I’ve left the main road behind me and each step I take carries me a little deeper into the forest. The air is humid and much cooler now, smelling of needle trees and berries. Moss is everywhere, blanketing the ground and tree stumps under a soft green cover. The giant trees, hundreds of years old, are towering high above me and keeping the path in a deep shade despite the late afternoon sun shinning in the automn sky.
I haven’t met a soul since I ventured into the forest and it doesn’t take much imagination now to see the woods come alive around me. Voices from the past are whispering stories of ancient people hunting and carving wood. The forest itself seems to be closing in, surrounding me and leading me deeper into its womb.
Any background noise from the outside world has all but faded away and my steps echo in the silence like as many knocks on a door onto some secret dimension. The view is blocked in all directions by a thick mesh of trunks and branches, and even the sky can only barely be remembered by a rare glimpse of blue zenith through the leafs. I have no choice but to follow the path. Only two directions exist in my present; where I came from and where I’m headed. They look identical. They fade away into the trees. But I have no need to know where I’m going, it’s the ride that matters. I’m here, I’m now. I’m at peace.
Oh, did I forget to mention where I was? You might have guessed that I’m strolling through Tolkien’s beautiful Lothlorien, or exploring Jules Verne’s mysterious Carpathians. You could have assumed that I’m pushing deep into some lush and remote National Park forest, hundreds of miles away from civilization. But you would be wrong.
Within five km of me to the south live 100,000 people, in North America’s third most densely populated area. Just to the west are nice beaches and the ocean. To the north, a busy bridge leads towards one the country’s richest neighborhoods. All around me, hundreds of people are probably running, biking, rollerblading or just walking by the water. I’m not in a fictional enchanted forest. I’m in Vancouver’s one and only Stanley Park. And I’m loving every minute of it.