Monday, June 7, 2010

Vancouver Day 4

When I woke up today (my last in Vancouver), I was elated to see that the sky was blue and the sun was shining. It turns out though, that the sky was just teasing me, for after I came back from my shower the grey clouds had returned.

After another excellent free breakfast in the kitchen (kudos to whoever has to prepare all the fruit, bread, bagels, oatmeal, milk, and juice), I set off to see Vancouver's famous four-season outdoor playground, Grouse Mountain.

First hiked back in 1894, Grouse Mountain got its name from the plentiful Blue Grouse the intrepid hikers would hunt on their 3 day journey to the summit. Back in those days there was no bridge across the Burrard Inlet, or road up to the base of the mountain, so it was quite a trek.

But this is 2010, and there is a bridge across the Burrard Inlet, and there is a road to the base of the mountain. There is even a gondola to the resort at the top, so I was able to make the journey in less than an hour.

I had originally planned to walk up to the top on "Mother Nature's Stairmaster," the Grouse Grind, but alas it was closed for renovations during my visit, and so I was forced to take an eight minute ride up to the summit in the 45 person Skyride cable car.

(Taking the Skytrain allows for absolutely stunning views of the valley below.)

Once at the top of the mountain, there are seemingly endless activities to experience. I knew where I wanted to go first though, and made a dash to the Orphaned Grizzly Refuge.

When a grizzly cub is orphaned, rangers will typically try to shoot it to save it from being mauled to death by an adult male grizzly. However, when Grinder and Coola's mothers were hit by vehicles in 2001, they became part of an experiment to create the first ever Endangered Grizzly Refuge.

The original plan was to incage the two cubs inside a 5-acre electric fence so that they could be monitored and secretly slipped food so they would think they had foraged it themselves. However, because of a delay in gaining permission to build the refuge, Grinder and Coola had been handled too frequently by humans and would consequently never be allowed to return to the wild (they would approach humans looking for food).

Subsequently, Grinder and Coola became part of the show at Grouse Mountain, and help attract more than one million visitors each year.

(I call this photo, "Bear In Thoughtful Repose By Lake On Mountain Top".)

(I hate this fence. It serves no practical purpose whatsoever, since the Grizzly Bears could easily tear it apart. The fence you see obstructing the view only exists to make scared tourists feel more comfortable. The bears are actually contained by only three thin, electrically charged wires on the other side of the fence.)

Another big draw at Grouse Mountain is the Endangered Birds Show. Unlike Grinder and Coola, who were close to starvation when they were found, the birds in this show are healthy birds, and were bread for educational purposes to raise awareness for endangered birds in general.

(A red hawk. Any time you hear an eagle call in a movie, it's more likely to be a clip of this bird calling instead.)

(The Bald Eagle, AKA, the bird everyone came to see.)

My favourite show of the day had to be the "World Famous Lumberjack Show" - part athletic contest, part comedy show, and cast with World Champion Canadian Lumberjacks. I had so much fun watching the antics of "Johnnie" and "Willie", that I actually skipped taking a ride to the top of the wind power generator to watch the show twice.

(Willie tosses an axe at the target.)

(Johnnie prepares for his throw.)

(Willie makes mischief; Johnnie threatens to chop Willie with an axe.)

(Johnnie hurts his back.)

(Johnnie and Willie have a sawing contest.)

(Johnnie "cheats".)

(Johnnie and Willie risk hypothermia.)

(Johnnie smiling after his log spin victory, while a soaking wet Willie shivers in the cold mountain air and curses MC, Allie, for talking too much.)

(The $47 Eye in the Sky ride - the only wind-power generator that you can actually ride to the centre of, in an elevator pod.)

(Riding this zipline costs about $105 a person.)

At 4:00 PM I had to rush back down the mountain and get to the Capilano Suspension Bridge again to catch the last free shuttle back to downtown Vancouver. When I got back to Vancouver, I set up a reservation at a nice looking Greek restaurant, and then rushed back to the beach at English Bay to get some better pictures now that I was experiencing the first truly sunny hour since arriving in Vancouver.

At 6:00 PM I went to wait for my friend Hyo-young, whom I had met in Grande Prairie, and her friend Olivia, with whom Hyo-young was now studying English in Vancouver, at the Yaletown Skytrain station.

The evening before Hyo-young, Olivia, and I had also met and eaten sundubu (spicy tofu soup) at a Korean restaurant downtown. Olivia had said she could "eat Korean food any time in Korea" and that she wanted to try Greek food, but had always been met with long lineups when she attempted before (hence my reservation).

After stuffing myself to the lower esophageal sphincter, and paying for the meal, I walked my two friends back to the Granville Skytrain station, and went back home to prepare for my flight the next day.

(I've been in Vancouver four days. Do I look Korean yet?)

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