Easter Sunday

Whitemud Easter Sunday

Lovely walk along the trail in Whitemud, just off Westbrook. Maggie seemed to enjoy the ride this time. Must be improving on my driving skills, or maybe she liked the tunes.

Next walk in the woods, no boots – back to running shoes. There’s very little snow and only a few patches of easily avoidable ice left on the trails, so it’s just not worth wearing my clunky hiking boots anymore. Other than the ubiquitous chickadees and a maddeningly just out of view pileated woodpecker, the woods were pretty quiet. People must be at home desecrating chocolate Easter bunnies (I did that yesterday, except it was a chicken.) The creek is completely open. Crazy how fast Friday’s 10cm of snow melted. Just two days, and it’s all gone.

Maggie has developed this thing about laying down in water. It started last year, maybe the year before. It seems to be getting worse, or depending on your perspective, funnier. Doesn’t matter if it’s shallow, or ice cold – she just nestles in. Must feel good on her bits and pieces. Or something. Who knows why dogs do anything? It probably doesn’t help that we all laugh when she does it, and take pictures. I’m glad I have a semi-permanent sheet in the backseat of the car.

Laying down with dogs...

Laying down with dogs…

13C/5:06PM

This is some shit, up with which I will not put.

Happy doggy

Happy doggy

So. Much. Snow. This entire week has been up and down, but mostly down, temperature-wise. And the last few days snow has fallen, but just lightly. Last night, and this morning, heavy, heavy snow. About 10cm. It will soon melt, but for the next 24 hours – pure white misery.

Except.

The dog. She loves it. Took her for a walk along the east powerline, and she jumped and frolicked and snowplowed her way down the path, happy as a puppy. Despair gives way to joy. Snowballs. Wet boots. Great pools of water.

The pool at Terwilligar off-leash (with unidentified doggy)

The pool at Terwillegar off-leash (with unidentified doggy)

Actually, I’m not that sad about it. Really. We had some good walks last week, and the forecast is promising seasonal weather after the long weekend. This is the absolute worst part of spring in Edmonton. The true greening is not for another three or four weeks. Until then, variations on brown, and when it’s not brown, it’s white. As always, the monochromatic landscape is made infinitely more bearable when the sun is out and the sky is blue. At the moment, all day in fact, it’s been pure white on white.

Maggie takes to the water in Terwillegar last week

Maggie takes to the water in Terwillegar last week

Shaking it off

Shaking it off

Yeah, four days ago, there was no snow...

Yeah, four days ago, there was no snow…

3:21PM/0C

 

Melty

Maggie tongue

On the way to Whitemud

Short but vigorous walk through Whitemud north, once again, to look for the elusive Barred Owl. All we saw was melting ice, pools of water, and a wet labrador. Beautiful out though, and Maggie didn’t complain too much about the stairs, as there were a lot of them. We’re in the middle of a big melt, finally, but probably not the final. There’s always the May snowstorm to look forward to.

Melt waters

11:00 AM/10C (later)

Red trees

Lovely 90 minute walk in Whitemud today. Still a ton of snow. Lots of sun. It’s a strange feeling to walk through a green rain forest and a wintry boreal forest in the same week.

Bridge

The chickadees, or a chickadee, kept dive-bombing me as I tried to shoot a photo. Not sure if it was being aggressive, or if it wanted to land on my head and make friends. In spite of the snow, it is spring, so maybe there was a nest nearby. It was unusual behaviour, but I never feared for my life or anything. I’ll bring seed next time. Something to negotiate with, should the situation deteriorate.

And now, squirrels.

Squirrel II

Squirrel III

Squirrel I

0C/3:45PM

Rain, Flowers, and Neil Finn

Magnolia blossom

Magnolia blossom

Cherry Blossoms on Jervis Street

Cherry Blossoms on Jervis Street

Took a plane on wintry Friday afternoon in Edmonton and arrived in the warm, but much wetter spring of Vancouver. It is amazing that just a little more than an hour west, magnolia trees are in full pink blossom and the streets are lined with flowering cherry trees. Green grass. Green everything. Grey skies for the most part, but I will take that in exchange for a small reprieve from winter’s endless grip.

