You know those days when you don't realise how thirsty you are until you find yourself drinking a whole glass of icy cold water or milk without stopping? Or when you don't realise how tired you are until you suddenly come to, with the newspaper on your face or the radio blaring? You don't realise what you need until you have it. That's how I felt when I went to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, British Columbia.
I took myself off there on a day notable for its warm, sunny weather; surely something of an aberration on the wet west coast? But in fact it typifies the weather of the last week – settled, warm, a great inducement to be out of doors. Whilst waiting for my bus, I chatted to a lady who lives near to Lighthouse Park. "Oh, it's wonderful", she said, "it's like this whole place used to be before we arrived and mowed straight through it all". Lighthouse Park is certainly a bit special; a pocket of old-growth forest, saved by its role as a dark backdrop to the eponymous lighthouse, making the Burrard Inlet safe for boats, and by its initial role in providing fuel for the light, foghorn and lighthouse keeper. It faces west onto the water, meaning that a visit in late winter / very early spring provides the best of the sunshine as the sun makes a lazy arc not too high in the sky.
I picked up a trail map near the entrance and made a beeline for Starboat Cove, following the Valley Trail downhill amongst enormous trees and next to a brook clearly instructed to be as picturesque as possible. I picked my way down onto the beach amongst the enormous logs thrown into the cove as driftwood, and picked a spot in the sun on the rocks, looking down into the clear water and the mussels encrusted below the waterline.
Having scoffed my picnic lunch, I headed on via the Valley Trail to the main attraction – the lighthouse. The number of visitors increased as I got closer, perhaps even touching double figures, but I had the view to myself as I went down the viewing platform. You can't get too close to the lighthouse, but while I was standing and gazing at the view, a sharp 'peeping' noise distracted me and I became aware that a number of tiny hummingbirds where occupying the bushes around where I was standing. These tiny (slightly bigger than my thumb), vivid green fluttering birds were darting from branch to branch and providing me with a great chance to watch them, though not (needless to say) to photograph them.
I ambled on to the West Beach, which looks out over a slabby foreshore to the Howe Sound. I watched as something swam towards the cove, before diving and disappearing – an otter? I certainly thought so but my view of it was so quick, I got nowhere close with the camera.
I was determined to see as many of the trails as possible, so followed the Shore Pine Trail along the western edge of the park (looking across to the mountains) before heading inland on the Seven Sisters Trail, the Songbird Meadow Trail, Arbutus Trail and Valley of the Giants Trail. As I moved inland the character of the park changed, becoming quieter, shady and green, more humid with ferns and lichens abounding, less distinctively coastal. Perhaps, as a weekday, I saw the park when it was virtually empty; the fact that the trails are fairly numerous, and very well-signposted, makes it simple to cut away from your original path onto another to gain a bit of solitude, if that's what you seek.
My last act was to hike over the Summit Trail before bombing out of the park to catch the return bus, fighting the hockey crowds coming into the city. I'd breathed a bit more deeply and felt the calm and repose of the forest following me back.