Vignette: Lynn Canyon, 31 Jan 2023

My job takes me to North Vancouver twice a year and, after completing the task at hand, I like to venture into one of the nearby parks to soak up a bit of rainforest atmosphere before heading back to work. In the past I’ve visited Mosquito Creek and Capilano Canyon, while today I opted for Lynn Canyon. I parked by the ecology centre, sipped my coffee, and ate some breakfast before getting out to do a short loop that takes in the suspension bridge and Twin Falls.

A light snow had fallen overnight, decorating the forest with the thinnest blanket of white. It was still snowing lightly as I left the car and headed for the suspension bridge, enjoying the cold, still air of the morning. To my surprise and delight the suspension bridge was completely empty, something I’ve only seen maybe once before on a very rainy day. I stepped gingerly onto the steeply-sloped surface, noticing that the bridge deck had been upgraded to a non-slip material, a considerable improvement over the previous wood batons on metal. Even so, I held on to the cable as I walked down to the middle. With only myself on the bridge, I could let the swaying subside and take my time with a few photos, even trying some long exposures of the cascades far below. Most of my photos were still blurry but it only takes one or two to capture the scene, and I succeeded on exactly that many attempts.

Once I tore myself away from the bridge, I entered the forest, the dusting of snow on everything making it feel so much brighter than usual. My mood soared and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else: nowhere could’ve felt more wonderful than the snowy forest at that moment. It’s an amazingly calming and grounding feeling, and it’s one I’ve felt on many hikes, but rarely so close to the city.

While undoubtedly inspired by the endorphin rush of the moment, I do truly enjoy living in Vancouver, despite all of its human-made issues and infamous weather. It’s the proximity to the mountains and the sea, to an abundance of nature – its beauty still evident despite having been ravaged by the rapacity of Western greed – that I enjoy so much. It’s not to everyone’s taste as the forest can be overwhelming and claustrophobic; indeed, I have felt like that myself on multiple occasions in the past. But today, the snow added levity to my surroundings and I stopped time and time again to admire the creek, the trail, a snow-dusted tree stump, even the boardwalk – it all looked wonderful to my eye this morning. My ear, too, savoured the forest, picking up the high-pitched squeaks from kinglets, the rush of the water through the canyon, and the sound of snow on the boardwalk being compacted by my footsteps – a soft crunch but with a hint of squeak to it. Something like that anyway.

I followed Lynn Creek downstream and picked my way down the snowy, rooty slope to get a clear view of Twin Falls, the creek plunging into a beautiful deep green pool. The green was captivating and, after the requisite photos, I continued to follow the safety fence downhill to emerge on a gravel bank where the creek widened at the end of the canyon. Above the rushing of the water, an unfamiliar yet kind-of-familiar sound caught my ear. In an instant I knew what it must be: the song of an American dipper. I’ve heard their buzzy calls on many occasions but this was the first time I had heard them actually sing, and it was wonderful to hear.

More liquid and burbling than the harshness of their calls, it floated above the sound of the creek and I stood transfixed on the shore, straining my eyes to catch the movement of one, two, – no – three little dark shapes bobbing on the snowy rocks and dipping into the water to feed. They were too far away to photograph with the camera so I opted for video, hoping to capture both the song and calls. The intensity of the calls became louder as I saw two shapes hurtling through the air, circling round the opening in the forest as one male chased the other away from his territory. I panned the camera as quickly as I could to try and follow them, at least partially succeeding as they whizzed past me (see the video below at about the 1:15 mark).

I watched for a few more minutes and then decided to venture a little closer, stepping onto a large rock and leaping over to a patch of gravel before tip-toeing over a pair of mostly-submerged rocks to reach a snow-covered gravel bar in the creek. I walked slowly along its edge to the far end to get as close to the birds as possible. It’s not like I had the camera gear for that to make much difference but then a wonderful thing happened as I stood still, watching the (now only two) birds.

Click to watch a relaxing two-minute video of the dippers – all the sounds are their calls and song

The male perched on a distant rock and bobbed, calling out every so often, while a female – browner in colouring than the slate grey male – worked her way across the creek to end up feeding along the section right in front of me, probably only 3 or 4 metres from my feet. I continued to stand motionless, wondering if my muted brown jacket was helping me blend in against the forest, and again began to record a video clip that turned into the longest single clip I’ve ever taken – nearly two minutes just following the dipper as it bobbed, rock-hopped, dipped, dove, and swam in the creek in search of food. It was magical, just magical! I snapped a few photos as well for good measure, and within a a couple of seconds, the pair took to the air and flew further downstream. I was left feeling immensely fortunate to have experienced these moments, having this scene all to myself.

I turned to retrace my steps back up the riverbank, and up the snowy roots to rejoin the trail where I completed the loop back to the car, feeling renewed and refreshed. It felt like a gift.

Lynn Canyon is located on the ancestral, traditional, and unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. It is with great respect and humility that I enjoy being on these lands.

3 thoughts on “Vignette: Lynn Canyon, 31 Jan 2023

    1. Thank you so much Hanna! I’m really glad as being there brought me so much joy – it’s nice to share it.

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