Something I first learned in Australia in the rainforest is that forests have personalities just like people. A few feet in altitude, a slightly richer patch of soil, an imperceptibly drier climate, and you have a place that feels totally different.
Forest personalities were on full display as we drove from Whistler to Vancouver. On the way out, we stopped at the Whistler interpretive forest, which consisted of several winding paths through the woods, interspersed with plaques describing species of trees.
My favorite tree was the western redcedar, with its lush, flat, fractal-like sprays of leaves. Since it was spring, the ends of the little needle-leaves were bright green with new growth, which gave the entire tree the pleasant appearance of being trimmed in vibrant lace.
As we got closer to Vancouver, the forest became eerier. The trees were slightly more widely spaced, leaving room for mist to curl between them. The road wound and twisted through the forest until finally the trees dropped away on one side and we dove parallel to the bay. We peered out into the fog, in awe. It didn’t take us long to get into Vancouver, and at 9 p.m. we checked into our Airbnb, ate some olive-and-cheese bread, and knocked out.
The next day, we turned in our car and took a tour bus to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. We were the only ones on the bus, and I guess the driver was used to giving loud tours to a bus full of families because he had this sweet one-sided conversation with us where he would say a rehearsed fact about the city in a flawless narrator voice, and then say something nice about us and smile and smile.
I had never been on a suspension bridge before, and it was pretty thrilling to feel it quaking beneath my feet as we walked down and across a river-hewn canyon into the forest on the other side. The park was full of cool interpretive exhibits, including one about a huge tree that had fallen across the bridge years ago. It had to be removed in chunks to prevent the bridge from bouncing back like a rubber band. The chunks of trees were still there, and people had thrown coins onto them as if they were a wishing well. It looked strange and surreal, all that money glistening on the forest floor.
For dinner, we ate in Gastown at a vegetarian restaurant called MeeT. My veggie burger was a deep red — beet-red, in fact, because it was made with beets — and in that moment, the thick-cut steak fries were the best thing any of us had ever tasted.
The next day I ran again in the morning, this time to take photos of a cute koi fish mural I kept seeing on the way to our Airbnb. It was about 2 miles away, and as I jogged up to it, a delivery truck parked on the street directly in front of it. A middle-aged man got out and started unloading box after box of bean sprouts. I figured I would wait it out. Twenty minutes later, he was still unloading bean sprouts. I ran home.
In the afternoon, the lure of the coast drew our inland Texas hearts, and later on that day we found ourselves on a small school-bus-esque shuttle to English Bay Beach, right next to Stanley Park. We hopped off the tiny bus at noon and walked down to the shore, and I proceeded to become completely enveloped in the microcosms of beach life. Small dramas unfolded as seagulls fought ravens for morsels of food, and crabs scuttled around the rocks when they thought I wasn’t watching. The rocks were covered in fleshy seaweed leaves, and when I picked some up to get a closer look, I found a small, perfect kelp isopod resting on the underside of the bundle I had grabbed.
It was exactly the same color as the seaweed, and when I disturbed it it arched its armored back and raised its legs in an elegant way that made it look like it was in the middle of a yoga session.
It was low-tide, and the beach had an other-worldy look about it. Electric green algae carpeted the sand. It looked very extravagant and almost too bright to be real, especially against the steel-grey sea and ominous sky. We headed home at 6 or so to eat the rest of our olive bread, and some giant carrots we had bought purely for their novelty.
As night fell, we wandered again into Gastown in search of a fun bar. The best we could find was a hostel full of drunken grad students — not what we were looking for. More searching yielded an underground club with walls papered with a scribbly pattern of scrawly, barely-readable words. It looked really cool, but there were only four people there, and one was dancing like squidward. We hightailed it back to the first hostel bar and engaged in an earnest avoidance of two grad students who were valiantly trying to flirt with me and Evelyn, but who also, by their own admission, both had girlfriends.
The next day, determined to get my fish mural picture, I rose early and ran the two miles back to the wall. It was raining, of course, but I got a couple of photos of the placid orange fish swimming up the side of the building.
Later on, we met my Twitter friend who lives in Vancouver, and he took us to the strange factory-turned-farmers-market that is Granville Island. We ate food court noodles and visited a broom shop and a mystifying store called Dragon Space, which contained a menagerie of dragons from varying fantasy realms. It made me wonder about the taxonomy of dragons: are the same few dragon species ubiquitous across universes? Or is, say, a Lord of the Rings dragon an entirely different kind of organism than a dragon from the Eragon series? What about Game of Thrones dragons? In my opinion, Dragon Space could have benefitted from an ID chart and accompanying phylogeny.
We also went to a store called Make, which had a lot of cool stuff, the coolest being a silver flask shaped like a fish! It was $30 dollars, but they were Canadian dollars, so it was slightly cheaper. I left the store armed with my new fish flask and an arsenal of fish-related puns.
Fish flask was put to good use that night–and by “good use” I mean he was filled with cheap vodka and then emptied in short order as we visited bars on Granville Street, which is sort of like Vancouver’s version of Sixth Street. The mess that ensued included more Squidward-esque dancing, a man who thought that because I was from Texas I would be exceedingly interested in examining his personalized belt buckle (so interested, in fact, that he deemed it necessary to take it off and wave it around on the dance floor), playing rugby in the street, and an impromptu limo trip. In other words, it was a wild ride!