My wanderings are urban as well as rural, and several have taken me overseas around Europe and to North America. All have needed at least some planning: knowing what to see and where to stay remain ever present needs. That and remaining ever open to new possibilities have contributed to what you find here. Everything builds up over time, and I hope that the horizons continue expanding to mean that I can continue to share new things with you here.
In July 2019, I embarked on my first transatlantic summer getaway. There was a business trip to Delaware in the U.S. in 2006, but this was my first leisure trip to another continental landmass. While the Canary Islands may lie off the coast of Africa, they do have a more European feel, so I am not sure if that counted.
My choice for a North American leisure incursion took me to Canada, a country that I had been surveying for a while in advance. Choosing Vancouver had little to do with knowing someone else who spent several weeks in its vicinity, but had more to do with initial foot finding on a new continent with a more pronounced sense of wilderness.
For me, getting there involved the services of Air Transat between Manchester and Vancouver. This was a direct return flight because I was not complicating matters on an initial excursion. It felt adventurous enough without adding more to that. Cost consciousness meant that I travelled economy class with the hope that reading would occupy me during the long flights. For various reasons, that did not work as I had hoped. Maybe the long flight had brought on some added nervousness.
Once I got there, it was a matter of reaching my accommodation and figuring out the SkyTrain system along the way. My base was away from the city, more on grounds of cost than my seeking a quieter neighbourhood. It did the latter too, and the lack of centrality was no impediment to my explorations.
First Vancouver Wanderings
They initially concentrated on the city itself. Though tired by the hour of day that my body clock was registering, I still opted for a shoreline stroll as far as Stanley Park. Cloud cover attenuated photographic activity, yet my appetite was whetted for a return the next day.
The night's rest helped as much as the added sunshine for the day ahead. What I had not foreseen was how much time Stanley Park would need from me; it just about occupied the whole day. Much of that was occupied going along the sea wall surrounding the park. There was time for getting something to eat, though this encounter with tipping culture did not go so well. Nevertheless, there was much to distract me in the form of Beaver Lake and the totem poles, as well as some souvenir gathering.
There was an evening crossing to the other side of the Burrard Inlet by ferry. That allowed for a little pottering about in North Vancouver, setting the scene for a later incursion that took me into wilder surroundings. On my return to the south side of the inlet, I ventured around by False Creek, and declining light halted photographic ambitions that would get fulfilled later.
A Crossing to Vancouver Island
Canada has some very large islands, and Vancouver Island is but one of those. To do the place justice would need a week or more, but I only allowed myself a day. Still, that got me a scenic passage by ferry across the Strait of Georgia and through the Southern Gulf Islands. After that, a return bus journey got me to Victoria, a far more elegant spot than Vancouver on the mainland. The starting and ending points for my rambles were near the Inner Harbour and the Parliament Buildings. Other sites included Craigdarroch Castle and Beacon Hill Park. My short stay excluded a visit to the Butchart Gardens, yet I did not feel short-changed and was more than happy for the return bus journey to get me to the ferry in the nick of time. A long wait at a ferry terminal did not inspire me at that time.
Getting Up Courage to go Wilder
There is a saying that any place outside a city in Canada is potential bear country, and that weighed on my mind. Reading up on the associated practicalities did little to settle my unease, so I decided that I needed to acquire some bear spray on the day after my Vancouver Island excursion. There was some form filling associated with the act that stalled me a little as well, yet the actual formalities were not so pressing. My testing was ill-located and that meant venting a space after feeling the effects of the material, hardly a brilliant start. Handily, I encountered no bear on my travels, something that eased my unease.
The necessary purchase was not needed around Pacific Regional Park, nor did I expect that to be the case. Nevertheless, it gave me some quiet space after being around False Creek that morning. Eventually, I found myself among the buildings of the University of British Columbia before returning to False Creek again before attending to another matter and wending back to my hotel by way of Trout Lake Park, also known as John Hendry Park.
The next day saw me travel to North Vancouver by bus. Much of my day was to be spent in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. A circuit of Rice Lake came near the start of a hike that would take me as far as Norvan Falls before beginning my return again. The plentiful tree cover may have aroused some caution about bears, especially given that a subadult male black bear had been spotted around there a few days before my visit, but I appreciated the shade on a warm day, and I was not all alone either.
One Last Foray
The last full day of my trip produced a quandary: do I go to Squamish or Whistler? If I had more time, I would have gone to both, so I decided on Squamish, possibly because I thought it less built up without all the skiing paraphernalia. On getting off the shuttle near Garibaldi Estates. Mountain tops loomed all around, albeit suffering from blue haze, and monochrome images suited the scenes better than their colour counterparts.
There was heat to be felt too, and the feeling in my throat was such that I thought I had gained a sore throat. More recent experiences cast doubt on that perception because the extra feeling might be caused by fatigue and a certain easing of tension regarding the idea of hiking North American wilder spaces. The result was I took things easier and the proximity of Garibaldi Provincial Park did little to draw me in there too far, even if I was going along Garibaldi Park Road.
Instead, I dropped onto Ring Creek North Forest Access Road while noting all the mountain biking infrastructure and marvelling at some of the drops while questioning why anyone would go over those. All was quiet and peaceful, and the size of passing insects struck me as I continued towards the junction with Alice Park Access Road.
The latter conveyed me towards Edith Lake, where a circuit beckoned. Alice Lake was my next destination and that was not so quiet. A children's group was enjoying the lake and one boisterous character was making a lot of noise, not necessarily a bad thing in bear country. Leaving them, I rounded the lake, only to meet them later as they cycled onward with a lady leader singing beautifully, another way of alerting bears to human presence. A smiling "Are you OK?" came my direction too, another typically Canadian practice.
Perhaps prematurely, I began my return to Squamish to get another "Are you OK?" encounter on the way. By the time that I returned to civilisation, the skies were growing milky, though I seem to remember the afternoon feeling duller than my photos suggest. On my way along the Sea to Sky Highway, I spotted a sign exhorting residents not to leave their rubbish bins out overnight for next day collection because of bears. It was another reminder of the adage that anywhere in Canada outside a city was potential bear country.
There was an extended wait for the shuttle bus because of my overcaution. Making sure that I embarked on time the next day was on my mind, as it ever is when I venture far enough away from home. There was some packing to do and a bear spray canister to hand in to the police before I left. Nevertheless, this had been a satisfying day away from Vancouver.
There was so much that was new on this trip: being so far away from home, transatlantic air travel, acquiring bear spray, another country's culture and hiking in bear country, to list just a few. It also whetted my appetite for North American explorations, only for the pandemic to forestall these until I made it to San Francisco. That avoided incursions into bear country, maybe a better way to acclimatised to the continent's wilder places.
Thinking about it now, there are reasons to return to British Columbia should the opportunity again offer. More time could be spent wherever I went, and I also fancy venturing as far as Whistler or Garibaldi Provincial Park. The wilder parts of North Vancouver also offer much more to savour; it is possible to spend days hiking around there alone.