Vancouver: Stanley Park, Gastown, Heat, Smoke

The powers that be issued two advisories for today in Vancouver: An air quality advisory and a heat warning. The air quality advisory was due to smoke from wildfires in British Columbia and Washington State. The heat warning was due to the hotness from wherever. Despite the warnings, I got out and wandered around Stanley Park and, later, through Gastown.

Lord Stanley welcoming me to Stanley Park. Yes, me personally. Shut up.
Lord Stanley welcoming me to Stanley Park. Yes, me personally. Shut up.

The air quality advisory was well advised. I’ve never smoked in my life. But I think I made up for it today just by breathing the air in Vancouver.

In the morning, only a light haze blanketed the city and probably added scarcely a single layer of soot to my lungs with each breath. Visually, I barely noticed the smoke when I looked at something a short distance away. But when I looked across the harbour, the mountains on the other side were much less distinct today than they were yesterday. I don’t think that was the mountains’ doing.

The haze intensified throughout the day. By mid to late afternoon, when I looked at anything that was more than a couple of blocks away it seemed as though I was peering through thin gauze. I don’t think that was the case. Walking into gauze isn’t something I do every day, but I’m pretty sure I would have noticed if I had done so. Thus, unless someone kept moving the gauze ahead of me as I walked, it was only a smoke-and-mirrors effect, sans the mirrors.

At about 5:00 p.m., when I looked across the harbour from roughly the same spot as I did in the morning, I could barely see the mountains. Mountains don’t tend to migrate much within a human lifespan, let alone a single day. So I’m pretty sure they were still there. But it was hard to tell.

The heat wasn’t as bad today as it was yesterday, but it was still quite oppressive by the afternoon.

Because of the the heat and thick air, I spent more time lounging around in my air conditioned hotel room today than I did during the previous two days. Nonetheless, in addition to visiting Stanley Park and Gastown, I also did a bit of walking aimlessly in the city because, I might have mentioned this in a previous post, I’m insane.

But enough kvetching. On to my heat- and smoke-addled commentary about my activities of the day. (Alright. So maybe it wasn’t enough kvetching. I can never fit in enough kvetching, try though I might.)

Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a huge urban park. It encompasses 405-hectares (1,001 acres). I know this to be true with absolute certainty because I read it on Wikipedia, so it can’t possible be wrong*. I wrote about the seawall that forms most of the border between the park and the sea a couple of days ago. Today, I wandered around the interior of the park.

As a bit of background, a three-lane highway, highway 99, bisects the park to link up to the Lions Gate Bridge, which crosses the first narrows of the Burrard Inlet to connect Vancouver to I’m not sure if it’s West Vancouver or North Vancouver at that point on the far shore.

The majority of the attractions of human construct in Stanley Park – the Vancouver Aquarium**, gardens, statues and other memorials, playgrounds, totem poles, and probably a few other things I missed or forgot — are east of highway 99.

A forested path in Stanley Park.
A forested path in Stanley Park

The western side of the park is more natural, with trails winding through mostly rainforest, or so I believe (more on that later). There are some manmade (personmade?) features on that side of the park, but they’re almost exclusively on the edge of the park, near the ocean. According to the map, other than a road or two that are also closer to the ocean, the interior of the west side of the park appears to be entirely forest and trails.

I started on the east side of the park. The first statue to greet me was of Lord Stanley with his arms upraised and open wide. Lord Stanley, very much dead now, was a Governor General of Canada. The inscription on the base of the statue reads, “To the use of people of all colours creeds and customs for all time ~ I name thee Stanley Park.” It’s attributed to “Lord Stanley, Governor General, October 1889.”

Don’t ask me why there are no commas in the inscription. Maybe grammar hadn’t been invented yet.

Well, wasn’t that just jolly of the Lord? He dedicated a park named after him and granted the use of it to all and sundry of his boss’s loyal subjects (the Governor General is the representative of the Crown in Canada, don’t cha know?). A bit narcissistic, if you ask me.

But maybe that’s just jealousy speaking. I couldn’t grant my loyal subjects the use of a ballpoint pen named after me. Not even a cheap one from Staples. Although, I don’t suppose it matters. I’m not likely to ever have any loyal subjects, which is a shame, if you ask me.

