Wednesday, July 28

Grouse Mountain

Perhaps the most stunning views of Vancouver and its surrounding area can found on the peak of Grouse Mountain. It rises to a height of 1250 metres and offers an obstructed view of the city, its harbour, Vancouver Island and the scenic Strait of Georgia. On a clear day you can see across the border into the United States and as far south as iconic Mount Rainer, the Cascade Mountain’s impressive snow-capped imitation of Mount Fuji.

Access to the mountain top is via North America’s longest aerial tramway. The Skyride, as it’s known, takes 12 minutes to traverse a 1.6 km cable-way up to a station sited 125 metres below the mountain’s summit. Here the mountain briefly stretches out into a small plateau where all manner of entertainment can be found. Highlights included lumberjacks engaged in log-rolling competitions, zip-lines spanning entire valleys and a 30-minute live show featuring birds of prey in flight. On more than one occasion the birds were encouraged to swoop low over the crowd.

We also stopped by the Grizzly Bear habitat, home to Grinder and Coola, two bears rescued from accidents in the wild. We found them idling in two separate pools, before they ambled off for a stroll through their bush-clad five-acre enclosure. We now know that Grizzly Bears are huge. I pray I’ll leave run into one in the wild.

However, it was the view that continually stole the show. It dominated our window-side table at lunch, grew in majesty as we rose on the peak chairlift and simply took our breath away at unexpected moments.

On the highest peak, at the top of the chairlift, is a massive 20-metre high wind turbine. For an additional $25 you can ride an elevator up to a glass observation pod built directly behind the turbine’s rotating blades. Unfortunately, the turbine wasn’t operating during our visit and so we never got to experience the thrill of its blades whirling by less than three metres away. In fact, $25 for nothing more than a view was one tourist expense we simply couldn’t justify.

We finished our day by getting off our tour bus in the trendy, gentrified neighbouthodd of Gastown. The area gets its name from a 1860s gold prospector, "Gassy Jack" Deighton, who opened a popular tavern for locals. He's since been imortalised in bronze and stands on the corner of Gastown's main throughfare. Gastown is also famous for a giant steam clock that chimes on the hour, its stram whistles driven by water heated in a nearby boiler. However, despite its antique look the four-face clock is actually a modern addition, erected in 1977 by Raymond Saunders, a Canadian engineer. His clocks have since gone on to be erected in numerous cities worldwide.

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