Burrard Inlet, Burnaby, BC | Treensbert Churchmouse, 2011
I had hoped to start with an exciting entry about an amazing part of Vancouver, but it turns out that not everything begins with a bang, but sometimes with a crawling whisper. Vancouver, it turns out, is reminding me that I’m forgetting what it’s about. I, naturally, am getting excited to go out and finally write, and Vancouver, naturally, is doing what Vancouver does best: rain.
But with every rainy day, comes opportunity! Rain, of course, is a big part of the west coast, so I thought it would be a good chance to talk a little about Raincouver. I found there are many misconceptions about Raincouver (yes, it ceases to be Vancouver for this post), and mostly because it’s located in Canada (though there is a Vancouver in Washington, as well, for those of you who are researching about Vancouvers of any kind).
While I lived abroad, I found that people would often ask me where I was from (or they would just assume I was American, which I’m naturally not). The general response to me saying that I was from Canada was, “oh, then you must be used to the cold!” followed by teasing comments about us all living in igloos. These sorts of comments, particularly when it was winter-time, made me shake my head repeatedly (for more than one reason, but I’m focusing on the weather here). Yes, much of Canada is cold, and the inhabitants of these places are used to their kind of weather (I saw a man from Yellowknife walking around in sandals and shorts during winter one year), but in Raincouver, this is not the case. In fact, I’m pretty sure all the rest of Canada makes fun of us for it (I will eventually extrapolate on this when I write about Snowcouver). Being located by the Pacific ocean keeps us warmer during the winters and cooler during the summers, so that generally our temperatures are never very extreme.
The ecosystem that comprises the west coast of British Columbia is designated as a temperate rainforest, which means that it gets a substantial amount of rain. According to Science World’s BC Coast page, a region must get at least 140 cm to be classified as a temperate rainforest, and Raincouver gets an estimated amount of 146 cm per year. Other areas of Metro Raincouver (that means all municipalities (cities) that compose the huge area that we dub “Vancouver” – such as North Raincouver, West Raincouver, Burnaby, Richmond, etc.) get even more rain. (The Current Results website shows a fun list of rainy values, which I find interesting.)
Most people are likely to have already quit reading by now and have gone to find somewhere sunny to read about (I don’t judge), but if you’re still with me, then good on you! My philosophy is that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing (whoever said that was ridiculously right). Sturdy, rainproof shoes, a good coat, an umbrella, and off you go! Today the rain deterred me due to my bringing my work bag (big, clumpy, annoying thing), but visiting a place is not really visiting a place if you only go when it’s nice. For this reason I don’t mind traveling in bad weather or good – it allows me to see how life is like in the area, with or without sun, which is far more realistic. I never mind the weather, I just adapt to it. Raincouver is no exception. If you’re a newcomer, then there is no better experience than being a local for a day and getting wet like the rest of us.
But rain in Raincouver isn’t much like rain elsewhere, I think. I’ve experienced rain in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Caribbean…rain in Raincouver is, in my opinion, bland. It’s cloudy and gloomy often enough, and often drizzles and rains lightly, but it’s nothing to cry about, even when you do get caught in it. When it does rain a lot, and really heavily, it’s rarer, I think. For the most part, it just rains, everything gets wet, and then the wind pushes the clouds away for us to see the sun again (this is a cool wind site, if you’re a weather nut like me). But anyway, for Raincouverites this is a norm. (We make it a statement and wear all manner of rain boots in various styles.)
Living in a temperate rainforest might mean a wetter landscape, but it also means the area is lush in a variety of ways, which is often why so many visitors come to this part of Canada. (HelloBC states five facts here about BC’s temperate rainforest region, and has some useful links if you would like ideas of where you might want to explore.) Raincouver has many parks and trails, but in any one that you decide to walk through, you will see lichens hanging off of trees or growing on the bark, and you will see fungi (such as this fat shelf mushroom), some of which feed on decomposing wood, and some which grow in the strangest of places. If you are a fungi enthusiast, there are plenty of fungal species to spy along trails and parks here, however do not eat any (generally, that goes without saying), because there are also plenty of poisonous ones. Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) thrive under these rainy conditions, too, and lavishly decorate the trails Raincouverites visit to walk their dogs, to hike, or to get a piece of mind. But this sort of vegetation also opens up far more possibilities for our ecosystem.
The moist environment allows the growth of other plant species (from shrubbery to some very tall trees), allowing shelter and food options for insects, critters, and larger predators, filling our trees with life. Most people in Raincouver are already used to the usual rules about putting away garbage and food effectively when up on a trail somewhere. Maybe it’s a little different for those who live in areas where there is less of the wild coming in, so to speak, so it’s always a detail to keep an eye on if you’re not from here. My own mother has a favourite walk around a lake near the city and there are constantly signs put up, warning walkers about lynx sightings, bear sightings, and once (though I’m still unsure about this one), of a cougar sighting. Either way, quite a lot of our wildlife thanks the weather, in an indirect way.
This part of the west coast experiences something called Orographic Uplift, which explains a little how it rains in BC. In short, moist air comes in from the Pacific and when it warms up (so when it reaches land, because land cools and warms quicker than the ocean does), it rises. As the air rises higher, it then starts to cool, condensing moisture (and bringing rain!), which is eventually squeezed out of the clouds and onto all of us (and the landscape). Here is where the Orographic part comes in (Orography is the study of mountains), since this air has to go over the mountains eventually, which in our case is over the Rockies. As the moisture level goes down (so once the clouds have been peed out), the cool air sinks, dropping down out of our province, and bringing dry air into the next province, Alberta. (Here is a fun visual and explanation describing Orographic Uplift!)
You can imagine that for a rainy city, we therefore also have plenty of indoor activity options (for when one wants to park one’s rain boots – yes, those times do happen on occasion). We have a variety of art galleries, theaters, or museums, like the one I mentioned above (Science World – fun for all ages!). Personally, my favourite rain activity is a strong tie between two things. One is a very soaked activity and does not belong in this paragraph (it’s going for a walk on a trail or park, or along the sea wall). The other, is parking my behind in a cafe somewhere by a rainy window (it has to be rainy) and enacting whatever activity needs to be done. It can be reading a book, writing something, doing taxes, I really don’t care; as long as there’s coffee and rain involved.
This weekend there is a convention happening at Canada Place (a travel and adventure convention, and I’ve never been to one of these before), but it’s also raining like the dickens out there right now, so I am already planning to do the above-mentioned behind-parking-in-a-cafe-somewhere before I go check it out. Boots are already parked by the door (waterproof Timberlands, great for water and slush!), and waiting. Generally, a person is likely not happy about gloomy weather, but then I am a Raincouverite (I employ a secretly guilty pleasure when it comes to rain.)
Do you have a best rainy pastime? Leave it in the comments section! I also appreciate any feedback, comments, or putting me to rights if I’m writing something off – and if you did find this interesting, do share! It’s also what we do in Raincouver 🙂
Sources & Links:
Current Results – weather information around Metro Vancouver || Flora & Fauna: Bryophytes – Mosses and Liverworts | Fungi | Lichen | Meronwood Mycology Center – Fungi site || HelloBC – BC tourism site with useful tips | Orographic Uplift – description of rainfall around the coastal-mountainous region | Science World – Science Museum covering a range of topics | Windy.com – current weather site showing wind and precipitation patterns
You are welcome!
A good post! Thank you 😊
[…] You’ll even see Waterfront Station, where the SkyTrain comes in and where you can catch multiple buses. The Station…
Beautiful and mouth watering.
Tell me when there’s more!