Wednesday Wander – Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, Canada

This is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, Canada. Suspended over the Capilano River, it’s a well known tourist attraction, drawing over 800,000 visitors per year.The word ‘Capilano’ derives from a First Nations term, Kia’polano, which means beautiful river. Looking down into the gorge at the tumbling waters, it’s easy to see how the place got its name. The first bridge on the site was built in 1888 by George Grant MacKay, who purchased 6,000 acres in the area and built himself a log cabin on the side of the gorge. His bridge was made of hemp rope and cedar, and lasted until his death in 1903, when it was replaced by a wire cable version.

The bridge passed through the hands of several families until the 1930s, when owner ‘Mac’ MacEachren encouraged local First Nations tribes to place their totem poles on the land. Subsequent owners expanded on this idea, and the modern cable bridge was built in the 1950’s.

Now, I’m not that great with heights. I’m especially not great with heights when the thing I’m standing on bounces and moves around, like the bridge does. I don’t care how many elephants or Mounties or whatever the bridge is supposed to be able to hold up – it just doesn’t feel right to me. However, I made it from one side to the other without (too much) incident – I won’t talk about the bit when my now-husband tried to ‘bounce’ us in the centre of the bridge – and here’s the photo taken from the other side to prove it.

When I visited, several years ago, the totem poles were there, as well as the log cabin gift shop with a few touristy photo opportunities ;-D Apparently, there is now also a system of suspended tree-top walkways, and a focus on the First Nations heritage of the area – I’ll have to go back for another visit next time I’m in Vancouver!

However, the forest remains deep and dark – I remember being amazed at the height and girth of some of the trees as we walked the trails, the river rushing white below us, just glimpsed between the branches. It was hard to believe we were only a few minutes from a busy residential area – rather, it was as though we had strayed into a piece of the old time, before Vancouver was Vancouver, when the land was wilder.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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Wednesday Wander – Pacific Northwest Totem Poles

totem-1These tall, beautifully carved objects are totem poles, part of the culture and artistry of the First Nations people, specifically those of the Pacific Northwest. The great forests that once covered the misty Pacific shores were home to vast red cedar trees, traditionally used to make the poles. Now only pockets of that forest remain, glimpses of the long-ago.

totem-2The top photo was taken in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, a piece of the old forest preserved on the very tip of the gleaming city. I used to live across the road from where the park began, and often walked there with my dog, taking trails past hidden lakes and tangled undergrowth. Once you’re among the trees, it’s easy to forget you’re in a city. It’s a marvellous place.

totem-3The second photo was taken in Vancouver as well, at Capilano Valley, and the above image was taken at Victoria, on Vancouver Island. The figures on the poles are stylistic representations of known ancestors, natural objects and animals, and supernatural beings, and they were used by different families or clans as storytelling devices, funerary containers, and even as shaming devices, only removed once the wrong was righted or the debt paid.

totempolehenryhunt
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This final totem pole, randomly enough, is in Berkhamsted, an historic town quite close to where I live. And how did a totem pole find its way into the heart of England? Apparently, during the 1960’s, Berkhamsted resident Roger Alsford worked at the Tahsis Lumber Mill on Vancouver Island. During strike action he was saved from starvation by the local Kwakiutl community, who looked after him. In gratitude his family, who owned a lumber mill in Berkhamsted, commissioned the totem pole to be carved by First Nations artist, Henry Hunt. In 1968 the completed pole was shipped to England and erected at the lumber yard. It’s now private apartments, so you can’t get close to the totem any more, but it is still visible from the canal.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

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