I didn’t mean for that to happen, nor did I know that was case until we arrived.
Although we almost didn’t arrive. Because after almost two weeks of non-stop freezing temperatures, two snowstorms, and even now the thermometer outside not reaching 32 degrees, this was lot more appealing:
Capilano Suspension Bridge is a big tourist attraction. It’s a long-ass suspension bridge but also a park of trails and hikes through woods and into the forest canopy. It sounds quite fun. And crowded.
They also have a light show, so it was something I could go to late in the day and have a good time. Dogs are welcome, so that wasn’t the issue. The $45 price tag to enter was.
The hike I really wanted to do was Norvan Falls in Lynn Canyon Headwater Park, but it is estimated at five hours to get there and back. With the recent snow and knowing my usual pace without precipitation blanketing the ground, I didn’t think we’d make it. However, Lynn Canyon Park, just down the road from Headwater Park of the same namesake, also boasted a suspension bridge, had some other falls we could see, had much shorter hikes, allowed dogs, and best of all, was free.
Looking at pictures of Capilano, I realized this was not best choice. The bridges and tresses in the forest were all very narrow, meaning that Tucker would be meeting dogs head-on. Not being able to have a good solid group of friends here, he’s bit more on edge meeting new dogs. Most of the dogs we met on hikes were off leash and un-neutered, a combo Tucker does not appreciate. I certainly didn’t want Tucker being the crazy pit bull in a touristy, heavily populated area should he run across an un-neutered dog—especially one heading straight for him in the middle of a suspension bridge.
So, Lynn Canyon it was.
Not only was it not terribly crowded, it saved me $45 too.
There was only half a dozen people on the bridge hanging over the canyon. The bridge floor was made of metal (it actually looked like tin), with small wood “speed bumps” every foot and a half or so. This was helpful to not go sliding into the middle of the bridge as well as giving traction when climbing back up the other side. I didn’t know how Tucker would take to this, as it was slightly swaying and moving when we got on. With no dogs in sight, Tucker and I took the first step onto the bridge.
I slid a little bit, but Tucker trucked on as if he didn’t notice that it was any different from any other bridge or even the earth itself. I have no idea how cold that metal was, so I justified him in his hurry. I would have loved to taken photos from the middle of bridge, but it was about the time we got to the middle that I tried to look over the swaying bar and remembered/experienced simultaneously: I get motion sickness, and sometimes get a bit of vertigo when looking straight down from a great height with nothing but air between me and certain death. I can climb mountains and look out across vistas, but I can’t stand on the edge and look straight down without a distinct feeling that I might fall head first.
So there are no photographs of us crossing the bridge. Here’s one I took after the fact:
Like many areas around North Vancouver, wooden bridges and staircases have been conveniently built to help you through the forest muck and steep inclines. However, if you don’t actually shovel these wooden bridges, it’s just an inch and a half of mounds of hardened snow and ice on each plank sometimes connecting to other planks, but overall giving you essentially just one big sheet of ice to walk on.
The kid had no problem, and he saw me for the first time for what I really am: a poorly designed biped of inadequate coordination skills. Switching Tucker to the harness made it easier for him to sniff and not yank me every time his nose went to the ground, but he couldn’t pick up cues from the harness. He’d still tug until I yelled “Tucker!” or yipped, letting out a high-pitched, girly screech which somehow helps to keep one upright when sliding on ice.
We stopped at the river, where Tucker was interested in the scents, and unlike the forest floor, the rocks were dry and easy to navigate.
Once we got up past six or seven landings, I vowed not to come back that way. I hardly made it up them; there was no way I was making it down.
We visited the “pipe bridge,” but much to my surprise, you couldn’t walk on the pipe bridge, but only look at it from the wooden bridge next to it. I had no issues taking a photo from the wooden bridge at all:
The snow was pretty packed on the trails, which unlike in Whistler where this made it easier, it was actually a hinderance to the walking process. I realize all snow is water, but there’s something about Vancouver snow that seems to be made of angry water; water that simply hates humans, takes evil joy in their inability to relate to it safely, and wishes they would leave.
After they passed, Tucker and I started downhill. I urged Tucker to please, for the sake of both of our lives, stay behind me or next to me. The trail was only about four feet wide, had a wall of earth on to the left side and a sheer drop-off on the other side.
I stayed close to the earthy wall, unable to find anything to hold onto, but at least a little bit of traction was found on the bit of ground that poked up from the snow. Despite my tediously slow descent, I made one wrong step, and down I went. My little girly yip echoed through the canyon, but no one was around. Tucker kindly stood still, waiting for me to come up with a plan for myself. For a moment I contemplated hanging onto Tucker’s harness and just letting him pull me down the rest of the trail. It seemed like an excellent idea for a stuntman in a movie; not so much for me in real life.
So I scooched my ass along until I found some solid ground to plant a shoe and then lift myself up. Tucker was amazingly patient. I got up, brushed myself off, and continued on at a snail’s pace, but remained upright for the rest of the descent.
At the bottom of the hill was the crossroads between the suspension bridge to the right and the trail to Twin Falls to the left. A man behind me had made it down and proved that it was clearly easier to navigate if you didn’t have a dog with you. He surpassed me on the Twin Falls trail, which was actually helpful. All I saw was a sheet of clear ice in front of me. He hopped from one good spot to another and I followed suit with Tucker.
