8/31/2011

Grouse Mountain

I imagine the title being sung to the tune of Rock Lobster, but you can do as you will with it. After we finished at the Capilano Suspension Bridge we got directions to take the public bus up to Grouse Mountain (which is conveniently located on the same road as the bridge, which was one of the factors in me thinking it would be a fun addition to our visit. For the very reasonable cost of $2.50 each (Canadian, obviously. And adults only - under 5 ride transit free) we were able to take the bus (the stop was across the street and then maybe 50 feet up the hill) all the way to Grouse Mountain - maybe a 15 minute ride. Once there, we purchased general admission (again just the adults -- seriously, sightseeing with a 3 year old rocks. More often than not, he's been free. On the other hand, we're reasonably sure that he's not actually going to remember much of this, but we'll have pictures to prove he was there.) and got on the tram up to the lodge area on the mountain. (During the winter, it's a ski resort.)

The tram reminded me of the tram up the Matterhorn that we took when my folks took us to Switzerland (and
other various European countries) in middle school. Mentioning this to Tim, he pointed to the plaque above the windows at the front of the tram that indicated it was Swiss made. Guess that's why it seemed so familiar. I will say, they packed it full. There was very little possibility of falling over when you got to the two towers (which cause a distinct rocking) because you simply couldn't move. It reminded me of the Orange line on the Metro at rush hour.

Once we got to the top, we took a pass on the informational movie (would have loved it, but, well, 3 year old), and started wandering up the mountain to see what we could see. There were lots of really nicely done
wood carvings, and the doodle wanted his photo taken with each. At this point, we realized we were nursing the camera battery along - so you could take photo or two, then you needed to turn it off for a bit and then you could take another photo or two, and so on and so forth. This made all the carving poses rather amusing.
Still, I think his favorite was the one of the grubs and bugs (go figure - though really, one has to wonder  *why* someone felt the need to make said wood carving.)

They were just about to start a lumberjack show, but as we've paid for a lumberjack show excursion on the
cruise, we decided to skip that and instead headed to the bear enclosure where they said they have two grizzlies. We walked all the way around the thing looking for said bears and had just basically decided they
were having us on, when as we got back to the lumberjack show area, there was one of the bears just happily
munching away right at the front of the enclosure. He (She? No idea, we didn't get that friendly) didn't seem
phased by the throng that amassed rather quickly upon his emergence and just placidly ate grass. On the one
hand, it was cool to get photos. On the other hand, it makes me a little sad that it's clearly no longer a wild animal. (Not that I want to hop into the pen with it, mind you, just that it's used to people.)

At that point, we decided to see if the doodle was tall enough to ride the ski lift to the tippy top of the mountain. He was, so we did. It was a delightful ride up because we went through some clouds (we'd gone
through even more on the tram ride initially) and got some incredible vistas of mountain tops with a layer of
clouds like whipped cream surrounding them. the top of the mountain has several of the ziplines (Tim was
annoyed that I hadn't included them as options, but the doodle was too little and I didn't want to miss out
either, so we'll have to come back when he's old enough and go) as well as an enormous wind turbine. It wasn't moving at the time we were up there, but it was very cool to look at. It was an additional fee to go up in, and given the cloud cover we didn't think there would be much more to see from the extra height, so we skipped that and went back down on the ski lift.

We got back to the main area just in time for the birds of prey show (Grouse Mountain is a wild life refuge - thus the bears, wolves, and birds of prey. We didn't get to the wolf enclosure because the kiddo decided he
was too scared.) I thought it was neat that the birds they used in the show are not resuces or rehabbed birds
but instead birds that are hatched solely for that purpose. Just seems to me that's much more fair for the
animal to not know freedom vs. having had it and then ending up a show bird. They started with a non-native to the British Columbia area, the Hudson Hawk. I have decided I need one as a pet as it is one of the few natural predators of the diamond back rattlesnake. (And really, if it can win against a diamondback, it should be good for any other snake varietal).

Next up was the horned owl - a native to the area and incredibly cool to see up close. It was fun because this
one, though grown, still made baby owl noises. The trainers said this is because they had been the ones to
raise it, so it thought of them as his mom and dad, and so would always call to them like that. The other
interesting fact was that the owl's skull is about the size of a tennis ball and their eyes take up 2/3 of
that, so the idea of a "wise old owl" is really not a good one as there's very little room left for brain.

Then came the turkey vulture - several cool things about them that I did not know (and really, this one caught
the attention of the doodle, because the cool things are very little boy cool). First, its head has no feathers because that allows it to stick its entire head into the carcass (so as to reach the tasty bits) without getting messy. The gunk just dries and falls off rather than being matted into feathers. The other fascinating (and repulsive) fact is how they defend themselves...they projectile vomit. We seriously need a superhero whose special power is projectile vomiting upto 8 feet. On a slightly less disgusting note, the turkey vulture can process most poisons, so if they eat a sick carcass, their waste does not perpetuate the poison.

After him was the final bird, the Bald Eagle. It was incredibly cool to see a bald eagle so close - they're an incredibly beautiful bird. Interesting things we learned about them are that their coloring allows them to be
mistaken by fish for a log floating on the water, thus making it more possible for the birds to get food and
the fact that their nests can weigh up to 2 tons. They're also an indicator species, as they sit at the top of
a food chain, so if they start to have problems it indicates problems in the entire food chain that need to be
investigated.

We all really enjoyed the bird show, as you see.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat back at the lodge before taking the tram back down. Again we caught the bus, this time to the quay where we transferred to the Sea bus (exactly what it sounds like - a ferry that takes
you across to downtown). By this point, the doodle had fallen asleep, so he missed the whole boat ride. He
woke up enough to make the walk back to the hotel (though Tim had to carry him after a few blocks) where we called it another fairly early night.

I'll post pictures when we're back home -- ship Internet is slow.

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