You’d think Lord Stanley would be satisfied with just having a cup named after him. But, no. He needed a large park. Some now-dead people. I tell you. There was just no pleasing them.

(If the line about the cup doesn’t make sense to you, you’re not Canadian. The Constitution of Canada clearly states that you can’t retain your citizenship if you don’t know what the Stanley Cup is. Even Canadians who aren’t hockey fans know. It was named after Lord Stanley. That Lord Stanley. Google it. But don’t bother Googling the part about the constitution. Just trust me on that.)

Beyond the statue, on the east side of Stanley Park I looked at some gardens, wandered some trails, and visited Beaver Lake.

Beaver Lake

Mottled water lilies in Beaver "Lake."
Mottled water lilies in Beaver “Lake”

If you look at a map of Stanley Park, you’ll see a blue blob roughly in the centre of the eastern side of the park. That’s Beaver Lake. If I were a mapmaker, I’d draw it a different colour. It’s not that the water in Beaver Lake is dirty. I mean, it might be, but it’s hard to tell.

There are only a few slivers of open water in the lake. The rest is covered with aquatic plants. It was so clogged with plant life that, if I were a lake namer, I would have named it Beaver Swamp rather than Beaver Lake. But then I’d have to become a swamp namer, not a lake namer. There are probably swamp-naming guild certifications required for that, so let’s just leave it as Beaver Lake, shall we? Not that we have a choice.

A couple of blooming pink water lilies.
A couple of blooming pink water lilies

Many of the aquatic plants were water lilies. A large section of water lilies were in full pink bloom when I was there. There were also some white lilies, but not as many of them were in full bloom. I tried to take a picture of the large pink section, but no matter what I tried, including zooming, it looked mottled. The cluster of pink water lilies was much more brilliant in real life.

At one point on the shore of the alleged lake, there was a small concrete deck. A couple of blooming pink water lilies sat close to the deck, allowing me to get a good picture of them. Said picture is to the left.

In addition to visiting Beaver (alleged) Lake, I walked along some treed paths on the east side of the park. I couldn’t really help doing so because the park doesn’t offer helicopter rides to the alleged lake. The only way to get there is on foot along paths through forested areas.

Highway 99 crossing Lions Gate Bridge.
Highway 99 crossing Lions Gate Bridge

There is one path on the east side of the park that leads to an equestrian and pedestrian overpass above highway 99 and over to the west side of the park. I followed that path to the overpass where I found a sign telling me that the park was closed due to dangerous conditions.

I then backtracked and found a path that took me north toward “Prospect Point” at the north end of Stanley Park. There, a road with a sidewalk beside it crossed over top of highway 99 to the western side of the park. That afforded me a view of highway 99 where it crossed Lions Gate Bridge.

Closed Trails in Stanley Park

Once I got into the west side of the park, I found that almost all of the trails there were closed, with “dangerous conditions” signs posted. That’s why I don’t have much first-hand knowledge from this trip as to what’s in the interior of the western portion of Stanley Park.

A few weeks before I left for Vancouver, I read a news article about a coyote in the western part of Stanley Park that had become aggressive toward humans. According to the article, coyotes aren’t usually aggressive toward humans. But the coyote in question apparently hadn’t read the field guide. As a result, the park rangers, or whoever is responsible for that sort of thing, closed that part of the park.

When I read the article, I didn’t think much about it because I was confident they’d deal with the problem long before I arrived. I figured they’d negotiate with the coyote and work something out.

In my mind, the negotiations should have gone something like:

Park Ranger: Look, why don’t you leave people alone? If you don’t, we’re going to close your section of the park to people. Then what will you do?

Coyote: Close my section of the park to people? Great! I never really liked people much anyway. Why the heck do you think I attack them? But I’m a reasonable coyote. I tell you what I’ll do. Open the park back up to people and I’ll limit my attacks to one person a day.

PR: No, no, no. One person a day is way too much. How about one a month?

C: Nah, not worth it. How about one week?

PR: One every second week?

C: Deal!

But, no. Apparently that didn’t happen. Some animals just can’t be reasoned with. And, surprising though it may seem if you read much about international, national, subnational, local, and interpersonal human relations, not all of the animals that can’t be reasoned with are bipeds.

Siwash Rock

Siwash Rock sign and coyote warning sign.
Siwash Rock sign and coyote warning sign

I said most of the trails on the west side of the park were closed. There is a road with a sidewalk that was open. I walked along it for most of my time in the west side of the park.

However, there were a couple of exceptions to the trails-closed rule, including a path to Siwash Rock. At the trailhead, below the “Siwash Rock” sign, another sign warned of coyotes and suggested that dog walkers might want to consider another route because of them.

I was alone on that trail and, initially, at the Siwash Rock overlook as well. After a few minutes, a couple walking a small boxer came along. By boxer, I mean a dog, not a small, biped prize fighter. Come to think of it, maybe the couple confused their dog with a prize fighter and that’s why they ignored the sign. They probably figured the dog could knockout a coyote in two rounds, three at most.

(Actually, I think the dog was a pug. But that wouldn’t have made for as good a joke. And it was already a lousy joke.)

I’d seen Siwash Rock on my walk along the seawall a couple of days ago. But I didn’t know what it was called then. And I was too lazy to look it up. So I didn’t write about it then. But it’s a bit on the amazing side.

Siwash Rock is a column of rock jutting up from the ocean close to the shore. It looks like it’s pure rock. And its diameter looks too small for anything other than a little grass or maybe some small shrubs to grow on top of it even if there were any soil. Nevertheless, a fair size tree grows on top of it.

The lookout that I found today, looks down on Siwash Rock through another tree. From that angle, it doesn’t look like much. It’s much more impressive when viewed from the seawall. So, I included below a picture I took of it from the seawall a couple days ago.

Siwash Rock as seen from the seawall.
Siwash Rock as seen from the seawall.
Siwash Rock as seen from above.

“Hollow Tree”

Another exception to the trails-closed rule was one of the trails between the road I was on and a parallel one that passes by a “hollow tree.” That path took me close to the “hollow tree.”

"Hollow tree."
“Hollow tree”

“Hollow tree” is in quotes here and above because it’s not exactly a hollow tree. It’s more like a hollow stump. A tall stump, true. But still a stump. None of the branches or leaves are there. They’re long gone. The stump is very much deceased.

In fact, even “stump” is something of a misnomer. “Large bits of wood held together by reinforcing bars, rods, and screws” is more accurate. But the “hollow tree” is apparently much beloved. It seems that the people of Vancouver just aren’t prepared to let the last remaining bit of it pass on and go to the forest in the sky.

Gastown

A Gastown street
A Gastown street

Gastown is an old section of Vancouver. That is to say, it is old in Vancouver terms. In the terms of, say, the oldest neighbourhood of the oldest of European cities it wouldn’t be considered to be much more than a newborn.

Redevelopment has mostly bypassed Gastown. Consequently, it exudes charm if charm is something you’re into. If charm is not something you’re into, you might have other words for it. But keep them to yourself. Gastown is a tourist area. Vancouverites might not like you if you chase people away from it.

The ground floors of the low rise buildings in Gastown (I think they’re all low rise), contain mainly shops, bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. This keeps the neighbourhood lively.

Gastown's steam-powered clock.
Gastown’s steam-powered clock

The icons of Gastown are its clock and its statue of Gassy Jack.

The clock is old, steam-powered, and appears to keep quite good time. On the quarter hour, the clock toots a deep throated steam whistle. It’s kind of fun.

According to a plaque at the base of the Gassy Jack statue, he was one of the founding fathers of Gastown. The plaque doesn’t say if there were any founding mothers. But he lived in the nineteenth century (1830 – 1875), so the prospects weren’t good.

Gassy Jack’s real name was John Deighton. The plaque said he got his nickname because of his gassy monologues. Well. Ok. If that’s their story about why he was nicknamed “Gassy” and they’re sticking to it I’ll give old Gassy that one.

Statue of Gassy Jack
Statue of Gassy Jack

* Some conditions may apply.

** The Vancouver Aquarium has been closed for I don't know how long now, first for bankruptcy and then for COVID.  I wanted to visit it. I enjoy aquariums. The Vancouver Aquarium is scheduled to reopen two days after I leave Vancouver because if they opened it the very next day after I left it would be too obvious that they were just waiting for me to leave before reopening.

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