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A Sylvan Cathedral; Oh, Canada! Rising Damp? Bread Pudding; Tandoori and Vindaloo; No More Guano For You!

Before leaving our Bellingham campground, we went on another hike though the forest. This time, though, it wasn’t at 4 in the afternoon with lots of noisy boys and adults chattering about their love lives. At 0830, we had the trail to ourselves for most of the way, and the very few people we did pass were, like us, reverently silent and enjoying the cathedral-like atmosphere of the deep woods.

Shafts of soft early morning light cut through the trees and illuminated the undergrowth and fallen trees with a surreal glow. When you’re in this church, you know that there is a God or Mother Nature in charge.

Even this humble cedar stump took on an unusual, other-worldly aspect…

Arriving at Fragrance Lake, there was not another person to be found, except for this Lovely Lake Nymph standing on a rock. (After a lengthy discussion, I convinced her to return home with me…)

We departed Bellingham on Friday morning and are now back in Canada… British Columbia, to be precise. I have to admit that the border crossing was not as pleasant as it could have been. The electronic road sign said that there would be a 60 minute wait at the I-5 crossing, but it would have been much shorter had it not been for the line jumpers. Here’s the setup: there are two lanes of traffic lined up for a mile or so, and the third lane on the right is for NEXUS subscribers, individuals who have preregistered, had their backgrounds checked and irises scanned, paid a $50 fee, etc. Huge signs painted on and above the roadway clearly identify which lane is for the very few folks who use NEXUS. But as we were waiting patiently in our lane with hundreds of cars and RVs ahead and astern of us, here are dozens of yahoos driving up the NEXUS lane from far behind us and then cutting into the lane ahead of us, adding lots of time to our wait. I wanted to go out with a baseball bat and smash the offenders’ headlights, but My Lovely Bride convinced me that a Canadian jail wasn’t the optimum way to meet the locals. We finally got to the check-in booth, and as we drove through, I was gratified to see the Mercedes with California plates that had cut in one car ahead of us pulled over and being searched. I hope that the Canadian border authorities had selected his car (and those of other scofflaws) for very time-consuming inspections.

British Columbians have a different flavour (yes, they spell funny up here, Eh?) than that of their cousins south of the 49th parallel of latitude. Having lived in England for two years, I note a definite sense of Britishness here. Some similarities: bars are called “public houses”, umbrellas are for wimps and tourists, “rising damp” is an affliction of residential buildings and not just a British sitcom, and the provincial flower is mildew. There is also a phenomenon here that is shared with Seattle, Washington… the concept of “sun breaks”. During winter (Oct 1-Apr 30), when it is overcast and rain falls almost every day, the local radio stations announce a break in the overcast, and indoor workers grab a cup of coffee and rush outside for their two minutes of (very occasional) sunshine. It is so damp that every flower, shrub and grass known to man grows here very nicely. The roof of this shed is typical; covered in moss, with luxurious ferns thriving quite well without any help from humans.

BC also has the prettiest flower baskets in the world, beautiful mountains and forests, and a happy, friendly population. Its world-famous Buchart Gardens in Victoria, which we visited when living in Seabeck, Washington, 15 years ago, is one of the most beautiful public gardens on the planet.

The afternoon we arrived, Suzanne gave a reading to a couple from Vancouver, BC, and when I returned from a local coffee shop, found that they had left a very thoughtful gift: a freshly baked bread pudding (having read in this blog about our weakness for that dessert). It was enough for an entire platoon of hungry Marines. Thank you, Mabel and C.K. Chan! It may add an inch or three to my waist, but the bread pudding was delicious. (Here Suzanne is trying to tell me that I only deserve a tiny bit, but I waited until her back was turned and ate a huge piece!)

MLB and I got out for a run today in between light rain showers (it is BC, after all… what did you expect?). I had recon’ed some running trails in a provincial park about 10 klicks (that’s kilometers… we can’t use the word miles here). The run was gorgeous, as nice as our hike the day before, but less hilly and with a few more people around. The Canadians like their green spaces, and do a super job making trails and walkways accessible to walkers, runners, the wheelchair-bound, bicyclists and equestrians in numerous city and provincial parks.

I mentioned the other day that we don’t go out to eat much, except for sushi. In a surprise move, I decided to treat MLB to an ethnic meal out tonight at Little India in White Rock, BC. We enjoyed a variety of dishes, including Tandoori prawns, chicken and cheese; naan; paneer masala curry; and lamb Vindaloo. They were accompanied with two frosty Kingfisher beers, which took a bit of the bite out of the “two pepper hot” dishes. (We can’t imagine what the full “five pepper” hot would be like.)

White Rock is a beach community where Vancouverites go for fun and sun. It has a European feel with lots of sidewalk dining (and, dare I say, more than a few drinking establishments, purely to allow folks to watch hockey in style) along a narrow strip of land fronting Semiahmoo Bay.

White Rock is named for the 286 ton granite boulder on the beach in the background of this photo. It is a glacial erratic, deposited far from its source by a glacier that melted because too many Canadians drive SUVs. It was made white by centuries of guano deposited by sea birds, and was long used as a navigational aid by sailors. Today the local city parks department has replaced the guano with white paint (hey, it keeps them in work; this is a mostly socialist country, after all).

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