To paraphrase the Stones…

10 03 2015

It’s only marketing, but I like it, like it, yes I do!

Keep a dry eye if you can…

“Boing!” said Zebedee

9 03 2015

Spring seems to have sprung.

At least in my neighbour’s front garden where his blossom tree has, well, blossomed.

Delicate  blooms

Delicate blooms

And yes… it’s supposed to be largely out of focus! That’s art that is. A deliberately tight depth of field.

It’s about the journey

9 03 2015

They say it’s about the journey, not the destination. Very philosophical and all, but it’s still a bugger when you set out on a hike and don’t get to where you’re aiming.

Sunday was a lovely day here in BC. Despite losing an hour’s sleep to daylight saving, breakfast was had, the dog was fed, watered and walked, and we were all ready for the offsky pretty well on schedule.

We’ve been reasonably good at getting a hike in most weekends, and this time it was up to Mrs E. to pick the route. We have several books of local hikes and scrambles, and she picked one pretty much at random from Dawn Hanna’s “Best Hikes and Walks of Southwestern British Columbia”. Best Hikes & Walks of SW BC

Today’s adventure was to be in the environs of Grouse Mountain, a favourite haunt where many pleasant hours have been previously spent. Mosquito Creek Cascades promised to be a reasonably leisurely hike – 8km in total with most of the ascent in the last 1km before the turnaround.

Mosquito Creek route

Mosquito Creek route

Things didn’t start very well with me missing the turning for Burnaby along the highway, and therefore forcing us to go right through the middle of Vancouver. Davie Street offered its usual collection of interest, and we were at the Lion’s Gate bridge before too long. Here I got a little worried because it seemed the entire North Shore was under a low lying blanket of cloud. Thankfully this turned out to be a narrow band over the water itself, and we were soon through to the North side and glorious views of the mountains.

The car-park at Grouse was quite empty, but it didn’t stop some bloke in a Tesla taking my parking spot, despite me clearly indicating my intent. Times must be hard with the lack of snow, because there was actually some chap checking parking tickets on the assembled vehicles. I’d never seen them doing that before.

The recent good weather has made the various routes up the Grouse (including the still officially closed Grind) appealing once more, and some previous community spirited individual had thoughtfully inserted a stick into the self-locking gate so it couldn’t. Self lock, I mean. The gate’s a complete joke, of course. It’s nominally there to prevent people attempting the Grind when it’s dangerous to do so, like after dark, or when there’s snow on the rocky trail. The cynic in me would also point out that it would encourage more people to pay to ride the SkyRide and ski/board at the top. The total lack of snow there though makes the continued closure of the Grind laughable. More to the point, there are many more trails starting here than just the boring though popular Grouse Grind.

Anyway, we started our adventure as per the book, by heading East along the BP trail. This vaguely contours the lower reaches of Grouse with a gentle ascent as it heads further East. As we continued, we passed over two tributaries of MacKay Creek, the second of which looked almost man-made. In a way, I guess it was, since the clear cuts of the past had removed much of the soil stability, so when the heavy rains of 1996 came, the soil was swept away right down to the bedrock, leaving an ugly scar allegedly visible from Vancouver.

A little later we met a few people coming from the opposite direction, and one pair of ladies had a huge panting Bernese Mountain Dog. Despite the women taking a lower trail, the dog approached us on the higher rail, huffing and puffing. The owner apologised for this mountain (of a) dog crowding our path, and the dog quite definitely and distinctly gave me an ice-hockey style shoulder check as it passed!

Pretty soon we came to a gravel path and needed to check the GPS as there were paths converging from all sides. We followed the BP trail down a bit of an old path, past a very West Coast house with an orange steel roof, and down to the creek. There is a substantial bridge over now, but apparently its predecessor was swept away in the 1996 floods. There’s a couple of large green water towers and we headed up the actual climb towards the cascades. We opted for the Cascade Trail, which is slightly to the East of The Old Grouse Mountain Highway. This was a pleasant steady climb, and is joined from the left by the “highway”. Only a couple of hundred metres further, the well marked and wide trail suddenly disappeared. Literally. The hillside looked like it had suffered some major slides. The path to here was following an old iron pipeline, and here it was suspended in the air, as the supporting ground had been washed away.

An alternate path had been marked by some intrepid predecessor with pink surveyor’s tape, and we gamely angled down towards Mosquito Creek itself. After about 100m though, it was pure bushwacking. We still had more than half a kilometre to go, but no clear route to follow. We opted to stop and eat by the creek and call it a day. It was a peaceful little spot, and we soaked in the silence. Right up to the point when we heard a family and dog crashing through the brush on the west bank of the creek. The trail there is supposedly closed now, but I guess it was less closed than the supposedly open trail we’d chosen!

