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Angela Fairbank
Travel Writer

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town” series

Capilano Canyon, Grouse Mountain and Cleveland Dam, North Vancouver, BC, Canada - a Slideshow

Continuing on the theme of being a tourist in my own town, as it was another rare, sunny Sunday, I decided to go to North Vancouver and check out the sights there that I hadn't seen for some time. I took a local bus down to the Canada Place in downtown Vancouver and from there caught a free shuttle to Capilano Canyon. There were a number of outfits selling tickets to the canyon and/or the mountain, but do shop around as prices vary. I went with Vancouver Trolley Co. whose driver gave us a spiel on the places we were travelling through, including Coal Harbour and the Lion's Gate Bridge (named after the Lions, which are the two mountain peaks show in photo 83), gateway to West Vancouver and its British properties, which date from the time the Guinness family developed the area in the 1930s with their multi-million-dollar homes. West Vancouver is the route toward Horseshoe Bay's ferry terminal for Nanaimo as well as the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler and Blackcomb. The free rides to Grouse Mountain did not run as often as the ones to Capilano so I ended up going to Capilano Canyon at the bottom of the hill first. You can of course go with the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay and then take a bctransit bus up the hill or you can take a bctransit bus from Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, unless of course you want to take your own car there, but then you may have to pay for parking.

Capilano Canyon (photos 1-32) is famous for its suspension bridge (photos 1, 4, 6, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21 and 32), the world's longest at 137m (450 ft) and highest at 70m (230 ft). Per year, its 8-hectare (20-acre) park receives 800,000 visitors to see Vancouver's oldest tourist attraction. The original bridge, built in 1889 by Scottish civil engineer George Grant Mackay to access his land across the gorge, was made of hemp rope and cedar planks. Now steel cables embedded in concrete blocks above the Capilano River (photos 5, 19) hold these cedar planks in place. The park also offers rainforest walks, totem poles (photo 2), a “Treetops Adventure” (photos 9-13), which are 650 feet of cable bridges suspended among the trees 24m (79 ft) above the rainforest floor, and the new-this-year “Cliffhanger Walk” (photos 22-26). There were also guides in period costume talking about the frontier days, several nature displays (photos 7, 17) as well as live music and a gift store, which also sells fudge (photos 27-31). Their Raptors Ridge was a bit of a disappointment as the three birds of prey were kept in cages and consequently were very difficult to photograph. Photo 14 is of a Great Horned Owl.

I then walked up to Grouse Mountain since the people who sold tours to Capilano Canyon and Grouse Mountain fail to provide a free shuttle between the two. Instead they tell you take the number 236 bus. I realised then on the way up by foot, that going to Grouse Mountain first would have been a better choice as the walk down would have been a lot quicker. However, the walk up did afford me a visit to the 670-acre man-made Capilano Lake and the 300-foot spillway of the Cleveland Dam (photos 33-40), built in 1954, which dams the Capilano River to create the 5 km long Capilano Reservoir. I could also have stopped off at the free Capilano Hatchery, where annually approximately 2 million Coho, Steelhead and Chinook salmon hatch, where 525,000 Coho, 600,000 Chinook and 15,000 Steelhead smelts are released into the wild and where at the end of their life about 14,000 Coho, 740 Chinook and 30 Steelhead return here to spawn. It just shows you how many of them lose their lives at sea. However, mindful of the time it was taking me to walk up what I thought would take 1/2 hour but in reality was more like 1 1/2 hours after my lunch stop at the dam, I forwent this visit and continued on to my next destination.

Grouse Mountain (photos 41-85) receives over a million visitors a year and is open all year round. Its Skyride gondola (photos 84, 85) is North America's largest and longest aerial tramway, as it is able to hold 100 people at a time and thus transports 200 visitors 2 kilometres up to the top of the mountain or down again every 5 minutes in two gondolas. Once you reach the top, your ticket includes access to video presentations, a chairlift ride, lumber jack shows (photos 45, 63), a grizzly bear refuge with orphaned brothers “Grinder” and “Coola” (photos 46-62), and a birds of prey show (photos 64-82) with a Great Horned Owl (photos 66, 67, 81, 82), a Harrison's Hawk (photos 68, 78-80) not native to this area, and an American Bald Eagle (photos 69-77). Apparently there are more Bald Eagles in Canada than in the United States of America and one quarter of them live in British Columbia. For an extra cost, you can also take a lift up a 20-storey wind turbine tower, try zip lining or tandem paragliding, or take a helicopter ride. If you don't want to cough up the $40 (plus tax) fee for the gondola, you can walk up the mountain via the “Grouse Grind,' a 2.9km (1.8 mile) trail that climbs 853m (2799 ft.) The average time it takes an average climber is 1 hours. The fastest time recorded is 26 minutes and 19 seconds (this is the record for males - it is slightly longer for females). Twenty-four “grinds” are equal to hiking Kilimanjaro and 54 are equal to reaching the top of Everest. Once you reach the top of Grouse via the Grind you can take the tram back down for a much smaller price. This challenging trail is used by 110,000 hikers per year. Another option is the BCMC Trail which is less crowded but takes longer. There is also free access from the car park to visit three timber wolves that are fed and cared for by the park, but unfortunately they were not visible when I visited.

Other attractions in North Vancouver to photograph include Lynn Canyon Park, which has a free (in truth, entrance is by donation) suspension bridge 166 feet (50m) above Lynn Creek, an ecology centre and hiking trails in its 616 acre park. Lonsdale Quay is a public indoor seaside market, where you can also photograph old dry docks and canneries, as well as the SeaBus foot-passenger ferry terminal. At Ambleside Park you can see fishermen from the Capilano First Nations tribe on whose land the park stands. Nearby, Cypress and Mount Seymour Provincial Parks are open for hiking in summer and cross-country skiing in winter. Seventy-five-hectare (185-acre) Lighthouse Park, established in 1881 as a lighthouse reserve, contains the Point Atkinson lighthouse, built in 1914.

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