Stanley Park, 31 Dec 2007

The last day of 2007, and it turned out to be a fine one. We opted for a less snowy destination, figuring that we’d be seeing in the new year on snowshoes (except that didn’t happen…). I had a quick look at the Hiking Guide to the Big Trees of British Columbia by Randy Stoltmann and decided we should go find the Tall Trees Grove in Stanley Park, the only remaining grove of tall Douglas Firs in the park.

We parked by the bus loop and walked around the miniature train area (which I guess used to be the zoo), along a narrow track through the trees until we reached the grove. We admired the trees from a distance, and picked our way further along the narrow track, eventually having to clamber over and under fallen trees from last winter’s storms. We met a family heading in the opposite direction, which seemed like an odd choice since there is no obvious path from the road. We then headed over to Beaver Lake, for a quick tour. An eagle soared over the far side of the pond; the mallards on the water didn’t seem bothered. At one point we passed a group of four or five squirrels, head down in a pile of seeds and nuts. At first they ignored us, but then they all bounded over in our direction, looking at us expectantly for food! We shooed them off and carried on. Yikes! I wasn’t expecting such familiarity. Further on, we stopped and watched a group of Chestnut-backed Chickadees hop back and forth through the trees. As an experiment I held out my hand, and sure enough they came to see if I had any food! Beautiful little birds, but again sad that they associate people with food.

Stanley Park, 31 Dec 2007

We made our way back to the old Firs. I just had to get a closer look at the largest and picked my way through the alder and Devil’s Club (already starting to bud) to the base of the tree, where a fallen limb lay on the ground. This old limb was thicker than many of the trunks of the surrounding trees! Part-way up a young fir were two woodpeckers, quite oblivious to my presence. I wandered around the base of the tree, only then really able to appreciate just how large it was. Officially it’s 8 feet in diameter and over 200 feet tall. Many of these tall trees have been broken off at 200 feet so they are less likely to be blown over in a storm. One of them is dead and is nicknamed the Eagle Tree. Sure enough, a bald eagle was perched on the topmost branch.

From there we walked down to the sea-wall, continuing back towards the totem poles and round to the aquarium through an area devastated by last winter’s storms. We paused at the aquarium long enough to admire the seals, sea lion and a couple of belugas (one of which was rolling its head from side to side, looking up into the sky) before heading home for a chili-laden hot chocolate!

We encountered many signs of Stanley Park’s urban proximity: a discarded hand-bag (stolen), overly `friendly’ squirrels, an old stroller, familiar birds and more than a few two-legged lattes ;-) Still, Stanley Park is truly a gorgeous place to have on your doorstep.

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