Garden Grays

Landing into Vancouver, I jumped onto the Sea-Train for $9, pulling through into Downtown, walked around a couple blocks to the St. Clair Hostel, a 1911 hotel converted into a nautiful-themed hostel where I would be staying for three nights.  I figured you could do the must-dos in Vancouver in (at the minimum) three days.  The city here has a much larger tourism-vibe compared to the east coast, with all the sightseeing shuttles and photo-op viewpoints.  Groups of families and like-minded wanderlusters roaming the sidewalks on an off-beat with cameras and maps.  St. Clair Hostel was down the street from Gastown, east Vancouver, loaded with craft restaurants, cafes, and everything else that could be determined as ‘craft’.  

Stanley Park was just a couple miles Northwest from Gastown, and while there are plenty of bustops, walking has always been my preferred way to soak in as much as I can in a new place, no matter how little the details may be. It just took an hour along the harbor until the infamous Totem Poles came into view, and the Aquarium etc.

ALEX Article 004

June 2016

From there I found myself tight on time, so I caught a free shuttle-bus to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park up in Northwest Vancouver, at one of the four pick up spots on the way back towards Downtown (viewable online as well).  Admission to the park is $39.95, but I got away with the student price of $32.95 since I’ve hung onto my university card the last 6 years!  Not-surprisingly it was very crowded throughout the treehouses and the platforms built to weave in and around all the trees along the cliff.  There is also the Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge Park, that is free, less crowded and available by public transport.  It’s smaller, but it’s just as lovely with the swinging bridge experience and light trails leading above some pools and waterfalls.  

The next day while I was at Catch 122 Cafe Bistro the waitress told me about a relatively unknown waterfall deep in Lynn Valley where there is no such thing as a crowd.  I looked up ‘Kennedy Falls’ and found two decent articles on finding it’s whereabouts.  I left at 8:30am onto the 219 bus towards Lynn Valley getting off just before the last stop before the route would change.  Arrived around 9:15am, and walked up a hill through the neighborhood until I came to a little parking lot scattered with mountain bikers either beginning of ending their workout upon Mount Fromme.  I started along the Cedar Tree trailhead, and at first did not see the noted-yellow-trail-markers... I found they were placed backwards facing the direction home as I turned through the mud and climbed over trees.  While there wasn’t much elevation gain, the trail is subtly technical in some spots, and can feel slow-going.  It took me roughly 2 hours to get to the first ‘landmark’, a 600+ year old, 4 meter wide red cedar; one of only a few old-growth trees in Lynn Valley to have bypassed being clear-cut... the second landmark being Kennedy Falls itself.  

However, I got lost continuing from the Cedar Tree, not seeing any (backwards) markers or orange and pink ribbons in the tangle of branches and no clear trail.  I slipped off to the right and ate shit down over rocks and branches until I landed next to a river.  Honestly I thought I nearly broke my wrists, and as I stood on a rock halfway with my feet submerged along the edge I would see some ribbons across, although I knew it just couldn’t be the way.  This wasn’t a ‘creek’ as described by previous hikers, it was a huge river!  And after debating wading through waste deep with my pack above my head I turned back around and crawled back up the hill.

It’s a frustrating feeling that you may have failed, and an even more fearful feeling to find yourself lost.  Literally, and/or physically lost in a place where no one knows where you are.  But to my relief as I had just begun scolding myself for even thinking of quitting I saw a little ribbon, up over another maze of branches around the other side of the Cedar.  I climbed on through more mud and more deadfall for another hour and a half, squinting for markers on the trees... I finally heard the water, and saw the falls cascading without another soul around.  

Big Cedar Trail appears to be one of those trails that gets overlooked... or maybe people don’t speak much of it on purpose.  It’s the places and solo-experiences like this that echo the most for me, and I could not be more grateful having gotten to find the perfect escape from the city.  There is satisfaction in searching for something, that some others may doubt you would be able to find.  You can turn around if you get lost, but don’t go all the way home just yet.


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