For Kobe Bryant, a Double Salute, With Two Numbers Headed to the Rafters

Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles relishing his triumph after scoring 60 points in his final game, against the Utah Jazz in April 2016. Bryant’s jersey-retirement ceremony takes place Monday night. CreditHarry How/Getty Images

His name is in the conversation, surely, to land among the 10 best players in the history of the game. At a minimum, Kobe Bryant absolutely has to be classified as the greatest Los Angeles Laker of them all.

Doesn’t he?

We could probably debate it all day. Whether Bryant is both, merely one of the above or neither really depends on whose scorecard you consult.

What can be said with certainty is that the time feels right to share some of my own recollections on the fittingly gaudy occasion of Bryant’s double jersey-retirement ceremony. It will take place in Los Angeles on Monday night, when the only team he ever played for hoists both No. 8 and No. 24 — the numbers worn by Bryant in 10-season chunks of his two decades with the Lakers — to the rafters of Staples Center.

The evening is intended to put a commemorative bow on a future Hall of Famer’s career, but when it comes to Bryant, some of us can’t help but rewind to the beginning. It’s an unavoidable instinct for me, because my last N.B.A. season as a full-time Southern California resident was Bryant’s rookie season with the Lakers, when a supersized teammate named Shaquille O’Neal nicknamed the teenager “Showboat.”

The moniker was not a term of endearment. Even at 18, Bryant’s best-of-all-time aspirations were apparent to everyone. “Showboat” was O’Neal’s way of trying to keep Bryant humble — and letting the youngster know who was the team’s actual focal point.

Instead, it just fueled Bryant even more. He was determined to prove to O’Neal and every other doubter that he would ultimately surpass all of the game’s greats.

“Kobe didn’t care about night life or anything else,” said Del Harris, who coached Bryant for his first two N.B.A. seasons and the start of his third. “He only had one interest. His only focus was to be the best that he could be. And in his mind that meant challenging Michael Jordan.

“People can argue how close he actually came, but there’s no question that he fulfilled pretty much all of his dreams,” Harris added.

Having shadowed Bryant throughout his 1996-97 debut season as the Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Daily News before tracking him pretty closely thereafter no matter where I was stationed, I can confidently bill Bryant as:

*The most maniacally driven player I’ve ever covered.

*The toughest I’ve ever seen when it comes to playing through injuries.


Del Harris was Bryant’s first coach when he joined the Lakers as a teenager just out of high school. And in Bryant’s first two seasons with the Lakes, Harris rarely put him in the starting lineup. CreditTom Hauck/Getty Images

*The closest thing to a Next Jordan this league has ever seen.

None of that, of course, happened immediately. Bryant started only seven games in his first two seasons on Harris’s veteran-laden, win-now squad. Even before that, shortly after draft night in 1996, Vlade Divac tried to short-circuit the agreed-upon trade that would send Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets to the Lakers by threatening to retire at age 28 rather than leave Los Angeles.

Divac ultimately came to terms with swapping Hollywood for Charlotte and consented to joining the Hornets. Bryant went on to lead or colead five Laker teams to championships, clash with O’Neal throughout their eight seasons together and tune out critics of his often shot-happy approach to finish his career as the league’s No. 3 career scorer (33,643 points).

With or without O’Neal at his side, Bryant logged a 20-season run in Lakerland that was a constant roller coaster marked by alternating glory and turbulence.

Yet as he reflects on it now, as the general manager of the Sacramento Kings, Divac said: “I wasn’t happy leaving L.A., but if I was Jerry West, I would have traded me for Kobe, too.”

As the Lakers’ longtime roster architect, West was famously smitten by the predraft workout performance that Bryant, then 17, unleashed against the longtime Lakers defensive standout Michael Cooper, who was an assistant coach by that point. As Harris tells it, Tracy McGrady had an even more impressive audition for the Lakers one year later, prompting West to make a brief but serious push to try to acquire McGrady’s draft rights and team him with O’Neal and Bryant.

“I don’t think anybody can look at an 18-year-old and say he’s a Hall of Famer,” Harris said. “You couldn’t even do that with Jordan. And Kobe was a young 18 in his first season. He was still in a pretty normal teenage body, compared to when LeBron James came in and had a man’s body.

“McGrady came in the next year with a more mature body and worked out so well that Jerry kind of tooled around with the idea that maybe we should just go ahead and make a deal for whatever it took to get this guy — even though it’d be a step back in the short term — to have two guys like this on the same team.”

It was the Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss, hungry to end a championship drought that would ultimately last 11 seasons before Shaq, Kobe and their new coach Phil Jackson won their first of three successive titles together in 2000, who shot down the idea of a Bryant/McGrady partnership.

Harris, himself, also didn’t want to surrender an All-Star like Eddie Jones for McGrady, either, fearing it would take the Lakers out of the title mix. Bryant was the first guard in N.B.A. history to make the jump directly from high school to the pros and working one teenager into a lineup with championship aspirations was already a sizable undertaking.