Mosquito Creek

Mosquito Creek

After a pleasant break, we tried to retrace our steps to the maintained path, and noticed that in this direction someone had carved markers into the various fallen logs to try and permanently mark the path. Back up on the main path, we opted to take The Old Grouse Mountain Highway back down to the water towers.

Springboard hole

Springboard hole

This was definitely the steeper route of the two, and there were a couple of huge trees fallen across the path to make life even more interesting. Industrial archaeologists would be interested in the old water pipe exposed in places on the trail. It was used up until storm damage in the 1980s damaged the intake.

After we’d crossed back over the bridge we opted to take the powerline trail back to the Grouse car-park which is a very pleasant easy amble back.

Google Earth: Mosquito Creek from Grouse Car-park

Google Earth: Mosquito Creek from Grouse Car-park

In our own back garden

4 03 2015

Believe it or not, I began to write this post way back on Monday. That though was the day I decided to return my shiny new laptop to Best Buy because the battery wasn’t charging properly. The reason I’d bought the laptop was because this desktop PC runs like the proverbial 3-legged dog.

Anyway, we’re all here now, so let’s get on with wasting a few minutes of your life…

Way back in 1992 there was a leap year. That coincided with the sense that my fiancée and I shared that it was about time we started thinking about improving our tax position and getting married. Though it wasn’t exactly planned, we weren’t averse to the fact that the next free Saturday wedding slot at the local registry office happened to be the 29th of February. As if the 29th of February itself wasn’t memorable enough, in Europe dates are written day/month/year or in this case 29.2.92. What can I say? Seemed like a good idea at the time!

So here we are, 23 years and only 5 real anniversaries later. We figured we’d go away to mark the occasion, but couldn’t decide where to go. In the end we opted to stay in down-town Vancouver and be tourists in our own back garden. We’d had occasion to stay at Le Soleil on Hornby a few years ago, and really enjoyed the little boutique hotel. It has a sort of Napoleonic French vibe going, with gold and yellow stripes, sun motifs and bees everywhere. A few obelisks are reminiscent of Napoleon’s Egyptian adventures too.

Luxurious bees on the chairs

Luxurious bees on the chairs

So anyway, we got down-town on the Friday evening, the 27th, got settled in and then headed out for some dinner and a bevvie. I used to work down-town and felt oddly disjointed to be there “for pleasure”. In the end we walked towards the harbour, and settled on the Lions pub. Nothing special, but one of several wannabe English style pubs in Vancouver. Though the significance was lost on me at the time, my eye fell on the Welsh Rarebit in amongst other yummy familiar items on the pub’s menu. This proved to be foreshadowing of the most weird nature.

On the way back, we ambled through Canada Place and bought tickets for “Fly over Canada“.

The tickets are not timestamped and you can use them any time. We figured we’d try and get to see the show reasonably early on Saturday, and this would avoid queueing. Experience has taught us that Vancouverites rarely rise before about 11am, so if you want to avoid a queue get up early and you’re done before the crowds even materialise.

Canada Place - after hours

Canada Place – after hours

Saturday, I woke up bright and early and went to check out the hotel gym. It was pretty small, but the worst thing was that the extra foot of elevation the elliptical machine gave was sufficient to embed my head in the ceiling tiles. I was getting sunburnt from the pot lights and gave up well before my usual routine would dictate. After showering we headed off for breakfast and opted for a new Tim Hortons on Pender. It turned out that Vancouver had sprouted at least two new Timmie locations since I was last in these parts. The two young ladies in there seemed ill prepared for the steady stream of customers and we had to wait quite a while for the English muffins with mmmmmm bacon. Fully energised we headed off to Canada Place and joined the short queue for the first showing of Fly over Canada.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and there was a very Chinese New Year vibe going on. We were eventually ushered into a staging area whilst the queue was carefully counted off. We were then led to an inner sanctum where we were placed on individual circles on the floor. Jokes about Twister and Star Trek were in abundance. Eventually we were taken to the actual viewing area. This is a two tier balcony with rows of seats similar to aeroplane seats. In front of the chairs was a barrier. Still not quite knowing what to expect, it struck me that the barrier seemed highly engineered and I surmised that it likely moved in some way.

After much bleating about safety, strapping in and lots of other things which didn’t really seem to go with the situation, the lights went down and all became much much clearer! Basically the theatre is a large curved screen. Not quite IMAX quality, but definitely large enough to encompass your peripheral vision. The seats are in rows of about 5 or 6, and each row independently slides forward. As suspected, the barrier had folded out towards the screen, allowing the seats to move out over the chasm. As well as moving in and out towards the screen, each row could independently tilt left and right. Coupled with the surround-view showing wide vistas this led to a quite convincing sensory illusion of hang-gliding. The warm up film was a flight over China to celebrate the lunar New Year, but the main feature was some stunning cinematography of our great country. Taken from helicopters, the film led you to believe you were sweeping up and down over jaw-dropping scenery, with the seats swinging in synch with the visuals, and an occasional misting insinuating that you were really climbing in and out of clouds or plunging low into the sea spray. I felt a bit like a supermarket lettuce by the end of the show.

