Vancouver, 12-March 2015

We knew our first full day in Vancouver was going to involve quite a bit of walking around Stanley Park, but we got an unexpected treat in seeing a few orcas working their way out to the ocean.

After getting up, we were ready for breakfast. The place we stayed at doesn't have one large kitchen, but has a few different kitchens on different floors. Plates and utensils aren't kept in the kitchen themselves, so you pick up a kit from the front desk (which also includes a small pan and pot) and return it when you're done. We got our kit, then looked out over Rogers Centre as we ate. After returning the kitchen pack, we headed out to the bus stop which would take us to Stanley Park.

Stanley Park

Our path with photo locations marked. At the bottom are our bus rides

There were a few walks we were trying to choose from, figuring we would probably not get to all three. We started with the longest, which cuts up through the park and then takes you along the seawall path towards the Georgia Strait, dropping you into the West End. We hoped we would finish up close to lunchtime, then could make a final decision on a second walk at that time.

As we began, we went past the Vancouver Aquarium, which we went to several years ago, so we decided to skip it this time. Another time. We also came up to the Japanese Canadian War Memorial. There was a wreath of poppies leaning against the memorial, but when we next walked past later in the day, the wreath was in a different location. We wondered how often it gets moved.

Just before the seawall, we got to the Lumberman's Arch, which is made of four huge logs (you can easily see three of them, and the fourth is hidden in some trees). After passing under the road, we took a quick look at the water park which was, of course, closed for the season. I was amused that there was a "Kid's Dryer" which was a series of air jets that you walk through, kind of like a car wash. We left that area and went on the seawall path.

Lumberman's Arch

Kid's Dryer

The seawall path is split into two parts, one for pedestrians and one for bikers. The walkers are on the water side, and there's no fence, just a row of stones on the water side that go up about 6" (with drainage breaks, as well as an occasional set of steps going down to the water). The bike lane is elevated a bit, but gets very narrow at some points. Fortunately, bikes are supposed to only go in one direction (counterclockwise), otherwise there would be a lot of congestion and accidents around the many blind turns.

Break in the seawall for steps

Bikers in the bike lane. Some places got down to about half this wide.


As we were looking up at the Lions Gate Bridge, there were a couple women looking out onto the water, noting that they saw "one of them". It wasn't clear to us if they were looking for some friends or what, but we continued along, noticing that there were a lot of Barrow's goldeneyes. Coming the other way was a couple who told us that there were some orcas sighted in the water. We turned around and easily saw the distinctive fins and movement, so we naturally stopped to watch and take pictures. We walked a little further, turned around, and realized that we not only still saw the orcas, but they were getting closer to us, enough so that I was able to get a short video clip of them. And many more pictures, of course.

Barrow's goldeneyes


Orca tail

Clip of the orcas blowing and diving

More people started gathering around, including a woman from the Vancouver Aquarium, who idly wondered if anyone got photos of them. Melody assured her that there were plenty of people with photos.

As we continued along the seawall, more and more people stopping to watch and take pictures. While we also continued to do so, we also looked at the other sights along the way, including the Lions Gate Bridge and the lighthouse at Prospect Point. I had expected a bit of wind at Prospect Point (because of its location and the erosion on the cliff faces nearby), but we didn't really feel any.

Lions Gate Bridge

Prospect Point lighthouse

By this time there was a police boat keeping pace with the orcas, getting pretty close but not too much so. Ends up there were some researchers on the boat too, observing and taking pictures from up close.

Bikers taking pictures of the orcas

Police boat following the orcas

Because the orcas were working their way away from Vancouver, we were able to keep track of their progress as we proceeded along the seawall. Eventually we saw a bunch of people set up with tripods, larger cameras, and video cameras capturing the orcas. In addition, a helicopter had started circling above, no doubt for the news.

By the time we got past Siwash Rock we couldn't see the orcas any more. We sat down for a few minutes at Third Beach for some snacks, and a couple crows landed not far from us, looking hopeful. One even hopped onto the bench right next to me. There was nothing for them. We continued on the seawall until we hit Second Beach, at which point our walking tour book said to cut across past the Fish House directly to Vancouver's West End, where the walk stopped.

Siwash Rock

Third Beach

Dessert and lunch

Having gotten out of the park, we were more than ready for lunch. Normally we would start looking around for things near us which had good ratings, but being in Canada, we didn't have cell data available to us. Fortunately, we had looked up a few places beforehand, but they were about a half dozen blocks north of where we were at the time. Naturally, the thing to do was to get some gelato, since the store was right there. It also felt good to sit down for a few minutes.

Next up was lunch, which was at a small taco place. We got some street tacos with lots of different fillings, including roasted vegetables, fish, carnitas, and chorizo. They were all great. We felt ready to go on with the eastern part of the seawall which we had gone past on the morning's walking tour.

Eastern seawall

The afternoon walk started out at Coal Harbor and took us past the Vancouver Rowing Club. Before too long we arrived at the totem poles, perhaps the most popular attraction in the whole park. By this time the cloud cover which we had in the morning had cleared, and we were starting to get some really nice weather. But after we got back to the seawall and walked around a little more, the grey came back.

Coal Harbor

Totem poles

Before too long, we arrived at the Brockton Point Lighthouse, so we walked around it a bit. It was set up so you could walk underneath as well as around it, but the inside was closed to visitors.

Brockton Point Lighthouse

Girl in a Wet Suit and Brockton Point Lighthouse

A short walk from the lighthouse, we came upon the Lumberman's Arch again, where we left the path to head out of the park. On the way, we saw a black squirrel, which looked very strange to us, being used to grey squirrels.

Done for the day

That was a lot of walking for one day, but we weren't at the room yet. Next on the list was to go to the store so we could pick up breakfast for the next day, as well as something for dinner (since we knew we wouldn't be up for going out).

Groceries procured, we went to the bus stop. Since we didn't have the ability to check various bus options, we watched one quite-full bus go by, then ours was next. Unfortunately, it was so full that it couldn't take new passengers (and a nice touch was that the electronic board on the front of the bus apologized and said the bus couldn't pick anyone up). A few minutes later, another bus came which was also pretty packed, but was letting people on. We asked if he was going far enough down for us, and luckily he was. More good fortune followed us, as only a couple stops later there were places for us to sit.

Finally back at the room, we picked up a set of dishes and took care of dinner and dessert. As you can imagine, didn't last too late into the night.