When I found out that Neil Finn was touring in Vancouver in March, I booked a ticket immediately. There was no scheduled stop in Edmonton (as opposed to the last couple of Crowded House tours), so there was literally no alternative, other than missing the show, which was not an option. Also, the opportunity to see friends, visit the Lawren Harris show at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and get a much-needed break from the snow. Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. Short, but sweet.

Ivy growing outside, on the way to the hotel

Ivy growing outside, on the way to the hotel

When I arrived in Vancouver around 2:30, I took the Canada Line train to downtown. Absolutely no idea where I was when I emerged out of the Waterfront Station. My pre-printed mapquest route didn’t include this exit, so I was completely flummoxed, and it was raining. Hard.

With a suitcase in one hand, and an umbrella in the other, and trying very hard not to appear pathetically lost, I stepped into a Starbucks and fired up Google maps on my iPhone. It got me to my hotel in about 10 minutes. It’s very discombobulating to look around and have absolutely no idea where I was, or which direction I should turn. I’ve been to Vancouver a few times, but not on my own, and not right downtown. After I checked in, admiring the city view and the king-sized bed, I tried to fix my rain-frizzed hair, but gave up after a few minutes, opting instead to explore my surroundings. The hotel is a few blocks up from the harbour, so I headed west. It was chilly (about 9), but no gloves were necessary, or scarf. Just a sturdy umbrella and a lot of hairspray.

English Bay, about two blocks from my hotel (an hour after my arrival in downtown Vancouver)

English Bay, about two blocks from my hotel (an hour after my arrival in downtown Vancouver)

The harbour was magnificent. Successions of sea planes were landing in the black water, with tankers in the misty distance. By this point, I’d already taken pictures of ivy growing outside (!), cherry blossoms, and anything else that was even remotely green and budding.

Day of the triffid, I mean, Magnolia

Day of the triffid, I mean, Magnolia

I’d just shoveled 4cm of snow on Thursday, so the verdant landscape seemed a little unreal. After an hour or so of walking around, getting my bearings (or so I thought), I returned to my hotel. I texted Suzanne, and we agreed to meet at her apartment on Jervis Street at 6:30. Again, with the pre-printed mapquest sheet, and a reassurance from Suzanne that she was ‘an easy 20 minute walk away,’ I set out. However, I have no sense of direction at the best of times, and so…I got lost. Really, really lost. I should have turned right, but I turned left, and walked west down Robson. And then down Granville. It was POURING.

Yay! Jervis Street (after an hour-long rain soaked search)

Yay! Jervis Street (after an hour-long rain soaked search)

Suzanne & Broedy

Suzanne & Broedy

The kind of deluge Edmonton only sees two or three times a summer. My feet were soaked. And Vancouverites are very aggressive with their umbrellas. It was like battling a sea of wet, angry bats. I took refuge in a store, and called Suzanne. Finally, at the corner of Burrard and Robson, I turned right, walked about four blocks to Jervis, and then up the green and pink street to her 1930′s three story walk-up. Easy. Jervis is a beautiful street. I found a magnolia tree in full bloom as I squelched along the sidewalk. The flowers were spectacular. I took a few shots with my iPhone, but couldn’t capture the stunning quality of the blooms. It looks like an apple tree on steroids.

Red tree

The apartments in downtown Vancouver are very densely packed, and highly varied. Skyscrapers next to vine covered two-stories. Every permutation of human habitation. Very few detached houses. On my way to the airport on Sunday, I drove by a lot of high-hedged mansions, but nothing like that downtown. And yet, in spite of the density, this road has little round gardens in the intersections, and every patch of green has been funkified in some way. Sculptures, vases, flowers. And, not too far away from the residential areas, every kind of amenity. My kinda neighbourhood.

Due to my many detours, we ended up having dinner very late, around 8:00, at a place on Robson. The streets were sill teeming a few hours later, and I easily found my way home under a clearing sky. Simple really, once I knew which direction to turn.

North Shore

North Vancouver, from Stanley Park

Wind pipes for sale

Wind pipes for sale

Next day, we met for brunch and then a walk with Suzanne and her dog Broedy along the seawall in Stanley Park. We took a side trip to the pet store, which had a large selection of dried animal parts, including beef wind pipes. (I thought about Maggie, but realized I would not be able to stomach her chewing a trachea.) It only misted a bit on the way, and once we got into the park, it stopped completely. We didn’t exactly get a sunny day, but the break in the rain was very nice, as was the walk. Interestingly, the bikers are clearly separated from the pedestrians on different but adjoining sidewalks. Great idea. Lots of people out and about. English Bay was beautiful. The rocky shore equally beautiful, and I could have beachcombed for hours, but dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, so we kept to the path. Many seagulls, crows, ducks, loons, and a heron. After about an hour, we moved to a monkey trail. It was SPECTACULAR. Rain-soaked ferns and giant moss-covered cedars. Plants that could never grow in Edmonton. Pools of water with some kind of sprouting lily. A huge, overturned cedar that Suzanne said was probably from the incredibly destructive wind storm a few years ago.

Shells

Deep into this dripping trail I felt like I was in a rain forest, and I probably was, minus the giant poisonous spiders. I loved it. I would never have walked through here without Suzanne’s guidance. At any given point in Stanley Park, I had no idea where I was (what a surprise.) We emerged out of the woods after about an hour, into a marina and a looming city skyline. A walk around False Creek, where I spotted a (later identified) Spotted Rufous Towhee, as well as many ducks and geese, all of whom seemed smug in their choice of city. (Can’t help thinking about the recently returned Edmonton geese, with their frozen bums and snow-covered nesting areas.) It started to rain again as we headed toward Jervis. A fond, and grateful farewell to my long-time friend, and then back to the hotel to chill until Neil Finn that evening.

Spotted Rufous Towhee

Spotted Rufous Towhee

A very friendly duck in False Creek

A very friendly duck in False Creek

Moss covered tree II

Vogue Theatre

Vogue Theatre

Now that I’d traversed most of downtown Vancouver (mostly unintentionally) in the last 24 hours, I no longer needed mapquest or google maps to get to my next destination – the Vogue Theatre on Granville. Once you have Burrard and Robson down, the rest comes a lot easier. The sun was parting the sky as I walked along a people-filled Granville. My seat was just 10 rows back from the stage, and a bit to the side, so pretty perfect. The concert was fantastic. I’ve seen Neil Finn play with Crowded House a few times but this was in some ways, better, because he could draw from his solo records and the Finn Brothers albums, as well as Crowded House and Split Enz. I loved every single fucking moment. It was exhilarating, and elevating. I especially loved when he sang Last Day of June, one of my favourite songs. I also loved being on foot, singing along for the last half of the concert. He played for more than two and a half hours. Brilliant. The guy is absolutely brilliant. Well worth the planes, trains, automobiles, and rain-soaked shoes it took to get me to this concert.

Neil Finn (why I was in Vancouver)

Neil Finn (or why I was in Vancouver)

The next morning (which began with blue skies), I met my affectionately named ‘little brother’ Matt for brunch at De Dutch Pankoek House on the waterfront.

Matt in front of the Olympic Flame

Matt in front of the Olympic Flame

By late morning it was pouring again, but the walk from the hotel to the harbour restaurant is very short, so we only got mildly drenched. Great conversation (we agreed that Mavericks is a shit update to the Mac operating system), great pankoeks (with strawberries and bananas), and great scenery. He walked me back to my hotel, and along the way pointed out the Olympic Torch (which famously failed to light), and an interesting lego-like Orca by Douglas Coupland. Vancouver does public art very well. It’s a city made for pedestrians. For people, not cars.

Douglas Coupland's Orca

Douglas Coupland’s Orca

My only other ‘appointment’ before the plane was with Lawren Harris at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The show was wonderful. I love his paintings, and what he was trying to do with the Canadian landscape, although I will say the collection at the National Gallery in Ottawa is far more impressive. It was jarring to walk upstairs and see the ridiculous Myfanwy MacLeod and Cock & Bull shows, both of which were conceptual, installation-type displays. Not great. Not even really fun, but I did enjoy the Edward Burtynsky photography on the top floor, which included a related Emily Carr show of denuded west coast landscapes. As a palate cleanser, I had a final walk around the Lawren Harris rooms, and then stepped back out into the rain. A half hour later, I was in a cab on my way to the airport. The sun was out. I took a cab because the Canada Line train is largely underground, which contributed to my initial disorientation, and I wanted to see what I’d missed.