“I did tell Kobe there would be a time when there would be some competition between him and Shaq,” Harris said. “People asking, ‘Whose team is it?’ and all that. I told him that he had an opportunity to make it work just like Magic Johnson did with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Magic publicly deferred to ‘Cap’ every chance he got.

Bryant sitting on the Lakers’ bench, flanked by Nick Van Exel and Shaquille O’Neal. In their seasons together, Bryant and O’Neal endured discord but won championships. CreditAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE, via Getty Images

”I told Kobe: ‘I don’t know if Magic believed that, but he knew it was good for the team and good for Kareem to say that. And I think it’ll work for you as well. You don’t have to mean it. You don’t have to believe it. Just say it.’ ”

Harris added: “Kobe didn’t resist. He just never did it. It’s not a criticism of him, but just an observation of how deadly competitive he was. To ask him to do something like that just violated his focus.”

The legend evolved from there, in ways both astounding and troubling, on the journey to those five rings. Sixty-two points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks. Eighty-one points against the Toronto Raptors. The 60-point fairy tale against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016, in the last game Bryant ever played.

But there was also the trade demand in 2007 that briefly threatened his relationship with Buss and, much more serious, sexual-assault charges that stemmed from an incident in 2003 in a Colorado hotel in which Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman who was a front-desk clerk at the hotel.

Prosecutors eventually dropped the case when the woman told them she was unwilling to testify and Bryant then issued an apology, saying he understood that the woman, unlike himself, did not view their encounter as consensual. A lawsuit the woman brought against Bryant was later settled out of court.

The incident damaged Bryant’s image, particularly in regard to endorsements. But he gradually restored a good amount of his popularity — especially locally.

The regal standing he holds in Los Angeles will be evident throughout Monday’s 21-minute halftime festivities. Even his old foil, O’Neal, will be in attendance, and has offered to serve as the D.J. for a private pregame party in Bryant’s honor.

In the later stages of Bryant’s career, after all that winning and scoring — and in an L.A. touch, all that drama, too — no one seemed to mind that the kid O’Neal had once dubbed “Showboat,” had started giving himself nicknames. First it was “The Black Mamba,” and then “Vino.”

By that point, Bryant believed in his own mythology to the degree that, when he tore his left Achilles’ tendon late in the 2012-13 season, he initially refused to accept the severity of the injury that had struck him down.

As the longtime Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti recalled on Saturday: “I told him it’s ruptured and he’s done. He said, ‘Can’t you just tape it up?’”

It was classic Bryant. As vintage Vino as it gets.

17 Places to Go in 2017

1. Canada

A northern neighbor is a world to explore.

Canada is huge — the second-largest country by area. It’s also a world unto itself, with cosmopolitan cities, barely explored natural wonders and everything in between. And this is the year to visit: In honor of the 150th anniversary of its confederation, when the original colonies came together as one country, Canada is rolling out the welcome mat. All of the country’s more than 200 national parks and historic sites are offering free admission through the year, from the turquoise lakes and mountain peaks of Banff in Alberta to the rolling dunes and red sandstone cliffs of Prince Edward Island along the Atlantic Coast to the newest reserve, the glacial-rounded Mealy Mountains in Labrador. Meanwhile, in the capital, Ottawa, a full year of celebration is planned; more events will be on offer in Montreal, which turns 375. And did we mention the exchange rate? A weak Canadian dollar means American travelers get more for their money. So 2017 offers an ideal time to go north. 

2. Atacama DesertChile

New ways to explore the world’s highest desert.

The Atacama draws adventure seekers and stargazers to its vast, otherworldly landscape of wind-carved dunes and kaleidoscopic salt lakes. Sunrise balloon rides, which started in August, reveal its staggering beauty from above. The luxurious, recently renovated Explora Atacama hotel reopened in December; overnight rates include guided desert excursions and nighttime access to the hotel’s on-site observatory, equipped with one of Chile’s largest privately-owned telescopes. 

3. AgraIndia

Beyond the Taj Mahal, new attractions beckon.

Navigating the stunning, sprawling Taj Mahal will get easier when an orientation center opens this year, but 2017 also promises new reasons to venture beyond: Nearby streets have been repaved; the Agra Pavilion, a glass-walled dining complex, will host more than a dozen vendors and restaurants; and the Mughal Museum, a collaboration with the architect David Chipperfield and Studio Archohm, has broken ground. In addition, India’s fastest train and longest expressway now cut travel time from Delhi and Lucknow. 

Click and drag to see the Matterhorn

Riding a lift above Zermatt. Drew Gardner for The New York Times

4. ZermattSwitzerland

New reasons to get close to the Matterhorn.

Zermatt, neighbor to the legendary Matterhorn, has been luring active travelers since 1898, when the Gornergrat train — Switzerland’s first electric cog rail — began operating. In time for the rail’s 200th anniversary, the five-star Riffelalp Resort, on the edge of a 7,290-foot-high plateau facing the Matterhorn, reopened in December with updated rooms and ski-in and ski-out access. Higher up, at Riffelberg, a permanent open-air theater will open this summer with performances of “Romeo and Juliet on Gornergrat.” 

Map of Zermatt, Switzerland

Lion cubs in the Duba Plains. João Silva/The New York Times

5. Botswana

Old lions, new digs in the heart of the Okavango.

If you’ve seen an African wildlife documentary in the last 30 years, chances are good that the filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert had a hand in it. This spring the Jouberts, National Geographic explorers in residence, along with the company Great Plains Conservation, will open Duba Plains Camp, a luxury tented camp in a private 77,000-acre portion of the Okavango Delta that’s rife with lions, elephants and species specific to northern Botswana like the red lechwe. Expect safaris on boats with built-in camera mounts (when water levels allow) and a chance to see the descendants of Ma di Tau, the star of “The Last Lions.” 

Map of Botswana

Dubrovnik at night. Andy Haslam for The New York Times

6. DubrovnikCroatia

New ways to enjoy a gem on the Dalmatian Coast.

With its limestone-paved streets and 80-foot-high walls surrounding Old Town, this star of the Dalmatian Coast has long been able to rest on its aesthetic laurels — you might recognize it as King’s Landing on “Game of Thrones.” In recent years, though, it has been adding to the luster. This summer, the city is starting an electric-scooter sharing program, allowing for locals and visitors to zip up and down the coast to more private beaches. The four-star beachside Hotel Kompas is a comfy addition to the scene, and the long-awaited renovation of the grande dame Hotel Excelsior will be finished in June. The new restaurant Portrait is serving elevated takes on Dalmatian fare in Old Town. 

Map of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Click and drag to explore

Taggart Lake Trail. Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

7. Grand Teton National ParkWyoming

A total solar eclipse amid natural splendor.

On Aug. 21, the continental United States will experience a total solar eclipse for the first time in 38 years. The eclipse will cut a diagonal swath across America, but city lights and overcast skies can be obstacles to prime viewing. A good bet is Grand Teton in Wyoming, which will get a generous two minutes and 20 seconds of darkness. If you miss the eclipse, you’ll still be surrounded by the jagged peaks, mountain lakes and wildlife of a pristine national park in its summer glory. 

Telefónica Gastro Park. Joe Schmelzer for The New York Times

8. TijuanaMexico

Trading an unsavory reputation for a great food scene.

Though still rough around the edges, this fast-growing border town is on the rise, with a luxury condo boom and a new $60 million bus rapid transit system. Tijuana is also having a culinary renaissance, fueled by craft breweries, stylish coffee shops and globally informed restaurants that range from Telefónica Gastro Park’s hipster food trucks to bustling Baja Med spots like La Querencía in the riverside Zona Río neighborhood. 

The Rivera Court in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Kevin Miyazaki for The New York Times

9. DetroitMichigan

A comeback city set to make good on its promise.

Detroit’s revitalization, after its 2013 bankruptcy filing, has long been building. In 2015, it was named a Unesco City of Design. But 2017 may be the year promise becomes reality. The new QLine streetcar is expected to open in April, connecting the central Woodward Avenue corridor some 3.3 miles between downtown and the revived New Center area. It passes through Midtown, home to the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the entertainment-focused District Detroit, where a stadium opening this fall will be shared by the Detroit Red Wings and, in a return from the suburbs, the Detroit Pistons. 

The Warehouse District. Andreas Meichsner for The New York Times

10. HamburgGermany

A haven for architecture and design.

Zaha Hadid’s meandering promenade along the Elbe recently breathed new life into the riverfront and the nearby 19th-century Warehouse District, which made the Unesco World Heritage list in 2015. Adding to the sheen, the much-anticipated Herzog & de Meuron-designed Elbphilharmonie is scheduled to open this month. The 360-foot-tall glass structure sits atop an old warehouse, its spiky roof evoking sails and the city’s maritime past. And if all that architectural gawking tires you out, the uber-luxurious Fontenay will open later this year, the first five-star hotel in this northern German city in 18 years. 

Click and drag to explore

Jardin Majorelle. Drew Gardner for The New York Times

11. MarrakeshMorocco

Art at a legendary designer’s spiritual resting place.

A new museum dedicated to the work of the fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent will debut this fall in Marrakesh, showcasing thousands of sketches, couture garments and accessories. The 43,000-square-foot structure sits adjacent to the Jardin Majorelle, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary as a public garden in 2017 (Saint Laurent saved it from demolition). The much-visited attraction also houses a museum dedicated to Berber culture and the designer’s private residence, Villa Oasis

A pedestrian bridge over the Reedy River near downtown Greenville. Hunter McRae for The New York Times

12. GreenvilleSouth Carolina

The next Charleston?

Though small, Greenville, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, may be the next major food destination, with four big openings: Husk from Sean Brock, the Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, Jianna from Michael Kramer and the speakeasy Vault & Vator. Before feasting, enjoy the city’s many public art works along the tree-lined streets, or grab a pour over at Methodical Coffee en route to biking the 21-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail

By horseback in Pedregal. Danielle Villasana for The New York Times

13. PedregalEcuador

A natural beauty that’s still natural — for now.

The earthquake that rattled Ecuador last year mostly shattered areas where international travelers seldom go. Now man-made threats may compromise El Pedregal, a popular place for visitors before or after Galápagos excursions. The valley south of Quito is surrounded by huge volcanoes and grassy steppes where haciendas serve as bases for travelers to go hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Go before June to see the valley before new power lines encroach on condors and views. 

Map of Pedregal, Ecuador

On the coast in Penzance. Andy Haslam for The New York Times

14. PenzanceEngland

A glimpse of ‘Poldark’ country.

Penzance, the Cornish port town in the southwest of England, is having a moment, thanks to the popularity of “Poldark,” the BBC costume drama set in 18th-century Cornwall. The new Chapel House B&B joins a local favorite, the Artists Residence, while restaurants such as the Tolcarne Inn, in nearby Newlyn, and the Shore have put Penzance on the map as a culinary destination. Perhaps the best thing to see in Penzance — aside from the scenery — is the Art Deco-inspired Jubilee pool, one of Europe’s last saltwater lidos. The enormous triangular public pool was built in the 1930s and just underwent a $3.73 million renovation. 

Map of Penzance, England

The Dotonbori neighborhood. Lauryn Ishak for The New York Times

15. OsakaJapan

The ultimate Japanese feast awaits.

If Kyoto represents Japan’s spirit, and Tokyo its heart, Osaka is the country’s insatiable appetite. The city’s culinary legacy is alive and at work in the neighborhoods of Tsuruhashi and Fukushima, and in the 91 Michelin-starred restaurants spread throughout the city — like Ajikitcho, specializing in traditional Japanese cooking, and Taian, with a chargrilled focus. On April 28, it will all come together at the International Festival Utage (“feast”), a 10-day food festival, celebrating flavors from Japan’s 47 prefectures. 

Inside Skokloster Castle. James Silverman for The New York Times

16. StockholmSweden

Scandinavia need not be a wallet-buster.

Free state-owned museums will make visits to Sweden’s capital less expensive in 2017. Over a dozen dropped their hefty entry fees last year, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Swedish History Museum and Skokloster Castle. Add to that a favorable exchange rate for Americans — the krona is about 20 percent weaker against the dollar than it was two years ago — and this beautiful city suddenly looks even more attractive. 

Click and drag to see the Buddha

Rabong Buddha Park. Evan Wexler for The New York Times

17. SikkimIndia

A haven for spiritual seekers, soon more accessible.

With its first airport opening this year and its first rail link in the works, the remote northeastern Indian state of Sikkim keeps getting closer. Adventurous souls can trek Khangchendzonga National Park, a Himalayan haven of forests, valleys and mountains — including the world’s third-highest peak — that earned Unesco World Heritage status this year. Spiritual seekers, meanwhile, can pursue nirvana around the historically Buddhist land, from centuries-old Buddhist monasteries like Tashiding and Pemayangtse to the museum-like Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. And load up on spices, fruits and vegetables. Sikkim became the first fully organic state in India last year. 

Map of Sikkim, India

Vancouver Island, Through an Artist’s Eyes

A light rain was falling in Victoria, but it wasn’t keeping anyone inside on a Saturday afternoon. The horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs were out in force, a ska band was tuning up by the harbor, and all along Wharf Street, people strolled, most of them without umbrellas. This was British Columbia, after all, and no one was going to let a little rain get in the way.

Fresh off the ferry, a friend and I joined the other sodden tourists heading to the Inner Harbour where some of the city’s most splendid buildings are gathered: the British Columbia Parliament complex, with its arched doorways, domes and oceanic lawn; and the Fairmont Empress, a grande dame of a hotel, with its own set of weathered domes and turn-of-the-last-century details; a place where afternoon tea, with all the attendant rigmarole, is a ritual kept alive and well by those seeking to immerse themselves in a city that Emily Carr once called “the most English-tasting bit of all Canada.”

And who, you might ask, is Emily Carr?

She is the unexpected element in this scene: an aging woman from another era, with a monkey on her shoulder, a dog at her feet and a pad of paper on her lap. She sits — or rather a bronze sculpture of her sits — in the center of everything: on the grounds of the Empress, a place where she had experienced both intense joy (in the former conservatory) and acute boredom (in the tearoom).

Painter, writer, admirer of forests and totem poles, dubious observer of human nature, environmentalist before the word was popular, and, above all, an ardently independent woman at a time when women weren’t necessarily applauded for striking out on their own: Carr, born here in 1871, is an unlikely symbol, not just of Victoria and Vancouver Island, but, some would say, the whole of British Columbia. How she attained that status is a tale of devotion — her own devotion — to her crafts, certainly, but also to the nature and culture of the region.

Until I stumbled across her paintings a year or so ago at the Vancouver Art Gallery, I was among those Americans who Canadians must secretly roll their eyes at for knowing so little about their northern neighbor’s culture. Besides the statue and all the things named after her, including a universityin Vancouver, she has been the subject of biographies, films and a novel (by an American, no less — the late Susan Vreeland). Her paintings have appeared on postage stamps, her former home is a National Historic Site of Canada, and she is the author of several books, one of which, “Klee Wyck,”won the prestigious Governor General’s Award in 1941. (And yes, there is a calendar of her artwork.)


A painting from Emily Carr’s “Wood Interior” series.CreditTrevor Mills/Vancouver Art Gallery

Currently, two exhibitions in Vancouver and Victoria focus on what is arguably her most glorious subject matter: the landscapes of British Columbia. They are rich and intensely colorful works, some light-filled seascapes, others brooding forest interiors and portraits — there is no other word for them — of trees, whether of a towering red cedar or a fledgling pine. The best of her paintings are animated with an almost palpable energy — “the singing movement of the whole,” as she called it. They all resonate in a time when environmental threats — from logging to oil pipelines — are of great concern.

On a recent visit, I relied on some of these paintings as guideposts to southern Vancouver Island (her oeuvre depicting First Nations artifacts could be the focus of an entirely different trip), along with her journal and memoirs, an excellent West Shore Arts Council map and a biography by Maria Tippett. This wouldn’t be the strictest of Emily Carr tours — I was intent on driving the Pacific Marine Circle Route, which didn’t always follow her path. Ultimately, my aim was to get a sense of the land through her eyes.

The next morning dawned gray, but dry, so we paid a visit to James Bay, a pretty neighborhood of old houses and tidy gardens. In 1863, Emily’s father, Richard Carr, arrived here with his wife and two oldest daughters. He purchased a sizable plot of land, erected an Italianate-style house and turned his land into English gardens, cow pastures and fields.


“The Little Pine,” a 1931 oil painting.CreditTrevor Mills/Vancouver Art Gallery

It was a magical place for Emily. In a memoir of her childhood, she writes about the flowers (“our wild Canadian lilies … white with bent necks and brown eyes looking back into the earth”), her older sisters, her gentle, unwell mother and her visits to her father’s import business on Wharf Street; from there she could observe with great interest the Songhees First Nations reserve across the harbor.

Carr would eventually travel to places like San Francisco and Europe, where she studied art; to eastern Canada, where she was featured in exhibitions, and was befriended by the landscape artist Lawren Harris; to Vancouver, where she taught art; and to New York, where she met Georgia O’Keeffe. She also took arduous journeys to remote areas of British Columbia and Alaska to sketch indigenous artifacts.

But most of her life was spent in James Bay, where she lived, worked and, in a priory that is now an inn, died, in 1945


Beacon Hill Park, in Victoria, was one of Emily Carr’s favorite places. CreditRobert Leon for The New York Times

Painting didn’t pay the bills, and so she ran a boardinghouse where her tenants ranged from “inanimate, mincing ninnies” to “door slammers.” The house, which is on Simcoe Street, is around the corner from the Emily Carr House, with its small rooms crammed with books, prints, old china, furniture and, in high season, Emily Carr fans.

In cooler months, the house is closed, but do walk by; in the yard, you might glimpse the “Elephant,” the trailer-like caravan that Carr acquired in 1933 for sketching trips.

But inspiration was also nearer at hand: Beacon Hill Park, the subject of many Carr paintings. Western red cedars, Douglas firs, ponds, peacocks, frothy fountains and stone bridges (one is named for Carr): It is an enchanting park, and, occasionally, a place of high drama. As we strolled, a terrible screeching arose. It was nesting season, and dozens of great blue herons burst from the mid-reaches of some tall trees. The reason for their frenzy: a bald eagle circling overhead patiently, menacingly. It was a drama that showed no signs of abating by the time we left.


The tide pools at Botanical Beach.CreditRobert Leon for The New York Times

When Emily was a teenager, her mother died, and she became mysteriously distant from her father. Though she would remain close to her older sisters and had a few friends, loneliness remained a constant theme in her journals; marriage and a life of afternoon tea at the Empress seemed unlikely and undesirable. She once compared herself to “a lone old tree.”

But she also took pleasure in solitude, writing stories deep into the night, and sketching during the day. Though her work received praise, she trusted none of it. Success for her was a complex, spiritual matter; the business of melding art and godliness was an unending quest.

And, of course, she had her animals for company: a Javanese monkey who got into all sorts of trouble, multiple dogs and a white rat.


Emily Carr with her pets, August 1930.CreditNan Cheney/The Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

And then there was the forest. “I sought my companionship out in the woods and trees rather than persons,” she wrote. “It was as if they had hit and hurt me … so that I went howling back like a smacked child to Mother Nature.”

And so, with the aid of the Elephant, she began producing some of her best work as she entered her 60s. “Nothing ever, ever stands still,” she wrote, “and we never, never catch up.”

It doesn’t take long to find wilderness on Vancouver Island. On yet another overcast afternoon, we pulled into a parking lot about 10 miles outside Victoria, and walked down a wide trail. This was Goldstream Provincial Park,more than 900 acres of Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock and other trees; through it all runs a river where salmon spawn each fall.


Emily Carr was raised in this Italianate-style house in Victoria.CreditRobert Leon for The New York Times

Emily Carr loved to anthropomorphize; after reading about brown-eyed lilies and screaming trees, it was easy to imagine that the giant fern fronds on the trail weren’t just brushing against our legs, but reaching out beseechingly, or at least curiously, trying to get as much a visceral sense of us as we were of them.

In 1933, Emily had the Elephant towed to the Goldstream River flats, and there she settled down for a lengthy visit. It wasn’t her first. A few years earlier she had been there, producing sketches in which, say, a cedar branch was not a static thing, but a moving wave of foliage. (One of her most famous works, “Red Cedar,” illustrates this effort.)

No doubt she expected to experience the same productivity two years later, but a parade of parkgoers wasn’t helping. “They started early this morning — the Public,” she wrote. “The air is riled up with motor snorts, dog parks and children’s screechings.” Add to that the antics of Woo, her monkey — who consumed her green paint and had to be treated with Epsom salts — and the rain and the darkness. “I am not afraid, but it’s creepy,” she wrote, before leaving.


“Red Cedar,” 1931.CreditTrevor Mills/Vancouver Art Gallery

To us, nothing seemed creepy, and there were few people. We arrived at the visitor’s center, which smelled of damp, fragrant wood. Everything inside, it seemed, had been made either by or for visiting school children: Nature paintings hung on the walls, and exhibits — most of them handmade — focused on things like bald eagle counts and the salmon life cycle. Outside, a deck overlooked the river; in the distance, three eagles soared above the trees.

A volunteer with a lined, sunny face expressed enthusiasm for our driving trip to the island’s western side — a trip I was nervous about after reading online warnings about the dangers of washed-out roads, aggressive logging-truck drivers and frequent rain. She brushed it all aside. “Nothing but ocean till you get to Japan!” she said of the views from the wild western coast, then gave us directions to a nearby waterfall, advising us to ignore the high safer path, and to walk instead along the dry riverbed. It was a precarious walk on slippery stones, and rain was beginning to fall, but finally, the waterfall appeared. I saw my friend far ahead of me, her jacket a tiny red smudge below the trees and the falls. Everything here was big.

We drove on, toward Albert Head Lagoon, located in a populated area where the prospects of transformative beauty weren’t promising. As it turns out, Albert Head, its beach edged with trees and strewn with driftwood, is an understated arc of paradise on this developed shore. Here and nearby, Carr found fodder for luminous sky and sea paintings such as “Strait of Juan de Fuca” and “Lagoon at Albert Head,” in which she unleashed an incredible range of colors.


A hidden waterfall near Sombrio Beach, on the western coast. CreditRobert Leon for The New York Times

Our goal was to reach the artsy resort town of Sooke before night fell, but we decided to backtrack in hopes of finding Esquimalt Lagoon. On the way, we stumbled upon the Royal Roads Forest, a hauntingly beautiful woodland where some of the largest Douglas firs on the island are found. We wandered in the cool, dark forest, forgetting about our schedule.

The lagoon itself is a fragile place, a bird sanctuary protected by a wisp of land. Carr, seduced by the “wide sweeps of sea and sky,” arrived here on a beautiful spring day in 1934. Her caravan was deposited on a field of daisies. “Woo rolls among the daisies with her four hands in the air,” she wrote happily. But that night, an epic storm rolled in: “Everything inside blew out and outside things blew in till in and out were all mixed up.” Soon enough, the caravan was hauled to higher ground on a farmer’s field.

A few years later she would return to this area off the coast, and find inspiration in something that was basically ugly: gravel pits. Paintings called “Above the Gravel Pit,” show scenes of denuded land and tree stumps, all beneath a brilliant, rippled sky. There would be more paintings of bare landscapes, some with spindly second- or third-growth trees struggling upward beneath a blue sky.


Sombrio Beach, near the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, can be reached by a scenic path from the parking area.CreditRobert Leon for The New York Times

In this period, Maria Tippett writes in her biography, Carr approached the sketching or painting process ritualistically: Sitting on her camp stool, she might light a cigarette, sing a hymn, then “raise her gaze slightly above and just beyond her subject, so that it was out of focus. Then, with her sketching-board on her lap and brush or charcoal in her hand, she would strike out with her arm and wrist and with curved or slashing motions make great sweeping strokes.…”

Michelle Jacques, the chief curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoriasaid that the environmentally themed exhibition, “Picturing the Giants: The Changing Landscapes of Emily Carr” — which includes Carr’s two gravel pit paintings — is based on “the hypothesis that Carr was thinking about logging and environmental issues in a real way.” In British Columbia, Ms. Jacques noted, there are currently many concerns: debates over an oil pipeline and increased shipping, salmon farming, land and resource rights for indigenous groups and, of course, protection of forests.

“There’s a torn and splintered ridge across the stumps I call the ‘screamers,’ Carr wrote. “These are the unsawn last bits, the cry of the tree’s heart, wrenching and tearing apart just before she gives that sway and the dreadful groan of falling, that dreadful pause while her executioners step back with their saws and axes resting and watch.”


The British Columbia Parliament Buildings are in the heart of touristic Victoria. CreditRobert Leon for The New York Times

Later on our trip, those words would resonate.

We arrived in Sooke an hour before sunset, too late to explore Sooke Hills, which Emily had visited. We stayed at a rambling hotel on the wedding circuit with wide porches overlooking the water. On a Monday, it was nearly empty. By the water four harbor seals bobbed and rolled between moored boats. The clouds had dispersed, revealing a Prussian blue sky and the glimmer of stars. Here, in an area where the weather is notoriously moody, the clear skies that had evaded us in the supposedly milder Victoria area, would, with luck, greet us in the morning.

“You will lose coverage,” our waitress told us later that night in the hotel’s restaurant when we described our plans. She was referring to cellphone service on the farther reaches of the Pacific Marine Circle route. “But you will see animals, guaranteed. I saw elk and eagles and bears last time.” She told us that she had been born on the island, moved to Toronto, and not relishing the pace, returned. “I live over there,” she said, pointing at the dark hills across the water. “Sometimes I kayak to work.”

I thought of Carr, who had generally been eager to return home from her travels. In her journal, she recounts an exchange with a Vancouver art promoter: “‘It’s a shame to think of you stuck out here in this corner of the world unnoticed and unknown,’ says he. ‘It’s exactly where I want to be,’ says I.”


“Above the Gravel Pit” is one of several Carr paintings that focus on the effects of human intervention on Vancouver Island. CreditArt Gallery of Greater Victoria

We stopped for breakfast the next morning at the Sooke Harbour House, a beautiful inn with handcrafted details, a lauded restaurant and an Emily Carr guest room. Below it, Whiffen Spit, knitted with beach grass, juts out between the calm Sooke Basin and the wide open Strait of Juan de Fuca. Our map indicated that Carr may have been here.

Later we passed a road that led to a place called Malahat Farm, where, the Carr map said, the artist had signed the register in 1920. The farther west we went, the more nebulous the recordings of her presence became, yet the more we felt immersed in what we saw in paintings like her “Wood Interior” series, and in journal entries where she wrote about “the awful solemnity of age-old trees,” or the forests’ “helter-skelter magnificence.”

We found both magnificence and solemnity on trails along the way, places where the trees closed around us, and the forest floor was laced with ferns. Some led to desolate beaches like Sombrio Beach, strewn with driftwood and coffee-colored ribbons of kelp, as shiny as glass in the sun. Farther west, in Port Renfrew, was Botanical Beach, where tide pools were filled with limpets, mussels and sea anemones.

No doubt, Carr would have loved Avatar Grove, situated off a steep and deeply potholed road. Here the nonprofit Ancient Forest Alliancehas recently completed a boardwalk and stairs that lead to ancient Douglas firs and red cedars. Solemnity, magnificence: Carr’s words certainly applied here.

We drove on, past valleys, sunlit meadows, streams, grazing elk.

And then, abruptly, the landscape changed. Felled trees, like matchsticks, tumbled messily down steep slopes. It looked like a massacre, limbs strewn carelessly, gnawed bones after a meal. Shadows of clouds rippled across the bare hills in the late afternoon. So this was what clear-cutting looks like. We were speechless.

“They are their own tombstones and their own mourners,” Carr wrote of the remnants of trees that had been cut down.

We remained silent as we drove through the more populated wine-growing country of the Cowichan Valley. And then, all at once, we were on the last stretch, lined with gas stations and motels, back to Victoria.

We would be busy there in our remaining hours. We still needed to find Emily’s grave site, walk along her beloved Dallas Road, and, if time allowed, return to Beacon Hill to check on the herons. To the south, clouds were rolling in off the water, but we weren’t going to let a little rain stop us.

What the State Department Warning on Cuba Means for Travelers

A new State Department warnings cautions U.S. travelers “not to travel to Cuba.”CreditRobert Rausch for The New York Times

Just when it seemed that Cuba was on track to become something of a routine destination for Americans, tensions and tactics reminiscent of the Cold War have once again complicated travel to the Communist island.

