Friday, June 30, 2017

Vancouver June 2017

I was there for Human Brain Mapping 2017, which was a great meeting.

But before I get to the pictures (below, skip ahead if you want) -

How Vancouver has changed:  I first visited Vancouver in 2000, then again next in 2005 - and in that time the skyline downtown had noticeably grown.  This time, I was back for a conference, and I hadn't been there since 2010.  Vancouver is showing many, many signs of increasing wealth that are shared by their southern neighbors in expensive American Pacific coast cities.  Restaurants are better and more varied.  People are even more attractive than before.  Traffic is even more annoying.  This last observation is compounded by not only Canadian politeness but Pacific Northwest gentleness that stops people from driving assertively but rationally - that is to say, it stops people from behaving the way they would need to, to actually keep traffic moving.  (Vancouver's traffic planning strategy seems to be a passive-aggressive one where they don't actively limit cars, they just avoid planning and hope that the situation becomes so intolerable that people stop driving.  It may be getting there.)  And finally, as people keep moving into the city, parking has become noticeably worse since last time, compounded by additional complicated parking zones and regulations; and people's houses are fast-appreciating gold mines but owners have trouble modifying old infrastructure or selling property because of well-meaning character-preservation regulations that are not helping to increase the housing stock.  (I provoke both Portlanders and Canucks with the following: starting to sound like San Francisco?  Or San Diego?  Or, dare I say it, Portland?)  In my brief time it wasn't obvious that the large Vancouver film industry had any more impact now than they ever did, although they were filming Deadpool 2 downtown and I drove by the set but Morena Baccarin was not there so why stop.

Spectating Canadian politics:  it was also nice to be there not only just before the 150th anniversary of Canada (happy birthday) but on the day of the B.C. government resigned.  Interesting note for fellow Americans:  I didn't once hear Canadian voters or politicians saying that the other side were evil, wanted to destroy Canada, or had a child sex slave operation.  Also never once did I feel uncomfortable as a foreigner around strong displays of Canadian patriotism.  The two are not mutually exclusive.

Travel pro-tip for Americans going to Vancouver:  I find it at least as easy, and just about as fast, to fly into Seattle and drive across the border as to fly into Vancouver and wait in line for customs there.  It's also much cheaper to fly domestically then drive.  Also, summers in the Pacific NW are hands-down the best on the continent, and deceptively beautiful.  Don't go in other seasons!

Current conditions early summer 2017:  the fantastic mountains just north of the city are of course unchanged.  (If you don't take care of them, they can change.)  The snow at this time of year is much like California's - i.e., after a heavy winter and a very warm late spring, there is no transition, but rather as you climb, no snow, no snow, no snow, 1m of snow.  I was surprised that Whistler wasn't open (well, one two-minute run was, Glacier) since Squaw and Mammoth are both still open in the Sierras, but they also top out near 3000m as opposed to Whistler's ~2000m and Cypress Bowl isn't even 1500m.

Various views from downtown (the convention center)

Above:  a color-scheme painting I did of Vancouver in the winter, looking across to North Vancouver from downtown.  Below:  the water and sky really are that color in the winter.  But given those intense blues I may have to do another one for the summer.

 Above:  taxiing seaplane.  Below:  yes, that's a Chevon, for - boats?  Or seaplanes, I'm not sure.  Seaplanes taking off or landing once every few minutes.  You can see the twin bumps of the Lions jutting above the ridge, above the floating fuel station.


Also, when you go to Vancouver, you eat a lot.  I got some poutine (pictured below - excused by Canucks in a "well alright if you're not going to Quebec" way, but tasted fine to me), Malaysian (have never seen so many Malaysian restaurants even including Wellington), and also got to Salmon and Bannock, a Native restaurant with stuff like salmon, elk sausage in blueberry sauce, and bannock bread.  Would have enjoyed the last one more if I hadn't been in a hurry.   A friend made fun of me for eating bannock (a sort of old-school wilderness survival bread cooked in a camp on a pan) when I was surrounded with Vancouver restaurants.  Come on, where else am I going to get bannock?  I would have sampled a few pints as their microbrew scene has finally caught up to their wine, but I didn't sleep much on this trip and you probably could have performed dental surgery on me after one drink.