White flowers

It was a fantastic trip! I did more walking than I’ve done in a very long time, all of it, or most of it in the rain. Hard to believe that in Edmonton, the ‘blooming’ part of spring is still a month away. It was so nice to be outside, to commute on foot, even if the weather was not ideal. Great city, great friends, great music and art, and a wonderful hit of spring just when I needed it. I feel lucky, and thankful for this weekend, even though my damp raincoat failed to keep out the cold when I landed back in Edmonton.

Tree root II

In Search of Owls

Bohemian Waxwings

Not owls

Barred HorseOn a hot tip, went in search of a Barred Owl in Whitemud Ravine (north) this afternoon, but only spotted Barred Horses. Also, a lot of Waxwings and Chickadees, none of whom would give up the exact location of the owl.

It seemed quite cold today, even though it was about 5C. The bazillion stairs helped to warm my body, if not downright torture it. Not too icy down there either, which was a surprise. Further south, the bank continues to erode. I expect the area will be permanently fenced off at some point, until a new barrier can be erected. The path, at one point, is very narrow. That’s where we stopped, seeing as we were gypped out of the owl.

Bohemian Waxwings II

Bohemians

 

Springy

Creek hill

Just a t-shirt today. (Also pants.) So spectacular. So springy. Giant puddles everywhere, and in the ravine, snow the look and texture of granulated sugar. Geese flying overhead, honking their return, and even a few robins. I had to lure Maggie down the hill with treats, but once we were on the monkey trail, she shed her reluctant walker persona in favour of her true self – happy, energetic bounder of logs, sniffer of grass, and overall jolly companion. Like a lot of us, she doesn’t like the ‘getting there’ part, but once she’s in the ravine, or on a monkey trail, she forgets she’s old and has pure, puppy fun.

Whitemud Ravine just below the powerline is fantastically alive. The creek is a torrent, and the trees are full of bird song and the tap, tap, tapping of beaks on bark. Don’t know what they’ll find this early in the season. I’m sure if I stayed out a little longer, I would have seen a bug or two. Still no end in sight to the nice weather.

View from below the bridge

1:45PM/8C

Soaking Up the Sun in Whitemud Ravine

Whitemud creek in spring

Drove through some jeezly big puddles to the trailhead in Westbrook with the dog. The ravine has transformed since last Sunday. Gone is the soft snow on the trail, replaced by grey, needle-strewn ice. Even with this brilliant weather we’ve been having (it was 11C yesterday), there is still heaps of snow off-trail, and Maggie was determined to eat it, play in it, and get stuck in it. She found her inner puppy this afternoon, and will most likely pay for it tomorrow, but I was glad for her company, and her enthusiasm.

Puppy Maggie

We only passed one other person in the ravine, and yet in spite of the solitude, it was anything but quiet. The birds, also channeling their inner chicks, were madly chirping. The ones that weren’t chirping were raining flakes of wood on the snow, or jumping from crackled branch to branch in search of whatever birds eat at the end of winter. There was a lot of activity, and the creek, frozen over last weekend, was a raging brown current slicing through a newly yielding bank of snow and ice.

Woodpecker

2:00PM/4C

March Hares

Hare side view

Hare frontalAnother slushy day in Edmonton. Just a half hour walk along the powerline with Maggie. Unlike yesterday, she was seriously into it. No stopping. Maybe I should have tried for the ravine! I love how she insists on walking on the ice, or any available snow. I think she likes the sound of breaking ice underfoot. Underpaw. It was cracking nicely as she trotted ahead of me.

The hares are going to have to change colour pretty fast. It’s not supposed to dip below zero for two weeks. By the weekend, it will be very brown, and the hares will still be white.

Maggie

8C/2:30PM