Capilano Park is situated in North Van where our friends live. Dear Hubby said that he'd never been to the park nor the suspension bridge for which it is famous and I'd said, "Well, why don't we? And we have a free ticket that comes with our car rental, so we only need to pay for one more!"
I'd totally forgotten that I am terrified of heights and for some reason, I thought the bridge was one that you drive over, not walk over. Yes, yes... I am a loon sometimes.
Anyway, we paid for our tickets and the first bit was all right. The guides told us the origins of the park and how people used to come over from the mainland in their finery because it was the law that you had to be dressed properly for your ride on the ferry. So everyone would be all dressed up and when they came to what is now Capilano Park for their hikes, they would strip off their finery, stash it in the bushes and go off hiking. Upon their return, they would put on all their many layers of petticoats and shirts again and set off back for the mainland on the ferry.
After that bit was done.... erm.... no good. We had to cross the suspension bridge to see the rest of the park. A bloody bridge that is swaying all the time because of the people walking on it and some bunch of idiotic teens who were swaying it. A bridge that is suspended some 230ft above the roaring waters of the Capilano River. I took one look and thought, "Now why on earth did I suggest this?"
I was the most religious person on earth for the time I spent crossing the bridge. To make matters worse, Dear Hubby was too engrossed with his photography to hold my hand and walk with me across the bridge. So I made it across myself, with a lot of prayer and even more gripping of the rope handrail with icy cold hands. I dared not look down at the waters rushing below, I knew I would just freeze with fright if I did and I certainly did not need to spend one second more on that damn swaying bridge.
It was actually not the best day for the park. It was drizzling all the time and I'm sure it must have been pretty cold. But I was wearing my warm waterproof coat, hood pulled up and my newly bought waterproof hiking boots and I happily splashed and sploshed through the park. I stayed warm and dry all the way and emerged at the end just a wee bit wet on my nose. Lesson learnt, people. Always wear the right gear for the occasion if you want to enjoy yourself.
The park was amazing. I took a pic of me hugging a Douglas fir. Or rather, trying to because a Douglas fir can grow hundreds of feet in height and this one was surely more than a few feet in diameter. The trail was well laid out and informative plaques were placed on the trail to guide you and to point out things of interest. The plaques all talked about the wildlife in the park, but all I saw was a woodpecker and a duck which insisted on keeping its head in the water each time I wanted to snap a shot. I was really hoping to see a bear in the wild but on second thought, not here in the park while I'm unprotected.
My favourite part of the park was the Treetops Adventure. Yeah! Up in the trees like in some enchanted forest from Enid Blyton! It's actually a series of walkways suspended up in the forest canopy, some as high as 100ft from the forest floor. The word "suspended" didn't sit too well with me (Aiyo! Amitabha! Not again!) until I saw what the walkways looked like. They were sturdily built, sway just a teensy bit and best of all, no idiotic teens on them.
This was really the best bit, walking around from treetop to treetop and touching the bits of the trees that you never would have been able to otherwise. The forest looks different from that height. For one thing, you didn't have to crane your neck so much trying to look up at all the trees. All the time, the rain was dripping through the branches and I knew now why this is called a temperate RAINforest.
I have to say the park was really well planned. There were rest stops at regular intervals with benches and chairs for the weary. Some of them were covered and best of all, came with a heater! More than a few of us crowded around the heater for some very welcome warmth before continuing on the way. The plaques around the park were a great source of info and I learnt a lot of things along the way like how fire is actually helpful for the natural regeneration of a forest and what a nurse log is. I'm glad to pay admission money if I know it's going to be used well and wisely as this was to protect the forest and to educate people about the forest.
Just when I thought I was really enjoying myself, I learnt that to exit the park, I would have to re-cross the suspension bridge. WHAT??? AGAIN??? I've run out of prayers already! What stupid karma is this??? I asked the park attendant forlornly, "Do you guys rent out helicopters?"
Man. What could I do but take a deep breath and walk back across? Just before I started on my walk though, I gripped the swaying bridge as tightly as I could with both hands, turned around to face Dear Hubby and told him, "You better take a picture of me, I want PROOF that I crossed this damn thing." So we got a pic, me dripping rain off my coat and terrified on the bridge, all out of focus I'm sure because the stupid bridge was swaying.
Oh, sweet, sweet land. I could have sank to my knees and kissed the ground with relief when I finally made it to the other end. That's why I'm now able to sit here and type this post, not dying from hypothermia in some freezing river in Vancouver. I got a certificate from the Park too that certifies I've crossed the bridge and can now brag about it for the next two years. I took a look back at the swaying bridge and I thought, "I'm going to have this chiseled on my tombstone for sure, I have NO idea why I ever suggested this trip!"
After all the Amitabhas and shaky knees and glee up in the trees and the cold and wet, I have to say this - it was worth it. It was worth the price of admission (C$27.95 for an adult) and worth all the icy cold fear I had to overcome. I've never thought of myself as a nature person, I'd grown up in urban areas but going to the park made me want to learn more about nature and do more outdoorsy stuff. It's impossible to stand in the forest and to look at all the trees, knowing they were probably here hundreds of years before, and to not have respect and awe of Mother Earth. Over the next week, I would see more sights that would deepen that feeling of respect and awe.
So if you're planning a trip to Vancouver, I would suggest you stop off at the Park. Just make sure you are properly attired, light hiking boots will do and a waterproof coat if it's raining. Even if you are afraid of heights, just do it. I did and I thoroughly enjoyed it.