Active outdoor Vancouver…

View of Capilano Suspension Bridge as it crosses the chasm below. Lots of fir trees!
The Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver. (Pic from park website.)

Set in the lower left corner of Canada, British Columbia’s flagship city of Vancouver seems to have the best of everything in its location: close to the Pacific Ocean, close to mountains, plenty of green, easy to get to (good to and from airport transportation), friendly people… Plus, the locals tell us that it’s pretty moderate, despite being so north: medium summer and medium winter… (unlike Toronto, according to a couple of people, where temps are really hot in summer and really cold in winter. Is this true?)

Situated as it is on the west coast, Vancouver is also full of outdoor active choices, and the SuperHero and I wanted to make the most of some of these whilst we were there. Of course, limited time and finances meant that we couldn’t do everything, but after researching, it looked like the two things not to miss were both achievable and super-fun.

Our first outdoor adventure was a quick trip to the northern part of Vancouver and its surroundings to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Set in the Canadian rainforest (which I hadn’t realized that Canada has), this national park features a lovely old cable bridge (which really sways) and a treetop wooden track which allows you to see the rainforest from high up in the canopy. (What a great idea.)

Birds-eye view of the wooden suspended path that takes you through the rainforest canopy at Capilano Bridge Park.
Part of the treetop wooden path that gives a birds-eye view of the canopy. (Pic from park website.)

I wasn’t really expecting that exciting a ride from the cable suspension bridge, but you know what? It’s actually much cooler than I had anticipated so poo on me for thinking that.

The bridge spans a large gorge (I think is the right term?) and is wide enough for two fairly typical height-weight appropriate people (or one rather large person). It’s built using cables so the bridge actually sways in the wind and wobbles from side to side, so you’ll probably need to grab the handrails at time to steady yourself and the view is outstanding. (Not recommended for perhaps very old or unsteady folks…)

Once you reach the other side of the cable bridge (which is the first thing to do when you enter the place) and have survived the overly-dramatic groups of teenaged girls walking across (:-)), then you get to go on the Treetop Adventure experience (which is the wooden track high up in the tree canopy that gives you a super-great view of life as a bird/squirrel). It’s sounds very plain-Jane, but is in fact a really nice experience as you get to look down and around from an unfamiliar view. (Plus – it’s so green!!)

And then towards the end of the trail, there’s a big climb up some stairs to reach a glass overhang than gives you a view of the rocky chasm right beneath you. Honestly. If you get the chance to see this place, it’s worth the effort to get there.

(And – what is really helpful is that the place provides a free shuttle from downtown Vancouver by the harbor so you can just jump on to that and get there really easily and cheaply.) Totes enjoyable.

Pic of bike-rider view of coastal bike path that hugs edge of Stanley Park.
The bike path that hugs the coastal edge of Stanley Park – fantastic!

The next day was also a super-fun outdoor experience when we rented assisted bikes (i.e. bikes with a little motor attached) and rode the wide and well-maintained bike path that takes you from, again, the downtown harbor to the nearby Stanley Park, a huge outdoor park place which juts out into the ocean with a well-designed bike/roller-blade path (separate from the walking path) to follow that hugs the coast.

(Note: You might want to take a light jacket with you since, due to the off-shore winds, the temp can get quite a bit lower than it is downtown. We could have used one each…)

The park is a lovely ride and has occasional stops for a quick coffee or similar, and the views are simply amazing. The bike rental place provided a lock, helmets and a map, and then it’s up to you. (Bike rental places are pretty easy to find, so no shortage of those.) Since we opted for the motor-assisted bikes, it wasn’t strenuous and kept it fun. We had a great time, to be honest. Worth doing and pretty affordable since the only thing you pay for is the actual bike rental, and our ride took about 2.5 hours in total.

After that, we hung out at the harbor for a bite to eat and to watch the cool sea planes land on the water, and then it was back to the hotel.

Vancouverites: thank you for a lovely and welcoming visit! We’ll be back. I’m curious how you guys handle winter! 🙂

Pic of five large painted totem poles in front of small patch of forest. Varying heights and designs.
Some of the authentic totem poles throughout Stanley Park.

Let Not the Waves – Simon Stephenson (2011)

“The world changes when you lose somebody you love. Whether or not your loss begins with an earthquake, the planet tilts on its axis and remains there. At first, this is dizzying. Life is suddenly so strange that all you can do is desperately cling to this earth’s spinning surface and hope not to fall off yourself. Over the months and years, you can learn to live in this unfamiliar orbit, to walk upright again… In this way, time passes.”

This book is the true story of a brother killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, one of 230,000 people who were also killed on that Boxing Day. Written as a mix of childhood reminiscences and meditations on family, this covers a wide range of topics from Greek myths to the legends of First Peoples in Oregon, linked by the ravages of the unruly sea bed.

This is also a very sad book, written by the younger brother of Dominic Stephenson, the 27 year old Scotsman who was killed with his girlfriend Eileen and thousands of other people. It’s a book of how one family tried to deal with the awful news, of how hard it was waiting for official confirmation of the deaths, of waiting to get Dominic’s body repatriated and then choosing where to bury him, he whose life was cut so short so unexpectedly far away.

Stephenson is a strong writer and although this is his first published novel, he has written screenplays professionally, and his skill for a steadily moving plot shows here. Additionally, he also qualified as a physician in the UK, a knowledge which would come in handy later on when trying to understand his brother’s injuries. The death of his close elder brother causes months of disruption in a previous settled life, and he uproots himself from his career in London and flies to Thailand to try to understand more fully his brother’s unexpected demise and the deaths of all the other people.

Whilst there, he joins other mourning family members and friends, strangers all at first, and works to build a memorial garden for the victims. In doing so, he meets local people who also lost loved ones, and together, as the months pass, they become close friends and try to move on.

However, the grief journey for Stephenson is not without significant difficulties for him and for his family. There are significant health problems which plague Simon and his mother, there are career issues to be addressed, and an ongoing challenge to try to bring sense to an otherwise senseless natural tragedy.

Although I would not say that I enjoyed this book, it was an interesting and thoughtful read about one man’s journey to accept the unacceptable. A provocative read.