With its snow-capped mountains and blue ocean, no wonder Vancouver has been voted one of the best cities in the world to live in. The Capilano River RV Park is situated in the best position for easy exploring.
It was hard to believe that only a few months ago, I was arguing with my husband Mike about buying an RV. After all, I’d seen Lucille Ball in “The Long Long Trailer”. I knew this was not a smart way to travel. It was all risky uphill roads, fried eggs sliding off the plates, and the whole catastrophe. He was serious, but I thought I’d soon talk him out of it. He’d come to his senses, and all would be well. I just had to be patient. It would soon blow over. But it didn’t, and I found myself going to RV shows and having conversations with people about things I knew nothing about.
Well, to make a short story long, how did I end up in an RV park? Easy. I compromised. We rented an RV. Mike’s argument won me over. For now. We rented a 19’ cab over. “It’s a small one,” the guy said. It looked plenty big enough for me. I’ve only ever driven small cars like a Toyota Corolla, but I did feel a bit of a power trip coming on when I sat in the driver’s seat. Not that I ever expected to be the driver. After all, this was going to be a one-time thing, until Mike got over his big idea. Still, I was happy to play along.
It was early afternoon when we checked in, then decided to take the short walk to Park Royal Shopping
Centre to stock up on a few groceries. We crossed the short bridge across the Capilano River and stopped for a few minutes on the bridge where we watched people fishing from the riverbank.
Across the bridge, there is the beginning of a major beach park. We saw sports fields, tennis courts and an eighteen-hole pitch and putt. There is a designated area where dogs can run free and swim in the ocean. I was pleased to see lifeguards on the beach.
I discovered one of the joys of this kind of living is you never have to be alone. Not that you can’t be. But it is nice to meet people, make friends, and swap ideas and information. It’s good to know there is always a helping hand.
Tomorrow we will take a trip into one of the canyons and suspension bridges.
Mike and I woke early the next morning to the noises of activity around us. It was much more enjoyable than being wakened early in a motel or hotel room with people banging luggage and doors checking out. These were just the sounds of community living.
We decided to go to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park for our first venture. There was a local bus, but we wanted some exercise so we chose to walk. We could always get the bus back. It was a beautiful walk along the Capilano River. I thought we were out early in the day but there were already people fishing, standing in the river with boots up to mid thigh. The tall trees kept the temperature a pleasant seventy degrees, which was perfect for me. Halfway into our walk, we crossed a bridge and continued on the other side of the river, and then up some steps to Capilano Road, which led us to the park. The walk would have been less than an hour if we hadn’t stopped to take photos and admire the views.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is the oldest and still most frequently visited tourist attraction in Vancouver, with 900,000 visitors last year. Most people go for the experience of walking across a suspension bridge 203 feet above the river and 450 feet long. However, we ended up with far more. We experienced not just of the bridge, but the whole forest area and its history – and a special experience at the end.
On entry, we headed for the suspension bridge. However, on the way, there is a “story area” where staff, in appropriate “costume”, were telling the story of the highlights of the long history of the bridge. We had to stop for that. The story area tells most of the facts of interest, starting in 1898, with the founding of the park. There are horse harnesses and implements that are from the very early days, and a very large book with story and pictures and a mock crowd dressed appropriately for much earlier times. This is a great personal photo opportunity.
The bridge, which was built in 1889, was right in front of us as we exited the story area.
We began to fully sense we were walking into the original virgin forest. Best of all was that after crossing the bridge, we entered a magical place amongst the giant Douglas Firs. There are streams and lakes and paths to walk to experience contact with nature. There are interpretive forest areas and First Nations areas to visit. Best of all is the treetop walk. These wooden paths are suspended high up between the trees, and wind through the forest, giving us an all-encompassing view from the treetops to the forest floor, and even further down into the canyon.
