Category: Travel

Vancouver – Days 3-7

With four full days of the conference and one day of travel, the remaining time available for Vancouver photos was quite limited. It rained for the first two days of the week, obscuring the mountains and much of the Vancouver skyline. The next two days were sunny and clear, and I really wish I could have gone back up Grouse Mountain with the clear skies.

The conference took place at the Vancouver Convention Centre, which had a great view of the harbour.

On Thursday night, I checked into my flight and decided to change my seat so that I would be facing away from the rising sun, in the hopes of seeing the mountains on the way to Calgary. While my camera was packed in the overhead storage, I had my phone out and was able to watch the mountains come into view as the sun rose.

As we came into Calgary, we circled to the south of the City, illuminating the skyline, with the mountain range in the distance.

My trip from Calgary back to Ontario had seating with the sun coming in the window, so I left the window shield closed for most of the flight. I had a great time during this trip to Vancouver and I can’t wait to go back and see some of things I missed.

Vancouver – Day 2

Another early start to the day, where I changed hotels for the rest of the week. I was quite pleased with the room and location of the new hotel, and was lucky that the hotel union strike occurring at the time did not affect either of the hotels I stayed at during my trip.

The day dawned much the same as the previous day, with clouds and cool temperatures. I decided to stay in West Vancouver for the day as I had a lot left to explore. I began with a walk to the closest Tim Hortons along the harbour with a few photo opportunities along the way.

The 2010 Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver and the ceremonial torch was relocated to the waterfront. I should have gone back at night for some more pictures, alas…

I made my way towards Stanley Park, taking in the quiet of the morning and the calm waters in the harbour with dozens of sailboats sitting idle.

Stanley Park was dedicated by Lord Stanley in 1889. It covers more than 1,000 acres and is primarily unpaved trails and old growth forest.

While most municipal parks I have seen are manicured and deadwood dragged out, Stanley Park seems to maintain a more natural approach. Two large, long-dead, tree stumps were left in place and new trees had grown from them. The deadwood offers rich soil conditions and a sharp contrast to the new trees.

As I wandered through the park towards the aquarium, I was stunned by the size of some of the trees. Cedar trees in Ontario rarely get more than eighteen inches thick; here I was seeing cedars more than three feet in diameter. I didn’t realize what was in store when I entered the more wild expanse of the park. As I neared my destination, I came across two abandoned animal enclosures. Nature had taken over, with small trees growing from bottoms of the pits and vines growing over the top of the shelters. There was something both sad and beautiful about these.

Before my trip, I spoke to a few people about what I should do with only two days of free time. There were lots of suggestions, but the two that came up regularly were Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium. As it was a Sunday, the aquarium was moderately busy.

I should have known better than to walk from a cool exterior to a warm and moist interior. My lenses fogged up as soon as I took the cover off. Luckily, I had a few spare cloths and cleaned them off while they climatized.

I love shooting wildlife, even if it’s within enclosures. It gave me a chance to work on my manual settings and trying to hold the camera still, long enough to get a clean shot with enough light.

There were seals, otters, and dolphins within the aquarium. Much of the area was accessible outdoors with low walls to give an unimpeded view into the enclosures.

I spent some time wandering around the building and looking at the various other forms of underwater sea life. This included fish, octopus blooms, frogs, and snakes. As these were all behind glass, the glare from lighting made taking pictures difficult, so I mostly just enjoyed walking around.

I left the aquarium and ventured into the interior of Stanley Park. The old growth environment is similar to the interior of Algonquin Park, with limited interference in the natural order.

The trees in Stanley Park were upwards of five feet in diameter and towered above me, making me almost forget that I was mere steps away from major roadways and the city.

I rounded out my trek through Stanley Park by passing by the Lost Lagoon. I can see this being a hotspot for wildlife photography in the spring or summer, but today it was quiet along the shore.

This was my last full day of playing tourist in Vancouver and I was ready to put my feet up after putting in more than 20,000 steps.

Vancouver – Day 1

I had the opportunity to visit Vancouver for the first time last year to attend the 2019 EcoCity World Summit. The conference ran from a Monday to Friday, so of course I flew out the prior Friday to spend a weekend exploring the city and surrounding areas. I quickly learned that two days is not enough time; I really needed a full week!

