Vancouver Day 4: North Vancouver, Lonsdale Quay, Lynn Canyon, Grouse Mountain, and Fireworks Competition

Alternative title: Exploring nature near Vancouver on the cheap

I could've taken driving tours of North Vancouver. I could've gone to the expensive touristy sites instead of the likely equally good though less well known hikes, canyons, bridges, and parks. These touristy options would've cost something like C$100. Rather, I felt cheap, perhaps as a result of paying so much for dinner at West Restaurant a few nights ago, and so I planned my own routes and hikes and saw great sights yet only ended up paying around C$15 for all my adventures for the day.

This map shows my route for the day. Nearly all those lines are from buses and ferries, not walking. (i.e., I didn't walk 36 miles.)

These pictures also accompany the day's narrative.

I started by walking through downtown to the ferry terminal (near Canada Place, an area I mostly already explored) and took the ferry (seabus) across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver. Sadly, the ferry was entirely enclosed. Although I did take one photo through the window (which turned out well), I couldn't go on deck to get a truly unobstructed panoramic view.

Lonsdale Quay
The ferry ends in North Vancouver at a market called the Lonsdale Quay. Londsdale Quay is like a shopping mall with a quite large food court, selling both prepared foods and raw ingredients. (Regarding prepared foods, I saw many Asian places and a few Mexican ones. The latter is surprising because I didn't see many Mexican places in Vancouver. I wonder if Northern Vancouver has a larger Mexican population.) Being Saturday morning, the quay happened to have a tiny -less than a dozen booths- farmers market. Although the quay wasn't anywhere near as impressive as the Granville Island Market, it was still substantial, probably matching San Francisco's ferry building (ignoring its farmers market) in size.

Some booths in the food court, likely not directly affiliated with the farmers market, sold vegetables, meat, and gourmet foods. (One shop had an impressive amount of chocolates.) A few did something I consider brilliant: they chopped and sliced fruits and created make-your-own-fruit-salad buffets. As the fruit tasted so fresh, they must have gotten much of it from the farmers market people. I don't understand why no one does this at farmers markets anywhere else? Individual farmers can't do it because they don't have the variety of fruits needed. But all you need is a knife, a scale, and a goodly amount of foot traffic and you can make people happy with a fresh fruit salad made from fruit picked at its peak of sweetness.

As seen in the pictures, my brunch was a fruit salad and a meat pie. I sat at a pleasant spot on the dock and enjoyed the day.

Lynn Canyon
After brunch, I tried to decide where to go next. In Northern Vancouver, there are two parks known for having high suspension bridges over ravines: Capilano Suspension Bridge and Lynn Canyon. The former, privately owned, costs around $30 to cross. The latter, a public park, is free. However, it's not quite as high (170 feet versus 230 feet). While walking through Vancouver, I saw many advertisements for the costly one plastered on the sides of buses. (Obviously, the ads don't mention the cost or the alternative.) The touristy one also had the advantage of having a new attraction, Treetops Adventure, which includes cable bridges suspended among trees. Of course, they charge even more to visit that. Perhaps it was such a tourist destination for good reason -- some subtle feature that made it cooler. My instincts, aside from treetops adventures, said to go to the more secret option. But the situation was further complicated by the fact that they were on different bus routes and the expensive one was more on the way to another destination I had planned for the day.

After all this internal debate, I eventually decided to go to whichever one happened to have the bus arrive first. To commemorate this decision, I wrote in my notes "bus (mis-? pro-?) adventure," denoting my uncertainty in whether the outcome would be positive or negative.

And so I found myself heading toward the cheaper (actually free) option. The bus took me past a nice downtown park.

As for Lynn Canyon itself, it was nice. (See the pictures.) I tried to take some pictures from the bridge but mostly failed; the swinging of the bridge blurred many of them too much to bother saving. Beside crossing the bridge, I hiked a short loop in the park.

Some parts of the Lynn Canyon Park are steep. I witnessed a kid, not paying enough attention, fall down a short segment of a hill before, luckily, someone caught him. He really did almost kill himself.

On the way out of the park, I stopped by the Ecology Center and saw some exhibits about the park and temperate rain forests.

