The promise of using a bubble-gum-wrapper-lined piece of locomotive history as the backdrop for existential angst is almost too good to be true. Perhaps you have just finished reading The Outsiders. Maybe your heart was recently broken. It could be that you’re feeling the urge to awaken your inner delinquent. If you find yourself walking down abandoned train tracks alone, it is highly probable that things are either going very right or very wrong in your life. And if you find yourself walking the tracks right near the entrance to Granville Island, well, you’ve hit a jackpot of nature exploration, forgotten underwear, and feral cats.
The dilapidated tracks are easy to spot, tucked away near a bus stop amongst the bustling market-goers and Emily Carr students. Looking upon them, two questions springs to mind: where do they lead? And why do they lead there? In order to get an answer to the first question, and a head start on the other, a journey down the tracks is entirely necessary.
At first, things are only slightly unkempt as the path winds parallel to the street. Green vines grow through and around the train tracks, creating the same kind of industrial/nature contrast favoured by art students around the world. Things take a turn for the grim upon wandering under the first pedestrian underpass. Great walls of vine rise up, creating a valley of deep chartreuse that is at first enchanting and then suffocating. Graffiti lines the railway. What message could these derelict scribblings be leaving for us? Could it be a prediction of the next apocalypse? Is it wrong to assume that these scrawled messages of various profanities have some sort of correlation with the Double Bubble comic wrappers strewn about with gritty determination? It is immediately evident that there is some sort of sweet-toothed public menace at work here.
Passing under the next bridge, exhilarating mystery is replaced by the feeling of suddenly finding oneself as a member of the cast of Trainspotting. Not only does the locomotive theme and excess of needles enforce this sentiment, the juxtaposition of nature against the seedy belly of an overpass is undeniably cinematic. However, the real treasure in this neck of the woods lies in the discarded pair of men’s underwear casually draped near a piece of cement. These tracks are full of adventure, so full of adventure, in fact, that it makes people want to take their underpants off. Could this get anymore exciting? Is that even possible? Of course it is.
The train tracks continue on, complete with a breadcrumb trail of paper cups and humming power lines. However, when they reach a small road near the Olympic Village Canada Line station, they temporarily disappear. Fear not young explorers, all is not lost, for the tracks continue on once you cross the street. A short while down, another obstacle appears. It looks location for the finale of a Scooby Doo film where they finally reveal that the ghost is in fact Old Man Withers from the abandoned amusement park. In actuality, it is most likely a power plant. Unless electrocution is a favoured pastime, a short detour around the forbidden area will bring you right back to the tracks again, this time finding yourself walking adjacent to the Canada Line parking lot.
It is at this point that the tracks seem to end, as blackberry bushes grow wild and almost cover the slats. With real grit and determination and a good pair of boots, this obstacle is easily avoidable. Powering through the brambles, the victory is short lived and anticlimactic because the tracks actually do end right underneath the Granville Street Bridge. Although your heart is probably racing due to the thrill of it all, take a moment to gather your thoughts and see how far you have come. Could a menace be living among us, using these very train tracks as refuge? Is it possible that this locomotive journey is a metaphor for life? Would this enlightening adventure make for a good performance art piece? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes.