Although many people are familiar with the urban charms and attractions of Vancouver in British Columbia, if you go farther north, just across Burrard Inlet, you will find a surprising treasure of outdoor adventures.
Here in and around North Vancouver, you can ride a zipline across a forest at speeds up to 50 miles per hour or walk across a suspension bridge while peering down at a canyon hundreds of feet below.
One of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has been welcoming visitors since 1889. It is a treasure that will surprise and delight you as you begin a staggering, drunken sailor walk across this breathtaking bridge.
As hordes of people of all sizes, shapes, languages and nationalities step onto the Galloping Gertie planks 230 feet above the Capilano Canyon and desperately grasp the handrail cables, there develops a rather “We’re in this together” camaraderie. “I feel like I’ve had one too many,” hollered a nattily dressed matron. “How about two? Or THREEEE?” shouted a staggering passerby. The matron replied between gusts of laughter, “Yeah! Two or three BOTTLES!”
Another party, stumbling into the upscale, cliffside gift shop located just off the bridge on the edge of the canyon, asked the proprietor if folks always came in all wavy and discombobulated. “Oh, yes. All the time. They ask if the building’s moving. And I say if it is, we’re in big trouble.”
Rumor has it, a Great Dane once made it halfway across the bridge, stopped and would not move. It took two grown men to go out, turn it around and carry it back.
The bridge is the main attraction, but there are other places to see and things to do in the 27-acre park that surrounds the bridge. Be sure to stop at the park’s Little Big House or Kia’palano (Beautiful River), where First Nations people share their culture and customs with visitors through traditional carvings, story-telling and dance. The native people at the Little Big House graciously engage in discussions and answer questions about their heritage.
Many of these guides, like Ben, who is from the Haida Nation, have been with the park since the Little Big House opened in the late 1990s. He explains traditions such as the First Nations’ concept of spiritual connection between their culture and the natural world: “Spiritual people say that we’re not talking about us two-leggeds only. We’re talking about the four-leggeds and the ones that swim. We also call the trees the standing people. And we call the clouds the cloud people, the stars the star people. Mother Earth, Father Sky, Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Sun. So when a spiritual person says this is for the people, that means it is for everyone, everything.”
The park’s Treetops Adventure offers an astonishing journey up a wooded staircase from the forest floor and then along a network of suspension bridges connecting the tops of trees in the old growth rainforest. Nearly 700 feet of cabled suspension bridges link eight Douglas firs, 100 feet above the ground. Each tree has its own viewing platform.
The privately owned bridge and park are open every day except Christmas. Admission is $29.95 for adults, $27.95 for seniors 65 and older, $23.75 for students 17 and older, $18.75 for youths 13 to 16, $10 for children 6 to 12 and free for children under 6. The admission prices are in Canadian dollars. For information, visit capbridge.com or call (604) 985-7474.
Air Grouse Mountain Ziplines
Grouse Mountain records more than 1 million visitors a year, and now in addition to skiing, snowboarding and other activities, you can experience the outdoors on a zipline. Five separate ziplines soar over the alpine rainforest at speeds up to 50 mph. The lines include two jaw-dropping flights across the gorge between Grouse Mountain and Dam Mountain.
Wow! Thirty-six seconds of pure, thrilling, exciting bliss. And it’s absolutely safe with a comfortable sit-down harness and trained guides on either side to instruct, strap you in, hook you up and release the safety catches. In addition to the ziplines, a chair lift ride offers spectacular views of the city and, on a clear day, Mt. Baker.
A zipline tour takes about two hours, but plan to leave the lower parking lot on the Skyride Gondola at least an hour before. The price of $105 Canadian includes the Skyride and Zipline circuit, equipment and instruction. A photographer takes souvenir pictures, which are available for an additional fee. Sounds corny, but when you’ve completed such an unforgettable experience, there’s no resisting taking home cool photos of the group and yourself in flight. After all, this doesn’t exactly happen every day!
For information, visit grousemountain.com or call (604) 980-9311.
Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak
Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak has been putting smiles on folks’ faces for over 25 years with rentals, lessons and tours. Its waterfront location in North Vancouver draws enthusiastic visitors, locals, veterans and newbies to venture out on Indian Arm and into Burrard Inlet. The Deep Cove guides are as interesting as the vistas and wildlife on and around the waters.
On a casual afternoon paddle into, around and across Indian Arm, we saw magnificent hillside homes, a couple of adventurous standup paddle boarders, a multitude of playful seals, even a dog on watch at the prow of his sailboat. And, of course, we waved to many other kayakers. We also absorbed much lore and historic significance of the area from our knowledgeable and witty guide.
Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak offers a wide range of paddling experiences including exploratory tours and, their most popular, the full moon evening tour. They also have added standup paddling to their repertoire. Prices range from $30 Canadian for two hours to $154 for two days. For information, visit deepcovekayak.com or call (604) 929-2268. n
Lynn Rosen and Steve Giordano are journalists who live in Bellingham, Washington.
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