It’s not easy being an office worker in Vancouver.
For starters, the average salary doesn’t come close to reflecting the insanely high cost of living here, which is mostly due to the B.C. government having allowed the city’s housing stock to be used as a vast money laundering scheme for wealthy Mainland Chinese in exchange for juicy kickbacks donations from real estate developers.
Slaving away in front of a computer doesn’t seem so bad in other Canadian cities because it’s what pays the mortgage. In Vancouver, it’s more likely to barely cover your tiny apartment’s astronomical rent until your seemingly inevitable renoviction.
But at least the city is beautiful, right?
Arguably this only makes it worse.
It’s one thing to go in to work day after day knowing you don’t have a hope in hell of ever being able to afford a home here. Being constantly hit with stunning views of ocean sunsets and snow-capped mountains simply rubs it in.
My last job in a ground-floor, mostly windowless newsroom was perfect. Unfortunately, the owners decided to renovate a derelict building several blocks away and move us there instead, and my new desk came with a view of the North Shore’s Crown Mountain peeking above the building next door.
The view didn’t distract for long, however, as I was laid off a few months later, quite possibly because the owners went way over their renovation budget and chose to sacrifice some minions. (It could also be because I spent too much time staring out the window at mountains.) After several months of unemployment living in North America’s least affordable city, I finally found myself a new gig, and my cubicle comes complete with a terrific view of the city’s iconic twin peaks known as the Lions.
The mountains have played a big role in the history of the city. They inspired the name of a major bridge, a pro football team and an Oscar-winning film studio. They’re the reason B.C.’s annual film and TV awards are called the Leos and, unsurprisingly given this is Vancouver, there’s also a couple of high-end condo towers named after them as well.
Members of the Squamish Nation know them as Ch’ich’iyúy Elxwíkn, which translates as “Twin Sisters,” and the mountains are considered a sacred reminder of an ancient peace treaty brokered with another tribe. The story goes the city’s original inhabitants were preparing for a huge potlatch to celebrate their Chief’s twin teenage daughters entering adulthood, and the two girls begged their father to invite the Haida, a northern tribe the Squamish were at war with, to the party. Dad was dubious about asking sworn enemies to stop by for a social visit but he reluctantly agreed. As it turned out, the party ended up being a roaring success, and the two tribes chose to bury the proverbial hatchet. Then, as indigenous author Pauline Johnson explains in her 1911 book Legends of Vancouver, things took a surprise turn when the Sagalie Tyee (Great Spirit) showed up:
And so, after several weeks of the Lions hovering beyond my computer screen, I figured it was high time I dragged my ass up there. The easiest access is via Lions Bay (natch), a mansion-filled seaside village with prohibitive parking regulations to discourage Vancouver riffraff from visiting. It’s roughly a four-hour slog up the Binkert Trail to reach the 1,600-metre plateau near the base of the West Lion, where hikers are rewarded with stunning panoramic views of Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast, Capilano Watershed and surrounding mountains.
Not to mention of my new office.
The photo above is now my work computer’s desktop image and a constant reminder that, while it may be crazy to choose to live in a city where the real estate market is a rigged game, it is even crazier to live here and not take advantage of the surrounding wilderness. Even if it’s only on weekends.