If I were to choose a time to walk in the woods, this would not be it. But here I am, walking along Mosquito Creek, engulfed in the deep, dark shadows of a long winter night, straining to see two steps ahead through a hard rain.
Some time ago, my sister and her husband had moved into a small bungalow on the slopes of North Vancouver. Coming for my first family gathering at their new home – Christmas, 2015 – one of my first tasks was to locate them on a map – Google Maps, of course. A red teardrop marked their address on the overlay of white streets and highways.
But, it was another more colourful layer that caught my attention. Straggly blue strings of water courses and parallel dotted brown paths, all encompassed in broad swathes of green.
Mosquito Creek, as it turned out, beat a path northwards from the banks of Vancouver Harbour to within a few blocks of my Christmas home, a modest seven kilometre distance. Moreover, that starting point was very near Lonsdale Quay, the terminus of the SeaBus ferry that transports walkers across the broad harbour, to and from downtown Vancouver.
To a walker, this is a somewhat exciting discovery. Starting from my own home in Winnipeg, I can walk to our train station and take a train to Vancouver, walk to the SeaBus terminal, take a a ferry to North Vancouver, walk up Mosquito Creek and arrive at my destination. And, with the exception of a car ride to Winnipeg’s Via Rail Station, necessary due to a severe winter storm, that is what I did.
Mosquito Creek became my well-used path that winter, taking me to other waterways in North Vancouver as well as connecting me, via the SeaBus, with downtown Vancouver. A delightful reprieve from the car-oriented world just beyond its green walls.
Today’s walk started well-enough under sunny skies. It was to be a grand circuit taking me down the Capilano River and returning, later that day, along Mosquito Creek. I headed down the Capilano Pacific Trail, across the Lion’s Gate suspension bridge, through the dark forests of Stanley Park, across the art-deco Burrard Bridge and onwards to the West Broadway area. A long walk to be sure with the meagre goal of buying a pair of pants at my destination for the day, the Tilley clothing store. Mission accomplished.
Pushing through the aluminum doors, it was immediately evident that time and weather were conspiring to make my return journey as uncomfortable as possible. Sun had been replaced by dark clouds and drizzle. By the time I arrived at the downtown SeaBus terminal, drizzle had become a solid rain. And, this being Christmas, the last trace of daylight was quickly descending over the mountain horizon. Conditions were no better on the north shore, as I made my way towards Mosquito Creek.
There are good reasons not to walk in the woods in the dark, in the rain. Postings of cougar sightings, for example. As I made my way north along the barely visible path – as in, north towards the wilds of the mountains and its wilder creatures – I am greeted with the uncomfortable vision of two watery forms barely distinguishable through my fogged, rain streaked glasses. Forms that looked to be small four-legged animals. Forms that were charging down the path towards me, through the darkness. Then growling forms. Soon they were on me. Dogs! Recognizable just short of heart failure! I am frozen as they circle, barking harmlessly until their trailing human companion catches up and passes by with an ineffectual “Sorry”.
Accepting the slight risks involved, there are also a few good reason to walk in the woods at night and in the rain. The air is refreshingly fragrant. All worldly problems tend to disappear behind the black shadows of a dense forest and the white noise of a steady rain. Mystery, danger, uncertainty are not without their emotional highs.
Just be sure to carry a flashlight.