Howe Sound Crest Trail:

I started from Cypress, foolishly intending to reach West Lion, though I could see damn well from downtown that there's still plenty of snow on them.  I also didn't bring my phone and soon enough regretted it, since there were a lot of great photo opportunities.  Sure enough, maybe a mile from Unnecessary Mountain*, the snow suddenly got deep, complete with a mini-crevasse over a roaring creek under the snow that somebody had fallen into.  I like my Hoka One One's, and even though they're good on lava - not so much on snow.  The BC locals all had Goretex shoes and thought this Californian was a little silly for turning around with that level of snow but I got annoyed pretty early so I just did the same bit twice, which let me bring you these pictures!

 Above:  looking southeast from Barrett's lookout to Vancouver and the narrowing Fraser River where it emerges into the Bay.  Below:  breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions.  Note that our cultured northern cousins properly append the français diète to the name of this very nuanced beverage.  This particular one was a 2017.

Above:  woodpecker tracks.  (Snicker) I know, because the very colorful woodpecker landed on it and was pecking away as I passed, and didn't seem to bother with me at all.

Above:  first hint of trouble - you can see where the snow covers the trail at the bottom of the photo.  Below:  after another annoying little crossing, the path emerges onto a plateau next to the last push up Unnecessary.  Below that, you can see a hole in the snow - a mini-crevasse.  There was a creek flowing under there that was quite loud, not surprisingly since it was probably 20 C.

*My wife pointed out, "All mountains are unnecessary!"  She has a certain kind of wisdom about her.

 Above:  this was about as close as I got to the Lions, which is fine.  That saddle would be pretty bad with snow on it.  Below:  next few pictures are all of Yew Lake.

Capilano River Regional Park:
I was there for a conference after all so I couldn't spend as much time as I would've liked exploring the mountains, so sometimes I just went to a neighborhood park.  On top of this, the long northern days (not dark until 10:30, light again at 5am) played merry hell with my sleep schedule so I wasn't myself, and I was stressing out about various things going on at the conference and back in Sacramento.  Still, this simple run up to the Cleveland Dam and then west along Baden-Powell was exactly what I needed.  I felt like I got back part of my life sitting at that little pool for ten minutes.  

Above:  even the neighborhood parks in B.C. have bear warnings, and those are sometimes grizzlies too.  Below:  the Capilano Suspension Bridge is nearby (photo from   I didn't go out on it, and in fact have never been on it, not out of fear of heights, but rather of psychologists.

 Above:  the pool that saved my life a little bit.  Below:  on the left you can see the people near the edge of the gorge.

The Grouse Grind:  I actually did this my first evening there.  Amazingly, since I've been gone, it has definitely become steeper!  Either that, or I'm getting older.  Of the two alternatives, clearly the more likely is that plate tectonics operating over the last seven years has noticeably increased the inclination.  And (since I had trouble finding this online) the one-way downward gondola ticket is now CA$10.  What! Why, when I was a young man, it was only $5...There were patches of snow at the VERY top.

If you have a ChampionChip, Hal will time your ascent, as you can see his watchful eye right there at the start.  (But there really is a reader there to do this.)



More up.

Up still.

Oh yeah there's the bay down there.  Now:  up.

 From the deck at the top, looking through the top gondola tower.  Vancouver skyline at left.

Descending back to the base of the mountain - Capilano Lake through the window.

Also:  I attended the Vancouver Hash one night, but of this dark time, we shall not speak further. Thanks for a good time!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Frank Cirill RIP

Unfortunately I never met Frank, in fact I just learned about him right now, but we all have him to think for the conservation of the American River and the Parkway. Read about him here. See what the Save the American River Foundation is doing here. I'm going to try to be more like Frank, and like Barry Spitz.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Best of China 2016

Favorite photos below. If you want to know the context, SURPRISE! You have to read the full post loser!