Summer in May

It’s summer in May – global climate change, anyone? Seemingly overnight, the temperature here on the rain coast has gone from 9 degrees to 25, and the cloudless skies continue … We decided to hop on the aquabus and head over to Habitat Island for an afternoon exploration of the area around the Olympic Village.

Approaching the area along the south seawall, you can see the highrises of Main Street and Telus Science World in the distance. Habitat Island is the small peninsula directly in front of them.

The bushes and undergrowth along the shoreline here are home to more than one resident; along with a colony of crows whose rookery occupies the higher trees, folks sleep rough here.

The rotting remains of a public art project are still here; this was once a card- and particle-board replica of a caterpillar digger.

From the City of Vancouver website, here is a blurb about this area: “Habitat Island is an urban sanctuary along Southeast False Creek. Deep layers of soil have been added to the area to provide nourishment for new trees to grow. Boulders and logs commonly found along the coastlines in this region of British Columbia provide a home for plants, small animals, insects, crabs, starfish, barnacles and other creatures. Surrounded by water at high tide, the island is also a sanctuary for birds.

More than 200 native trees, as well as shrubs, flowers, and grasses that grow naturally in this region have been planted along the waterfront path and on the island. The island was created as part of the development at Southeast False Creek, site of the 2010 Winter Games Athletes Village. To build Habitat Island, shoreline and inlet, about 60,000 cubic metres of rock, cobble, gravel, sand and boulders were used. The ebb and flow of the tide on the rocky shoreline creates an ideal home for starfish, crabs, fish, shellfish and other creatures.”

The tall leave-less trees jutting up in front of the mountains provide resting places for birds, including bald eagles.

Habitat Island is interconnected with the adjoining wetlands which take in water from the storm drains in the area and rehabilitate it before it enters False Creek. This shoreline restoration has resulted in herring returning to spawn in False Creek; often you can see great blue herons fishing, too. Originally, this peninsula was to be an actual island but the powers that be were afraid that people would be stranded on it at high tide; the small causeway connecting the island with the seawall was raised to prevent that possibility.

These wetlands were also recently home to a young urban beaver; although we hoped to get a glimpse of it, the beast was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he’s moved on to a larger watering hole.

Along with the mysterious beaver, another wild life visitor has captured the hearts of Vancouverites, the juvenile elephant seal currently molting on Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver. Barb and I rode our bikes over to take a look.

As you can see from this photo, the moss on the trees along the stream at Ambleside is incredible, a testament to this area’s status as temperate rain forest, not that you would know it from our current weather.

From the beach we watched as a Turkish freighter came into the port.

The elephant seal occupies a fenced off area on the west end of the beach. Looking decidedly unhappy, this day he was lying mute and stationary near the water, seemingly indifferent to all the curious spectators.

While over there, I took the opportunity to gather some drift wood for an art installation I’m preparing.

Farther down the waterfront a woman was feeding the seabirds and crows near John Lawson Park.

There are quite a few arts spaces along this stretch of water; we stopped in at the Silk Purse Gallery, formerly the home of an eccentric local who donated it to the West Van Arts Council some years ago.

See more photos here.

Rolling …

Barb and I tried out the semi-new cycling path along the North Shore recently; called the Spirit Trail, it runs from the Auto Mall at the foot of Pemberton out to West Vancouver to connect with the seaside bike and walking route. After coming across the harbour via seabus, we rode past the Mosquito Creek marina, through the Burrard First Nations Reserve, and down onto the Spirit Trail path.

Rolling along the waterfront we saw the paddle wheeler cruising the harbour and enjoyed seeing the variety of four legged beasts out and about on the sunny day.

About halfway along the path a new bridge has been erected over the train tracks. Once up and over the bridge, we cruised through Norgate and the reserve lands next to Lion’s Gate Bridge, admiring the stenciled salmon image adorning a wooden fence.

