Monday, April 30, 2007

Michael's Day Out: New Westminster & Bear Creek Park

All week the city had been doused in the most torrential of rains. Even for a place where it rains as much as it does in Vancouver it was bad - a steady, heavy pelting of rain, the kind of rain that soaks you to the soul. It was build a boat and find pairs of animals time, people. Seriously.

Despite this, I had every intention of going out to visit my new friend John in the suburbs on Sunday to take pictures, rain or shine. Imagine my surprise when I awoke Saturday to a gorgeous blast of sunshine; when the same sunshine prevailed on Sunday it wasn't merely double the pleasure, it was an exponential thing. I don't know the math, but you get my meaning.

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I took the above photo of Chee-chee-yoh-hee (The Lions) from the platform of the Broadway SkyTrain station, during a breather from the crushing bus ride there and the crushing SkyTrain ride to New Westminster. Honestly, 2PM on a Sunday and it was worse than a Friday rush hour. Translink sucks, and not in the good way; in defiance of the laws of physics, it also blows, in a manner which is equally unsatisfactory.

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I can't resist a statue, in this case one of Matthew Baillie Begbie, first Chief Justice of British Columbia. It's an appropriate choice, as well, as New Westminster is gradually emerging from a period of lawlessness and urban decay that is unworthy of the province's first city.

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Despite the number of clearly troubled people shambling about on the streets, and the preponderance of decayed brick buildings on Columbia Street (where the city's two SkyTrain stations are), New Westminster is truly undergoing a Gastown/Yaletown kind of gentrification. I'd say it's at the mid-point; there is much left to be done, but much has been done already.

The decay is in the downtown area only, though. The residential area, which I will be photographing later in the summer, is a sumptuous fantasy of Victorian/Edwardian homes and gardening unrivalled in the Lower Mainland. If I had to live anywhere in the region outside of Vancouver, I would live in New Westminster, if only to satisfy my fetish for architecture.

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I met John in New West, and after a fortifying coffee we made our way over the Fraser River into Surrey, to Bear Creek Park. I figured the previous week's rain would leave the place glowingly green and I was right. The park was also very busy, but large enough that the crowds there never seemed overwhelming. The park was relatively unscathed by this winter's storms.

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While there, John and I enjoyed the opportunity to photograph many plants, from towering trees to tiny flowers...

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I can never resist the opportunity to photograph a squirrel, especially not a gray. This one posed beautifully, and later came to within a metre of me where I'd crouched to take this picture. Since I didn't have any food, and wouldn't feed a wild animal anyway, it soon scampered off.

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Not only did I get my second chance to photograph a bald eagle in as many months, this particular beauty was calling a considerable amount, which is a thrilling sound, even if it's a freaky kind of thrill. Once heard, the sound never leaves you. It would perch here, near its nest, call out a half dozen times, make a dozen circles in the air, then repeat; an awesome sight.

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We made another bird friend that day too, a species I've never photographed because I've never seen one before. If I had to guess, I'd say it was a male western Rufous-sided Towhee. I took so many pictures of him, I'm sure he's still bragging about it to his buddies. Because he was likely guarding a nearby nest, John and I were able to get closer than we usually would.

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Finally, the light began to fail, and a near-full new moon rose. John and I retired to the nearest Tim Horton's so I could eat and we could review our afternoon's efforts. He's new to digital photography, and doesn't like the digital camera he has, but he was able nonetheless to get some amazing pictures despite the frustration. We have a similar eye when it comes to work, so we complemented each other well on what was our first expedition.

All in all, it was a productive and wonderful day. We had some discussion about next week's excursion, and seemed to settle on Gastown.

So we shall see...
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Y | O | Y said...

Great pics!

michael sean morris said...

I'm looking forward to someday posting "MIchael's Day Out: Albany".

Seumas Gagne said...

A lovely travel piece!

If you go to Albany, you must photograph the Egg! I'm sure to a local it's either non-remarkable or cringeworthy, but to me it's BEYOND SUPER COOL.


michael sean morris said...

I've been reading Paul Theroux's "Riding the Iron Rooster", a legendary travel book of his visit to China in 1986, so I guess the travel writing thing is rubbing off.