end of the island.
Beaver Lake is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a large beaver pond in the middle of the park. As we stroll along its periphery, we encounter the Bird Man of Stanley Park. He is seated in a recumbent bicycle at the edge of the pond, and is luring a pair of redwing blackbirds to his side. A bold male flies in and roosts for a moment on his bicycle handlebars.
"Last week I couldn't get them to approach, but they are getting bolder."
His secret? He clutches a small prescription bottle filled with chopped peanuts. He sprinkles the nuts on a downed log, and the birds move in to peck up the pieces. Familiarity is increasing their nerve, and as we watch, one dares to pluck a beak-load of peanut flakes out of the bottletop he holds.
"In a couple of weeks they will be gone," he says, mournfully. "Migrating south."
Winter is coming, even though it is still mid-July.
We depart and pick up the path as it runs along the northern edge of the island. The city has done a nice job building a multi-use trail, a tarmac swath that separates wheeled traffic (bikes, scooters, roller skates) from the non-wheeled. It is a good thing, because we are no longer alone. With every passing hour, more people are joining the trail, and it is growing quite busy.
Our last major change of course comes at Siwash Rock, a monolithic piece of stone that marks the northwestern corner of Stanley Park. We walk south by southeast, encountering an ever-growing number of visitors. Stanley Park flows into the beach along English Bay. The sky is still overcast; no one is swimming (or even sun bathing) and the Lifeguard Rescue boat stands unused and unwanted.
Ultimately our steps lead us back to Granville Island. We hop aboard a water taxi to carry us across False Creek, beneath the Burrard Street Bridge. On this last morning of the Salish Sojourn, we have walked eleven miles. We are tired. It's time for lunch.