Trekking Tales: En route to the chopping block (part two)

Wide, paved and popular, the West Vancouver sea wall is used by walkers and runners of all ages

“Monday is hiking day,” announced my hostess Mary, “but we’ll adjust our routine to get you to Vancouver General Hospital for all your pre-op stuff later today.”

My smile broadened as she explained the plan.

“We’ll drive down to the sea wall here in West Vancouver. You have your ‘four-wheeler’ and can go at your own pace while we stride out to the farthest jetty and back. Watch for seals!” she said in parting, knowing I would.

With sunshine above, tiny waves of Burrard Inlet gently slapping the shore beside me, I set off from John Lawson Park, Ambleside behind me. Way up ahead, sparkling red and white, was the lighthouse at Point Atkinson; shadows of Vancouver Island could be seen across Georgia Strait. Unlike at Stanley Park, just across the water, you cannot do a loop without going up onto busy streets. Going back and forth was just fine with me. On the return trip, beyond the arch of Lions Gate Bridge, cranes for loading the ships that currently lay at anchor in English Bay faded in and out of smoggy fog.

Wide, paved and popular, the sea wall is used by walkers and runners of all ages. A fence with a few openings, separated us from beautiful bushes that grew in abundance beside the railway tracks – used by earlier inhabitants for strolling. Towering above, condos and apartment buildings looked out towards Kitsilano and False Creek.

“Dogs must be leashed until the dog walk,” I read. At one end of this curiously effective walk a black dog impatiently awaited its mistress. He’d finished his run along the doggie track on the opposite side of the fence.

“He’s beaten you,” I said, noting the leash in a woman’s hand. “He always does,” she grinned.

Familiar duckie things floated singly and in flocks, amazing me that they can feed in either fresh or salt water. A lone cormorant, black and long-necked, was fishing – without much competition from the few small boats out in deeper water. Knobs of seaweed bobbed up and down; the tide was out. A few people smiled or spoke to me, but most were involved in conversation or as interested in their own worlds as I was in the intriguing sights around me. One lady was down on her knees at work. I first I thought it might be an employee, but her white hair suggested otherwise. Perhaps she’s gathering flowers? Nope. Weeds were piling up in her bucket.

“Good for you,” I said as I drew near. “It’s winning!” she said, with remnants of a British accent, “but I do my best.”

A wag has transformed a log into a crocodile, or maybe it’s an alligator. A couple of signs gave some history of the walkway, and comfy-looking wooden benches abound. Politics and nature had cooperated, I read, to produce this exercisers’ paradise. Tiny parks are tucked into the wider parts and an old home is being renovated to become an art studio. In a way, it’s ‘upmarket’ West Vancouver, but this sea wall is totally user-friendly, letting locals and appreciative visitors like me absorb fresh salty air along this narrow space between a rocky shore and a railway line.

Reconnecting with my buddies, we toasted the morning with coffee and munchies. The rest of the day would be devoted to getting final tests and information about my upcoming surgery – but what a way to fill the heart and lungs with energy enough to face the challenges just ahead. The following week included painful moments – which were more than balanced by an overwhelming abundance of TLC.