It was pricey at $20, but it was certainly an experience. I turned down a fortune cookie on the way out. This turned out to be bad fortune, as the fortune slip included a 30% discount for someone to visit again.

The primary order of the day was to find a nice place to have dinner, but before that we needed to acquire a bottle of fizzy wine. We opted for a bottle from the See Ya Later ranch near Skaha Lake, Kelowna. Then we were off to explore Vancouver like tourists do. We walked all the way South on Hornby to the Aquabus, and headed over to Granville Island.

Aquabus stop

Aquabus stop

The real reason for dropping in to Granville Island was for me to photograph the cement silos. Regular readers will recall my excitement at the giant art project a few months ago. First though… lunch! Memory’s a funny thing. We’d remembered “a great little pie place” in the marketplace, and found it easily enough. It was at the peak of lunchtime though and we were forced to decamp to the outside benches in order to sit and eat them. I had mushroom pie, and the crust was just as rich and flaky as I’d remembered. The innards though? Basically just mushroom soup with a few chunks of tomato – yes tomato – to make it a bit more lumpy. Pink mushroom pie. Nearly as offensive as the dodgy ukulele singer trying to entertain the seagulls.

We ambled around to find tea, and settled for the Granville Island Tea Company. They were selling bricks of compressed tea for $20, in the style of the ones traditionally traded over the Steppes on the Silk Road for centuries. I was tempted, but each brick represents an awful lot of tea if you decide you don’t like it. Suitably sated with a single cup of non-bricked tea, we headed off so I could photograph the silos. It was a lovely sunny day, but the Ocean company had inconveniently parked their trucks to obscure a clear view of the silos.

The silos were painted by Brazilian street artists “Os Gemeos”, twins from Sao Paulo. Quite the project!

Giants by Os Gemeos

Giants by Os Gemeos

While trying to get a better angle (there wasn’t really one) I was half listening to the patter from a young magician entertaining a knot of onlookers. He was just about to begin a trick and offered to pull up his sleeves to show there was nothing hiding. He then corrected himself and said, actually he was just showing off his tattoo. Baring his unadorned forearms he then declared that the tattoo was of a chameleon. I chuckled, but plainly nobody else got the joke. Quick as a flash he added “let’s join hands – perhaps we can raise the living”. In support of his acerbic wit I stage whispered “well I thought it was funny” as I passed between the still perplexed onlookers. I commented to Mrs E about his almost British humour, and she remarked that he’d said earlier that he was from Hong Kong. I wish him well. I didn’t stay to watch his tricks, but his wit should serve him well in his chosen career.

Having to satisfy myself with obscured views of The Giants, we headed back to the ferry which is a particularly colourful little number built low and flat to more easily accommodate bikes and pushchairs.

It's OK, we'll take the next unicorn

It’s OK, we’ll take the next unicorn

We ambled along the seawall enjoying the urban version of what we normally experience walking the promenade in White Rock. At one point we were horrified to see a pair of youngsters being encouraged by their guardian to pick the grass slope clean of all the lovely crocuses that were blooming there. Each child had their fists full of the purple and white blooms. The kids were too young to know any better, but it was shocking to see such encouragement from their adult.

World’s cutest hooligan

Dinner was arranged at The Fish House and we had time to walk back to the hotel to freshen up before returning for the sunset and a great slice of Haida Gwaii halibut. Having already amply sampled the bubbly before dinner, the G&Ts during dinner and a lovely little port after dinner, the walk back to the hotel is a bit vague I’m afraid.

Sunday breakfast was nice. We ate at a lovely Parisian pastry shop I must have passed several times without noticing. It’s squeezed in between Bellaggio’s and Artigiano’s on Hornby, by the VAG. Goes by the name Faubourg. The proprietor was indeed French and I was surprised to see the tea he served was also Gallic! I never knew they had it in them. ;o)

Seems there’s actually three locations around Vancouver with others in Kerrisdale and Park Royal. I can recommend the pistachio croissant. ‘Nuff said.

As we ambled down the seawall to do one more lap of the West End (22km of walking on Saturday. Slightly less on Sunday), I noticed someone had tied a leek and a couple of daffodils to a park bench. Of course… it was 1st of March! St. David’s day. Though I didn’t go and check, I strongly suspect the bench was in memory of someone with a surname of Jones. Or Edwards. Or Davies. Whoever they were, they were missed, and their Welsh heritage was being celebrated on the appropriate day.