June 16, 2013 – Vancouver isn’t that far from Seattle. Unless the I-5 bridge happened to collapse, and you need to detour through a small town with multiple stop lights that was definitely not designed to handle interstate traffic. Fortunately for us, traffic heading towards Canada (while heavy) wasn’t nearly as densely packed as the traffic heading towards Seattle. When we saw the miles long traffic going the other way, we decided we’d find our own detour when heading back in a few days.
We made it to the border, and got into a new lane at the border crossing with only four cars ahead of us. Unfortunately for all of us, this border crossing agent thought it was his personal duty to be a snarky, nit-picking, word-smithing you-know-what. I might have gotten snarky. (Tony – Yep, she definitely got snarky.) He definitely started it. He still let us through in half the time he let the other cars through, so it all worked out. There’s also a cool-looking park at the border, but we didn’t stop since you need to park on your side and then get back in line to go through the crossing. No thanks, not unless it’s not crazy crowded and you’ve got time to weave your way back into the border crossing traffic.
So, what to see in Vancouver? We started with the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. A word of warning, there’s not much parking, so either come early or come late (or do what we did – go in the middle of the day and get lucky) to not have to stress about parking. We immediately got into the slow moving line of people gingerly walking across the 450 foot long bridge. Once we got to the other side, we realized we were hungry so we walked back across and got burgers, fries, and root beer. The food was a bit pricey (to be expected) but very good and filling (a pleasant surprise). It’s also fun to watch the ravens snagging fallen french fries as their lunch.
Then we trooped back across the bridge and checked out the treetops adventure. After following a winding path, and pausing to watch a great blue heron attempt to catch some fish, we eventually made our way to the canopy walk. The canopy walk is a series of seven short bridges between the giant trees. Even more cool is that the technology used to build the bridges doesn’t harm the trees, it actually helps strengthen them.
Another interesting part of the park is the cliffwalk. There might be a bit of a line for this one (like when we went) or no line at all. Either way, it is a short, interesting section that’s definitely worth your time. The cliffwalk, like the canopy walk, has a very small environmental footprint, and opens up an area of the park that it would be very difficult to otherwise explore. We particularly enjoyed the glass bottom viewing areas, the glimpse of a waterfall off in the distance, and the large semi-circular section of the trail which hung out from the side of the cliff.
By now it was early afternoon, so we stopped for a couple of iced coffees, which were surprisingly good, and took them back across the bridge to be enjoyed by the great blue heron’s pond.
Up next was one last walk across the bridge, then a short drive to the Capilano River Regional Park. This park is definitely special; you find a parking spot and walk up a short grassy hill to see an amazing view of the mountains across the reservoir. Pictures really don’t do it justice. There are also quite a few nice trails in the area, as long as you don’t mind a bit of elevation gain. We were fortunate enough to pick a pretty path down to the water, and then a trail through the rain forest back to our car. The elevation gain on the way back seemed minimal, since we were enchanted by the tall trees, lush ferns, random foliage and the birds – including a new chickadee.
We got a quick dinner back at the hotel – shumui, sushi, teriyaki chicken and Nanaimo bars (excellent – why don’t we have these on the East coast?) – before heading out to Stanley Park. We originally picked a random parking lot by the police horse stalls, but soon realized we wouldn’t be able to see as much from that location. Instead we headed towards the water, where we had a nice view of the Vancouver skyline (which looks remarkably Asian-influenced, with many very tall, very modern buildings), an old Naval building, and eventually a series of totem poles.