Lost in Stanley Park

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It is an evergreen oasis of 1000-acres close to the heart of Vancouver's downtown. More than a century old, Stanley Park has the historic grandeur of Central Park in New York City and the most lush landscaping, vividly colored flowers and large masses of perennial plantings I have ever seen.

Two girlfriends and I recently rode bikes on the paths around the Canadian gem passing by majestic cedar, hemlock and fir trees that embraced us and transported us to an environment where we were most certainly biking-awestruck. We are childhood friends who grew up riding bikes together as girls and young teens. We live in different states now and so we cherished time together experiencing the scenery. The dilemma: We became lost.

We were trying to find a park lunch spot called the Tea House. Everyone we approached for directions was friendly and generous. They gave us their paper maps and helped us study posted wooden map-boards. But as we pedaled away chatting, biking along pretty paths, up and down hills and "following directions" we would always come to a fork in the road and never know which way to turn.

True to Vancouver's climate, a light afternoon rain began to fall. We threw on ponchos and kept pedaling but I began to inwardly stress that we were miles from our condo, in an unfamiliar city.

The maps made the park seem enormous to me, even though my friend Lori Moon assured me the park's size on the maps was deceiving.

We cycled past carved, whimsical totem poles and a sign that said, "Legend of the Lost Moon." I asked my friend (with the last name Moon) to stand by the sign for a fun photo we could laugh at once we were no longer lost.

I realize now that a lack of food, a wet bike and paranoia about the size of the park caused my strange declaration at one bleak point: "I am like a human compass, follow me!" I boasted.

My friends know I never thought of myself as a stellar Girl Scout or much of a "can-do" outdoors gal, yet they fell for the idea of my human compass abilities ... they biked behind me along a path that lead to a gigantic lily pond.

We stopped to take pictures standing in the slush then I led them down to an area I was certain was the road leading to the other side of the park heading toward the much sought after Tea House. A few minutes later, my friend Nancy, said: "Hey, human compass, we're right back where we started! In fact, we just made a full circle."

The rain picked up as we cycled down more roads. Now all three of us were hungry, tired and in hysterics talking about how the evening news would have live reports from Stanley Park talking about search crews looking for three American women who never returned from a bike ride. We tried to recall how many people would be coming forward to the reporters how they had encountered the women and they had given them excellent directions and clear maps.

At one point we did pass a place to get food. It was named something like the Lumberjack Grill and served burgers and what-not. We pondered stopping there for lunch but decided we had too much invested in our Tea House dream to give it up.

My most depressing personal moment was when we finished cycling up an enormous hill and after we came down, we spotted someone who appeared to be a park employee. He rattled off directions and I thought to myself…he might as well be speaking a foreign language because I can't understand one word! He DID tell us something the others hadn't, "you're not far from lunch gals, do you see that brown roof over there?..."

We twisted around a road leading to the brown roof and suddenly gazed at gardens of colored flowers with our lunch destination tucked inside. It may have been a restaurant called The Pavilion and not the Tea House but it was wonderful. We locked up our bikes, shook off the rain drops and headed inside to hot tea, warm vegetable lasagna and an unbelievably decadent desert with coconut on the bottom, custard in the middle and a thick slab of chocolate like a Hershey bar on the top. We picked a table outside in the sprinkling rain, under a table umbrella as close to the flowers as possible. We were there for the day to celebrate our birthdays and a little bit of drama on the bike path couldn't spoil the adventure! We were finally found, fed and continuing to relish our day together in Stanley Park.