Then we came to more bridges, and more mounds of snow on wooden planks. The man who had been in front of me was now well out in front and a young Australian couple was directly in front me. The woman was smart enough to avoid the stairs completely on the downward trail and just take to the forest ground next to it which had more traction. There was a switchback ahead just past the end of the stairs, and I waited at the top while they tried the slick, narrow path to the next set of stairs.
“Where should I go?” the woman called after her companion, as he had just managed to go the distance without falling. He waited on the next platform just before yet another staircase. The grade wasn’t very steep, but the packed snow gave no traction. He tried to direct her; she followed, and then Boom! Down she went. She laughed, and all three of us tried to come up with a game plan to get her to the bottom of the trail.
We all agreed that staying close to the ground would be most helpful, so she stayed down in a squat position, and shuffled on her feet to the end.
I was up next. It was like lining up for a luge competition. The couple waited on the platform to make sure I made it down alright.
It was another three or four foot wide trail. This time the wall of earth was to the right and the sheer drop off was to the left. It wasn’t the Grand Canyon, mind you, but it certainly wouldn’t be fun to drop off the edge and topple down between the trees of the forest.
I concentrated on remembering the woman’s footsteps, trying to recreate her path. I asked Tucker to stick to the right and he kindly did, being angelically patient with my human deficiencies.
About what I presume to be half way down (I honestly don’t know as I was only looking directly in front of my hiking boots to find the best place for traction), I no longer saw my shoes, but my view was instantly filled with sky and trees.
“Ooooohhh!” I heard chorus of both a male and female voices, and could only imagine the grimaces on their faces .
“That sounded like a hard hit! Are you okay?” the woman asked.
Luckily, my fat ass had cushioned my fall, and thankfully my backpack, not the back of my cranium, hit the hard icy earth. My hat had fallen off, but that was only casualty. Tucker, my loyal canine partner, remained steadfast at my side while I repositioned my hat, sat up, and laughed my cold ass off.
“Yup, all good. Just think I should stay on the ground now that I’m here and all.”
There was a band of four guys behind me. From the loud yell followed by laughter we had heard moments earlier, we discerned that one of them had fallen further up the trail. Now they were in line at the top of the path, waiting for me to finish my little sledding adventure.
Now that there was someone to watch (and call 911 if necessary), I implemented the plan I had thought of on my previous contact with the ground. Grabbing Tucker’s harness for stability, I scooched my way on my ass a few feet. I wasn’t going to be any more stable on my feet, and I was already wet, so what the hell? However, the little pull I gave myself to start sliding was a bit too much and there were no brakes on this ride.
“Oh no!!!” the Australian woman gasped as I saw the edge of the left side of the trail coming ever nearer and no way to stop myself from careening over the edge. Tucker’s 60 pounds was not going to hold my weight if I toppled over the edge; he’d be coming with me. It wasn’t certain death; there were trees and bushes and forest floor, not a cliff, but I couldn’t be positive we’d get back up uninjured—or back up at all with how hard I’d be laughing if I didn’t stop in time.
Thanks to whatever luck I had in gravity, my butt came to a convenient stop an inch from the trail edge. Having watched enough action movies in my day, I was nervous to even breathe for fear it would upset whatever balance was keeping me on the trail.
“I thought you were going over the edge!” the woman yelled.
“Me too!” I said back with a smile as I contemplated my next move to not send me the final inch over the side.
My foot found a little snow and using it like a grappling hook, I dragged myself, butt on the ground, to the safer side of the trail. Totally wet ass, but glad to not be alone on this fall (because when you fall alone it’s sad; but when you fall in front of people, it’s funny.) I met up with the couple at the end, having avoided my drop into the forest by an inch and a laugh. The boys behind me began their descent and only one hit the ground mid-way, but all was good when they made it to the landing with us.
From there, it was another flight of stairs down (photo taken once I got to the bottom.)
“Hey, it’s a little slippery right here!” he yelled up to us, pointing to the section of ground right below the bottom stair.
“Thanks!” we yelled back to him. I then let the couple go next to see which way they would take.
The woman went slowly, but the man tried a new technique: going down backwards.
There was no way I was trying that.
I waited for them to get to the bottom and then Tucker and I slowly descended.
We had no trouble at the end; we hopped over to the fence line to look at the canyon river and to get some traction instead of walking on the snow-covered planks provided by the park.
In recounting this adventure to a friend, I pointed out that this never would have happened in the US. The park would have been closed. But here in Canada, people are hardcore. You walk in the woods at your own peril (or entertainment… it’s a fine line.) There were signs in this park of how many deaths happened due to failing to stay behind fences and avoiding warnings about no cliff-jumping into rivers. But falling on perfectly sound earth was your own damn fault and not worth noting.
When Tucker and I had first arrived, there was a child’s birthday party about to begin at the Ecology Center. A woman was watching a four-year old child climbing around on whatever the courtyard rock sculpture was covered in the snow in the front of the building. Another parent showed up with her child, and just at that moment, the kid made a misstep, and down he went, his fall broken by his crotch which hit a protruding rock rather hard. “Oh!” the parental figure cried. “You alright?”
The boy said nothing, stood up, shook it off, and carried on, climbing over the snowy mounds of rocks.
That’s Canada for you.