Since I flew in at night, I didn’t get a chance to see much from the plane, and was too tired to go exploring. I took the SkyTrain from the Vancouver International Airport and walked from a station to my hotel.

I had flown from Ontario, so waking up early was not a problem. After a quick breakfast in the hotel cafe, I set off to see Stanley Park. One of the things that struck me was just how walkable Vancouver can be:  trails are divided for cyclists and pedestrians and the sidewalks are extra wide along streets. There is ample tree coverage along boardwalks.

I hadn’t even made it to the park yet, and I was already impressed. I decided to walk the Sea Wall on my first morning, and leave the interior until the next day, once I’d had a chance to study a map closely. I started on the western end of the trail, passing under the Burrard Street Bridge.

From there was a view of the opposing shore and the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

The weather was overcast and misty to start the day, so adding texture to photos was a challenge. I tried to focus on unique views and focal points rather than basic horizon landscapes.

The sea wall curves around the shore, with divided bike and walking trails, bordering Stanley Park. Most trail users obeyed the rules of the trail, and there was lots of space to step aside to take a few shots. As it was early October, only some of the trees had started to change, rather than the cacophony of colours that was starting in Ontario.

Sea Wall

Some areas of the trail edge sheer rock cliffs, leaving no way off of the trail for long stretches. Many of the cliffs are single smooth boulders, rather than jagged piles of rock, showing the slow eroding nature of the elements.

Rock Cliffs

The Lion’s Gate Bridge stretches to North Vancouver as charter planes pass over it, into and out of Vancouver Harbour. I like this perspective of the bridge as it underlines the engineering feats necessary to connect the two areas of the city.

Lion's Gate Bridge

The Brockton Point Lighthouse overlooks North Vancouver and is the most eastern point of the Sea Wall.

Brockton Point Lighthouse

As I came around the point, I was greeted with a view of Deadman’s Island and Coal Harbour. The sky was starting to clear, allowing for a bit more colour and texture.

Deadman's Island

Having finished my walk around Stanley Park, I caught the Sea Bus and headed over to North Vancouver. The public transit system in Vancouver is fantastic and reasonably priced: at the time of posting, it was $10.50 for a one-day, all access pass. Once on the north shore, I caught a bus and made my way up to the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

The bridge is 140 metres long and is suspended 70 metres above the river. Full length cables, as thick as my forearm, provide the only means of support for millions of visitors every year. On this particular day, the nice weather had brought a lot of people out and the bridge was at capacity, so staff were controlling the number of people crossing.

Regular announcements over loudspeakers reminded visitors not to swing or jump on the bridge. The bridge didn’t sway that much, but there was some considerable up and down movement due to the large number of people on it at that time. The narrow gorge is lined with tall cedar and spruce trees.

Capilano Gorge

Once across the bridge, the “tree top” trekking bridges gave me a unique perspective of the forest, with trees that are several centuries old. The bridges are approximately 50 feet in the air, with some higher than others, but far from the tops of the trees.

Tree Tops

Back across the suspension bridge there is a trail along the rock wall of the gorge. The unimpeded view of the gorge was a nice change, but the narrow bridge and number of people behind me made stopping for a photo challenging.

Waterfall

One section of this trail is not for the faint of heart. The trail curves away from the rock face by more than 30 feet and is held in place by several guyed wires from a single point in the rock wall. I’m not scared of heights, but this made me a little nervous.

Capilano Rock Wall

After a quick lunch at the Bridge House Cafe, I caught the bus and rode it to the end of the line, Grouse Mountain. From here, I took the SkyRide gondola for a short, but steep climb. Unfortunately, the clouds had just started to roll in, obscuring the view of North and West Vancouver.

Skyride

The Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge is home to two grizzly bears that can be viewed from a distance. Coola and Grinder were both orphaned and found wandering on logging roads in British Columbia. Grinder was the least shy and was happy to sit around for a few photos, while Coola was more interested in a snack in the grass.

A short hike led me to the top of ski trails and the tree-top zip line starting point. While I would have enjoyed the trip, the fog had settled in and the view would have been very limited, so I returned to my hotel.

This rounded out my first day in Vancouver. I squeezed a lot into a short time and would have enjoyed a bit more time to explore the local mountain range. I hope to one day go back and visit these three sites again.

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