With the sun out and flowers blooming, I’m back to prowling lanes. All over Vancouver, unnamed and uncelebrated alleys offer sneak peaks into the city behind the city.
Probably the coolest thing about the newly paved Arbutus Greenway is that because it used to be a rail bed, it helps you get into all kinds of back-end places that you wouldn’t notice or have a way of accessing from the street.
Earlier this week, a friend and I took a 3-mile walk along the greenway’s highest rise: 16th to 49th and back. It’s not only the most elevated stretch of the greenway but also, around Quilchena Park, the curviest, offering Mediterranean-style views down terraced lands both populated and green. On a fine day, you can see clear to the North Shore Mountains. The city has now installed some benches along the heights, so that people of differing mobilities can pause to rest on the way. Now that I think about it, it occurs to me that this may be the only non-motorized public space west of Queen Elizabeth Park where you can climb for a significant view over the city.
While walking the rise, my friend and I discovered an alley that feels like the most perfectly secluded and exquisite country lane imaginable. You can find it too: it parallels the greenway on a curve just three metres or so down the steep embankment, running from 36th to Linden near Cypress and intersecting those streets at both ends. The lane has pretty much broken down into dirt road (hope it stays that way), and overgrowth shrouds you on both sides. Purple rhododendron, lilac and other spring shrub blossoms cascade over people’s back fences into your sight. No car sounds interrupt the choir of bird calls and brook emerging from a culvert running under the greenway and letting out in a rivulet onto the lane where it drains into the ground again.
Somebody has sculpted a little urban farm into the embankment between the greenway and the lane. One of many such farms along the greenway, it seems to be serving as a de facto retaining structure.
I also like lanes that defy the usual building patterns by running perpendicular (rather than parallel) to streets or other lanes, tiny enclaves dead-ending unceremoniously at fences or property boundaries, leading only to themselves. Here’s a view to the street from one of these:
What are your favourite secret lanes?