In a strongly worded statement issued on Friday, the State Department warned Americans “not to travel to Cuba” after news of a bizarre series of sonic attacks that have affected American and Canadian diplomats based there in recent months. The attacks caused symptoms that include brain injuries, hearing loss, fatigue and headaches.

Who is behind the attacks and how they are carried out remains unclear. The Cuban government denies responsibility and has allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into it.

Still, the State Department warned that ordinary Americans could become victims and that, given the American government’s decision to reduce its presence in Cuba, there would be fewer embassy staff to help American citizens who ran into trouble.

“Because our personnel’s safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba,” the State Department said in a statement

But some travel organizers on Friday said that the State Department’s advisory exaggerated the dangers posed by the sonic attacks, which are not known to have affected any ordinary travelers.

Colin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, which has organized student and tour groups to the island for several years, said the advisory was unwarranted.

“The U.S. government has a responsibility to make clear to U.S. travelers that Cuba continues to be safe, that these are isolated incidents and there is no risk to Americans traveling to Cuba,” Mr. Laverty said. He fears that between the news of the sonic attacks and the subsequent travel warning “people are going to think twice about coming,” he added.

American travel to Cuba, which boomed after a détente between the two countries in late 2014, was already beginning to suffer after President Donald Trump in June announced a more restrictive policy toward the government of Raúl Castro.

The new rules turned the clock back to the days before the 2014 détente, restricting American travel to Cuba in the “people-to-people” category to organized groups, making visits more costly and choreographed. The restrictions will also put some hotels and restaurants run by the Cuban military off limits.

Since then, fewer individuals have been visiting the island, travel representatives said, though interest from large groups has remained about the same. Even before the sonic attacks, travel to Cuba could be confusing. Regulations shift back and forth, depending on who is in the White House. Michael Sykes, president of Cuba Cultural Travel, said many travelers were “misinterpreting” the State Department warning to mean that Cuba was prohibited or that they would not be able to get a visa.

Here are some answers to common questions about how to travel to Cuba now:

Can Americans still travel to Cuba?

Yes. The State Department issues advisories about travel to different countries all the time. While citizens should always take warnings on board and read them in detail, they are not binding. The advisory is likely to be updated once the mystery behind the sonic attacks is solved.

What if I need help when I am in Cuba?

The State Department has said that, because of a reduction in personnel in Havana, it will be able to help Americans only in emergencies. The government provides emergency telephone numbers and information here.

Will damage from Hurricane Irma affect my trip?

It should not. While parts of Cuba were hit hard by the storm, including tourist areas like the northern keys and Varadero, the areas generally visited by Americans were not. And although Havana was badly flooded, tourist infrastructure is back to normal.

What about the Trump Administration’s new restrictions?

Under a new policy announced in June, individual travel to Cuba by Americans will become more restricted. People-to-people trips, which are by far the most popular mode of American travel to Cuba, must be undertaken with an organization that puts together full-time programs for travelers, such as Smithsonian JourneysCuba Cultural Travel and the Center for Cuban Studies.

The regulations have yet to be published, but a fact sheet published by the Treasury Department in July indicates that individual travel will still be allowed within 12 categories, including humanitarian and religious travel; family visits; journalistic activity; professional research; and participation in public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions.

Those traveling in these categories will still be able to book a flight and reserve a room online and they will not be required to apply for a specific license.

What if I have already booked my trip?

According to the Treasury Department, travelers who have already booked part of their journey, even if it is an individual people-to-people trip, may go ahead. If the trip that they have booked involves transactions with military-run hotel groups or restaurants, that is also permitted, the Treasury said.

Where can U.S. citizens stay?

The new directive prohibits transactions with companies controlled by the military, which runs large swaths of the hotel and tourism sector. The Treasury Department has yet to publish a list of properties that are off limits, but travel groups will likely be limited to those run by civilian tour organizations, such as Gran Caribe and Cubanacan. Americans traveling independently may still book a room in a private house or through Airbnb.

Now, though, visitors may have another concern: The Associated Press has reported that a diplomat staying in the Hotel NH Capri, where U.S. officials sometimes stay, was targeted by a sonic attack. It is not clear if this was the only attack in a hotel, but the incident may put some travelers off.

Could you take a cruise instead?

You could. Carnival and Oceania Cruises offer cruises to Cuba departing from Miami. Other cruise companies offering journeys to Cuba from American ports include Pearl Sea Cruises and a French company, Ponant.

Will anybody keep tabs on what Americans do in Cuba?

Over the past two years, nobody seems to have been keeping tabs on which Americans go to Cuba or what they do there, even though senior officials at the Treasury and Commerce Departments said they took travel restrictions seriously.

Now, the Trump administration is directing the Treasury Department to strictly enforce the law regarding travel to Cuba, including routine audits.