I know, I know. Here I go again, talking about the weather.
For the benefit of my non-Canadian readers (in case you haven’t figured this out yet), talking about the weather is a bit of a national obsession.
The western part of Canada is in the middle of a polar vortex. I got outside today to tramp through the deep snow that arrived overnight in Vancouver, but in this post, I’m going to talk about the next province over. That would be Alberta, where a lot of my family lives.
They’re cold, to put it mildly. My sister in Calgary was faced with a commute this morning in temperatures of –40° C.
In fact, it’s been too cold all week for the Penguin Walk at the Calgary Zoo. That’s right. The zoo’s king penguins, native to the sub-Antarctic, had a Snow Day. And Calgary today was colder than Antarctica.
I took these photos of the Calgary Zoo penguins almost a year ago, when I visited the zoo on a much balmier day than today.
It’s the last day of February and Canadians are getting a little cranky.
Winter is going on … and on … and on.
And people like me — who have little to complain about with respect to cold and snow and ice — tend to just wait it out.
I went south last July instead. Which, I learned, was a mistake.
San Francisco in July, it turns out, is much cooler than Vancouver in July. In fact, I have since learned that it’s entirely possible for San Francisco to remain enshrouded in fog for the entire summer. They call it June Gloom, No Sky July, and Fogust.
When I was there, we saw lots of the sun, but without fail the fog rolled in every evening. Despite my lovely home exchange condo with a lovely view over the Bay, it was far too chilly for this Canadian to sit outside on the balcony for any length of time to enjoy that lovely view.
So. Lesson learned. Go to San Francisco in the spring or fall. Or here’s an idea … in the middle of a Canadian winter!
Here’s a photo of the iconic bridge that San Francisco is known for: the Golden Gate Bridge. This is the best view I had of it the entire week.
And … as quickly as it arrived, the snow is gone (although there is talk of more to come).
But enough about our wacky winter weather. Let me tell you about my first ever winter day hike. A bunch of weekends ago, I was hanging out in Whistler with a bunch of friends. Our plan was to do some snowshoeing, but we had just one problem.
There wasn’t nearly enough snow. (I told you it’s been a wacky winter.)
So the showshoes got left in the car, and we proceeded to trek through the woods in our winter boots.
The hike we chose was a relatively flat and short (3 km) walk to the Whistler Train Wreck. I had heard about this hike only a year or two ago, and had put it on my list of hikes to do, but hadn’t yet had the chance.
The Whistler Train Wreck consists of a bunch of boxcars scattered through the forest by the Cheakamus River. Not that long ago, the only way you could get to the site was by walking illegally along the railway tracks. But train conductors don’t much like that and would report you if they saw you so that the police were waiting for you as you exited the woods.
In 2016, a suspension bridge was built over the Cheakamus River and what used to be an unlawful ramble along the tracks is now a quick and easy hike connecting to the much longer Sea to Sky Trail. The trailhead is on the road to Cheakamus Crossing, a new subdivision of Whistler that served as the Athlete’s Village during the 2010 Olympics.
And how did a train wreck end up in the middle of a forest, you ask? A lumber train heading south from Lillooet derailed here in 1956. The seven damaged boxcars were dragged clear of the tracks by local loggers hired by the train’s owner, the Pacific Great Eastern Railway. Left scattered among the trees in the forest, they’ve remained there ever since.
The sight of mangled boxcars in the forest is a little surreal, to say the least. In winter, even more so.
Here, take a look.
As you can tell by this photo, it finally happened. Winter is here.
After a couple of false alarms last week, snow has come to Vancouver. The polar vortex everyone is talking about? It’s here too. (Although, truth be told, what we call “cold” is considered positively balmy in the rest of Canada.)
The thing is, we’ve been crowing for weeks already about our super early spring. The daffodils were in full bloom more than four weeks ago — that’s two months earlier than usual — and our smugness was enough to make the rest of the country want to push us off the continent and set us adrift.
Those poor daffodils? With last night’s dump of snow, they’re goners.
I took the above photo late this afternoon on my walk through some snowy woods.
Typically, in February I am posting photos of crocuses. Instead, here’s a photo I took this morning of the snow-covered rocks along the beach at English Bay.
Which means it’s not a typical February. (Although … come to think of it, last year’s February wasn’t so typical either.)
Vancouver got dumped with about 25 centimetres of snow yesterday and last night. It’s not an unusual amount of snow for us — we often have one, maybe two good snowstorms every winter — but what is unusual is to get so much snow so late in the season. It’s almost March, folks.
The crocuses, I assure you, are in full bloom, but are well buried today. And tonight’s forecast is for rain, so tomorrow is going to be an unholy muddy mess.