After the treetop walk, we recrossed the suspension bridge and followed the arrows to the ultimate thrill – the Cliff Walk. This was the most strenuous part of the experience, and also, for Mike at least, the scariest. It’s totally safe but high in the air. The stairs and walkways are not suspended like the bridge. They don’t sway or even move at all but are solidly anchored into the side of solid rock. What can make a person nervous is that there is nothing solid visible beneath your feet. The walkway has slats so you can see through the “floor” of lookouts, walkways and steps. The steps are 20 inches wide and cantilevered 6 feet away from the solid rock. At the top of the Cliff Walk, we were 300 feet above the Capilano River. From that highlight, we came down to the other side of the rock and into a picnic area with the Loggers’ Grill, a coffee bar with tables and chairs.
We didn’t leave the area until we’d explored the souvenir and curio shop. It’s in a log cabin called The Trading Post, and contains Canadian and First Nations products with many designs of simple mementos up to high quality gifts. We couldn’t resist buying some of the fudge that is made on the premises.
We had enough energy to walk back, and that evening, we planned our hike for the next day in Lynn Canyon. We’d been told Lynn Canyon Park was the best choice for a direct experience of unspoiled nature. We decided to drive ourselves to Lynn Canyon – with me driving. What a breakthrough! It was an easy fifteen-minute drive. There was lots of free parking and no entry fees.
Mike and I immediately felt like we were in the great Canadian outdoors, even though we were only a hundred yards from a residential area. We heard someone say, “It’s like being on the edge of civilization.”
From the edge of the park, all that was ahead of us was mountains and trees and bears. Oh! My! (We didn’t see any bears or talk to anybody that had, but there is a warning sign.) It’s an unspoiled wilderness. More than a hundred years ago the area was logged. We saw the processes of erosion since then in the massive tree stumps. The erosion process feeds the rich soil from which sprouts the replacement forest, all right before your eyes. The surrounding lichen, moss and ferns add a rich array of greens to the forest floor.
There are miles of walking trails, pristine waterfalls, and pools for swimming and diving in the 618 acres of the park. You can fish in a clear lake that is stocked with trout. This is a temperate rainforest, and the source of all the wonderful lush green that is always present around Vancouver.
Before starting across the suspension bridge, we looked at the maps that are posted on trees, and chose our trail. Posted are hikes ranging from 20 minutes to 2 or 3 hours, with messages regarding safety.
Right beyond the entrance to the park is a free and open access, as well as a new café and eating area in a building suited to the environment. Here we were confronted with the second of the two suspension bridges. For some, it’s more confronting than for others. This one had more movement than the Capilano Bridge, and was daunting for some. However, after seeing others, including children walking and dogs trotting across, you feel assured that it is safe.
When we came off the bridge, we had three choices. Turn left for an easy walk to the Thirty Foot Pool, turn right, which led down to twin falls and beyond to a paddling area in the river, or, the one we chose, the middle course, which is the longest hike. It starts with a hike up a moderately steep path. We then were ready for the casual walk around Rice Lake with stops for pictures, wildlife observation and some quiet time on the strategically placed benches and stumps.
For fifteen minutes, we sat on a bench and didn’t speak. We listened to the silence. We heard the occasional fish jump. There were squirrels and chipmunks scurrying all around. We watched the ducks and listened to the birds chirping. I found out later that over eighty species of birds have been spotted in Lynn Canyon Park – all this against a background of high mountains. It is a photographers dream, and was the highlight of our day.
From Rice Lake, we took a wandering path that led to a series of steps down to the Thirty Foot Pool. This is also known as the Jade Pool for the colour of the water. Water funnels into the pool between two rock cliffs and bubbles out the other side, but the pool itself is flat and peaceful. While we weren’t prepared for it, this is a wonderful spot to have a swim and a picnic.
It was an easy walk back to the bridge. We stopped for refreshments on the other side of the suspension bridge, and talked about our hike for the next day. We were in love with this park, and there was so much more that we wanted to explore. The added beauty is that all of this is free. Our conversation drifted along the lines of buying our own RV. I was hooked. I was discovering I had some nomad genes. I wanted to see new places, and at the end of each day, I would write a journal about my travels, people I met, and places I had experienced. Who would have thought!