Traveling under the bridge, our route took us past Park Royal Shopping Centre and through Ambleside Park.

We stopped briefly at the Ferry Building Art Gallery to admire a show of first nations art that had just been installed.

The trail took us as far as the West Van seawall; there we turned around rather than continue on to Dundarave along the road. Bikes are not allowed on the seawall here, as passersby never hesitate to tell us when we are standing nearby with our bikes.

We have had an amazing spring for flowers, especially tulips.

Friday night skates are back on the menu; Winson very kindly purchased a portable speaker for us to use – it’s more fun to skate with tunes.

Our route takes us from Science World, through Chinatown and Strathcona, with its beautiful old buildings, to the ice cream palace on Venables, the Casa de Gelato with its 250 flavours.

From there, we head down to the docks.

From the top of the Main Street viaduct, we had a beautiful view of the sun starting to set behind Canada Place.

The gigantic cranes and shipyard buildings glowed brilliant orange in the setting sun.

As we rolled through Stanley Park, darkness was descending over Coal Harbour.

This place is so beautiful in good weather; it has gone from very cold to summer overnight. The photos below are from another recent roll around the seawall; as you can see, the beaches are packed and every imaginable wheeled and four footed conveyance is pressed into service.

See more pictures here.

 

Back home again …

Here is a photo with our lovely hosts in Cancun, Gabby and Aldo, plus Frida the dog (named after artist Frida Kahlo), standing in front of their Cancun home.

We’ve been back in Vancouver for a week and a half now; in that time, it’s gone from a Junuary winter-summer of 13 degree temperatures to a full-on July Vancouver summer, with blue skies, sun, and 19 degrees (still cool for this old body used to the mid 30s of Mexico!). We’re renting an apartment downtown, just around the corner from our own place, back to which we move the beginning of August. It is nice to be back in the neighbourhood.

From our balcony, we can see the Emery Barnes dog park below.

Here’s the view looking north to the mountains of the North Shore.

Brubin is happy that summer’s here, too.

Now that the sun’s out, everyone who has been huddled in the darkness and rain for the last few months is out and about (although not as early as me – Brubin is up at 5 am these days).

One of the things that I noticed right away when we returned is that all the trees and bushes have grown tremendously. This seawall garden was pretty sparse when we left a year ago; now it is huge and luxuriant. The huge sculpture “A Brush with Illumination” is still a favoured resting spot for the cormorants around the Creek.

It’s lovely to see the Great Blue Herons fishing along the False Creek shoreline.

This huge sculpture on the seawall across from Granville Island really captures the beauty of these birds.

As usual, there are lots of big freighters in the harbour.

I love the red of this one against the blue background of the North Shore mountains and our frigid ocean. Barb and I went for a skate around the seawall yesterday, one of the joys of living here (although my sore feet weren’t so joyous).

We stopped at the Brockton Point lighthouse in Stanley Park, with several other passersby, to watch the beginning of a wedding service against the backdrop of the harbour and Lions Gate bridge.

This couple was very lucky with their choice of day – it was beautiful.

Near Lumbermen’s Arch, this ship’s Chinese figurehead has finally been restored.

I love seeing all the sea birds here; here’s a cormorant giving the snorkeller sculpture the hairy eyeball.

Living up to his reputation, here’s a geagull consuming whatever’s around, in this case an unfortunate purple starfish. With all the rain in the last little while, the foreshore is green with moss and mold and the kelp fields are thick and rich with food.

Ty and I have really noticed how incredibly green it is here compared with where we’ve been. Also, how few people there are; some days, especially when the weather is bad, the streets here are virutally deserted. We almost never experienced that while away. It’s no wonder that visitors to this city, especially those from South East Asia, would wonder where everyone is … While every morning we awoke to the sound of song birds, I have not heard a single one here. The only birds we’ve seen are seabirds – cormorants, seagulls – and, of course, crows. But where have all the song birds gone?

See more pics here.