It actually doesn’t matter how I get around in Canada — the view is always spectacular. I took this from the Greyhound last week. It’s somewhere near Ponoka along Highway 2.
It’s Grey Cup Sunday in Canada, a day when some of us go a little wacky over that game played with a pigskin. I only mention it because this year’s game (held in Ottawa) was the 105th Grey Cup and I like to acknowledge significant anniversaries on this blog.
Oh, and I also mention it because it is a game always played in late November. Most often outside. And this year, in a blizzard.
No, seriously. They couldn’t keep the field clear. Players were sliding all over the place. Camera operators, too. And the half-time show? Shania Twain was brought out to centre field by dog sled. And then escorted to the stage by a Mountie.
Canadian enough for you? Hee.
But now I am going to change the channel and talk about the other most Canadian professional sport.
I’m talking about hockey. Of course.
Another hee. I’ve been waiting a long time for an excuse to post these photos. And today I have one: it’s the 100th birthday of the National Hockey League.
For my non-Canadian readers, just know that Canada is a hockey-mad country. And if you visit Canada during playoff season — you know, what the rest of the world calls spring — you will see for yourself just how hockey mad we are. Sixteen NHL teams play four rounds of best-of-seven series … it goes on forever.
If you still don’t believe me, how about this? A hockey rink has been built on Parliament Hill for the upcoming holiday season as part of the Canada 150 celebrations. (Except, um, no hockey sticks or pucks allowed, so maybe not so much hockey rink as ice rink, despite the boards surrounding it.)
All of this is to say that it would be most un-Canadian of me to let today go by without acknowledging the date in some way. A hundred years ago today, the owners of the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Ottawa Senators, and the Quebec Bulldogs got together and agreed to form a hockey association they named the National Hockey League. At that time, the best players earned $900 a season.
The league had a bit of a rough go at first. The Wanderers pulled out before the first season was over because their arena burned down and Quebec pulled out before the first season even started because they ran out of money. Enter a Toronto team that had no name (eventually known as the Toronto Maple Leafs).
The first games were played on December 19, 1917. Toronto lost to the Wanderers by a score of 10 to 9 and the Canadiens beat the Senators 7 to 4. Some of the rules then in place: no forward passing and no zones. It took less than a month for the first rule change: allowing goalies to drop to the ice when making a save. (Initially, they were instructed to remain upright. Yeah, good luck with that.)
The nameless Toronto team took home the Stanley Cup in 1918, beating the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in a best-of-five series, although Lord Stanley’s Cup didn’t become the official league trophy until the 1926–27 season.
Last summer, one of my German friends asked me about “ice hockey.” When I gave him a funny look, he corrected himself.
“You don’t call it ice hockey in Canada, do you?” he asked.
“Yeah, no,” I said. “There’s only one kind of hockey we care about in Canada. And it goes without saying which one we mean.”
I took this photo of an Anna’s Hummingbird a few weeks ago during our last snowstorm. I was housebound during that storm because I was hanging out in Solo. If you look closely, you can see that the water in the feeder is almost frozen solid. I’m sure that hummingbird was as confused as I was by the cold weather.
Why am I posting this photo today? Because this morning I spent nearly an hour watching big fat snowflakes fall from the sky.
C’mon. It’s almost March. More snow??
Vancouver has had twice as much snow this winter as Edmonton where it’s winter seven months of the year. (I can say that because I grew up in Edmonton. I know winter. Er … I used to know winter.)
Anna’s Hummingbirds do not migrate south from Vancouver for the winter, thanks to the proliferation of backyard feeders like this one. I still can’t get my head around the fact that hummingbirds are here year-round.
I just hope all that hovering they do kept those tiny birds warm this winter.
Not this year. We’ve had one of the snowiest, coldest winters I can remember, and I’ve lived here off and on for a good chunk of my life. This winter we had a white Christmas for the first time in almost a decade, and for the first time ever in my memory, the snow stuck around for an entire month. It arrived in early December and it didn’t leave until after New Year’s when the temperature finally warmed up and the rain washed it all away.
I expected we would have a normal winter going forward. But no.
We got another record dump of the white stuff this past weekend. Because we don’t usually get snow, what most Canadians take for granted, like snow plows and snow tires, we do not have enough of. And without plowed roads or snow tires, you are not going to get very far. Ever been in an articulated bus that was sliding backwards down a hill? I have. It was not pleasant.
So today was a snow day for a lot of people in this town.
And there is more snow in the forecast.
The other cool thing about visiting New York City in the winter? All those wonderful outdoor ice rinks.
Like this one in Central Park.