You can see the Vancouver Landfill to the east from Highway 99 just north of Ladner Trunk Road. It looks like a big mound. Usually there is a flock of birds wheeling a cyclone around the top. The birds were how Margaret and I first noticed the landfill.
On the map it looks like you can walk up to the landfill from Burns Road. Maps sure do make it look easy. I guess I could have saved us some of our trouble if I had taken the time to look at the satellite image of the area, but since I didn’t, here’s what happened:
We got off the bus at Matthews Exchange, which is basically a tiny little bus shelter on the side of the freeway. If you don’t know it, Canadians like to think their freeways are really just homey little roads. You can drive the main highway in Canada (Canada 1) all the way across the country and whenever you come to a city, you’ll find that all of a sudden you are on a boulevard with stoplights and not a freeway at all. So they put bus stops on their freeways, too.
We crossed the freeway on an overpass and began walking down Burns Road. Revealing how citified I have become, I will say long straight roads without sidewalks or even paved shoulders sure do make a pedestrian feel wimpy. Margaret and I walked along Burns Road, past a gigantic retirement home (my guess is that they put it way the hell out here because it’s the kind of retirement home where you park your relations who are more like vegetables than grandmas and grandpas), past a couple empty fields, and past just plain muddy nothingness to where the road suddenly turned right.
On the map, something called 88 Street goes off to the right and Burns Road continues straight. But in misty, cold Delta, Burns Road just ended, unless you wanted to turn right down the unmarked 88 Street. To our left was a gate behind which a dirt road lead to clearly new construction. In front of us, the way we were supposed to go along Burns Road, was another gate and behind it, a mossy abandoned track, lined by tall, leaning swamp trees.
A word about Burns Bog. Burns Bog used to be a peat mine, reaching its heyday in the 1940s when the US bought loads of peat for use in making fire bombs (1). In addition to being useful for making fire bombs, Burns Bog also likes to catch on fire with some regularity. There were fires in 1977, 1990, again in 1990, 1994, 1996, 2005, and 2007 (2). Wikipedia says it is the largest domed peat bog on the west coast of North America, it also says that a number of black bears call the bog home. The Vancouver Landfill has occupied the southern tip of the bog since 1966.
Too chicken to venture into the bog, we walked down 88 Street. We passed a gate, partially drawn across the road with a sign that boldly proclaimed SECURITY and a phone number. Eventually we came to a group of buildings literally bristling with No Trespassing signs and warnings of our imminent prosecution if we didn’t turn back. Since no one came out to greet us, we turned back. Facing the way we had come, we noticed a sign that said: Thanks for visiting, come again soon.
Back at the bog, we got our courage up and decided to walk down the swampy road. The road was overgrown and shrouded in mist. As we tramped along we peered out into the bog on either side of us. Tall grasses, bristle-like bushes, dark brown puddles and lurching craggy trees stuck out of the murk. A little ways down the mossy road, we found a pair of wings that a seagull seemed to have abandoned. I said it was probably an eagle that had made the seagull leave its wings behind. Past this point it became a regular occurrence to find scattered piles of feathers and other signs that seagulls had met their demise.
A word about the weather in Delta. It is wet. If it is raining in Vancouver or Bellingham, it’s a downpour in Delta. If it’s sunny in Vancouver or Bellingham, it’s probably raining in Delta. Delta gets over a meter of rain a year (3). We we got off the bus, a heavy mist was spitting water everywhere. This continued for the duration of our adventure in Burns Country. We seemed to be absorbing water out of the air.
Shortly after discovering the dismembered seagull was when Margaret stepped in the bear poop. We didn’t take any pictures of it because it was still steaming and we both thought it would do us some good to have a bit of exercise. We didn’t even wait to wipe the poop off Margaret’s shoe—I encouraged her to let it come off as we jogged.
After jogging several miles along this creepy abandoned road, we came to an abrupt turn where it seemed to lead straight towards the landfill. Across the road was a giant yellow gate, flanked by large white signs which read:
PRIVATE PROPERTY / DANGEROUS TERRAIN / NO TRESPASSING / NO HUNTING / VIOLATORS MAY BE PROSECUTED
We were cold. We were wet. We were hungry. We were scared of being mauled by a bear. We were scared of getting caught doing something illegal. We were not brave. We were chickens. We wanted to get warm. We wanted to eat a hamburger. We wanted to head home. We turned around.
Walking out of the bog was a lot easier than walking in. The bear poop had stopped steaming, too. We retreated to a White Spot in a gas station on Ladner Trunk Road to regroup. As we sat by the gas fireplace, eating a heavily packaged bacon burger, we decided that we were not very good at this trash blog thing. After we finished we took our tray loaded with wrappers, cardboard, plastic and bits of food, and threw it into the garbage can. As hard as it may be for us to reach the landfill, it is pretty easy to get your garbage there.