Grouse Mountain
Since there was no direct bus from Lynn Canyon to Grouse Mountain, I decided to connect through Lonsdale Quay. (I could connect elsewhere but was worried it'd be easy to screw something up and end up lost and stranded. Maybe I was a little worried due to my trouble with getting to the Richmond Night Market the previous evening.)

Grouse Mountain is much like the resorts in Tahoe: snow sports in the winter and hiking, biking, and the like in the summer.

To continue my pattern of frugalness, I spurned buying a (~C$30) ticket to ride the gondola to the top of the mountain, instead deciding I was in good enough shape and had time to climb it. Besides, I imagined correctly that I'd enjoy the climb through the woods much more than the likely barren mountain top.

Although the mountain looked tall, I didn't realize quite how tall. It turned out the trail was two miles long and gained nearly three thousand feet in elevation. Yes, that meant I climbed up and up, along with countless Japanese tourists who also didn't realize quite what an undertaking it was.

When I was about halfway up (though I didn't realize it at the time) and sitting on a rock to rest, I saw one such tourist, a male around twenty, finish drinking his bottle of water, put it down, and continue upward. I stopped him, saying, "Hey, you forgot your water." He replied to the effect that he doesn't have the energy to carry it anymore. That pissed me off. First, he was littering, and littering with something that wouldn't decompose or disappear in a couple of months. And second, how much does an empty water bottle weigh? Probably four ounces. Good grief. I picked up the bottle, shoved it in my backpack, and dumped it in a recycling bin at the top.

During the climb, I occasionally noticed people hiking in sandals. I must respect their ability to do it without reasonable footwear. But I also must respect the wearers' stupidity. Even if the strenuousness of the hike isn't well advertised, it's obvious to anyone with eyes that the mountain is tall and climbing it in sandals isn't going to be pleasant.

Incidentally, there's a club for people who run the trail. Impressive.

At the top of the mountain, I wandered around a little before getting in the long line to take the gondola down. (There's not much exciting stuff at the top of the mountain. I wonder how people that pay good money to ride to the top feel.) The ride down is a relatively cheap C$5. I'm glad I did, not only because, despite the over half an hour long line, it saved me time it turned out I needed but also because I saw some nice views after the gondola passed some supporting towers and the ground dropped away. I didn't take many pictures on the way down because I found it hard to focus my camera through the glass.

Back in Vancouver
Once on the ground, I took a bus back to the quay, a ferry across the inlet, an express bus (leaving every two minutes!) to South Granville, and a short walk to get my name on the ninety minute waiting list for Vij's, the Indian fusion restaurant where I wanted to eat. (The long wait was because it was a Saturday night and I lacked reservations.) I went to a Chapters, a decent Canadian bookstore chain, and browsed for an hour before returning to wait by the restaurant itself. Happily, even with that length of a wait, I knew I'd be able to eat in time for the fireworks show. Here's my review of Vij's.

Although I could have easily walked to the same place from which I watched the fireworks on Wednesday, I decided to take a short bus ride so, for variety's sake, I could watch the show from a different angle and so I could see a different part of Vancouver.

This fireworks show, provided by Mexico, was awesome, definitely better than the Czech Republic's one. I learned later Mexico won the contest. The photographs don't do the fireworks justice. I saw explosions that looked like angels and flowers. All the fireworks exploded with a sense of power/assertiveness.

I previously mentioned how impressed I've been with Vancouver's public transportation system. Walking home after these fireworks, I was similarly impressed with how Vancouver controlled the crowd. Every intersection with cars had at least two people directing vehicular and pedestrian traffic. I also saw a parade of motorcycle cops clearing a path for an array of trucks, possibly street sweepers or garbage trucks. (I couldn't tell from the distance.) In addition, one person launched a firework from the roof a building. Within minutes, there was a chopper with a searchlight scanning area.

The crowd control, however, couldn't be perfect, of course. The area of downtown through which I walked was packed with twenty-somethings. I passed one person who had been stabbed. He was bloody but it clearly wasn't life-threatening. Police questioned nearby witnesses. All signs said it was personal, not random or a mugging. Later, I checked the news and crime statistics. Vancouver's generally a pretty safe city, both that night and most. As hundreds of thousands of people attend these shows, it usually has a few incidents of the type I saw.

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