One of our bucket list items this summer was to visit local tourist attractions that we normally don’t have time for during the school year. Have you been a tourist in your own town?
We had started the tradition a few years back to choose one fun thing to do as a family before the summer ended. Over the years we had done bike rides, pool visits to soak up the last of the sun, evening ice cream shop visits, little stuff like that. Several years ago, our daughter started begging us to go on one of those red trolley tour buses… oh, brother. My husband and I are not keen on tour buses and we found ourselves saying, “Oh, yes, sure, one day we’ll do that!”. And yes, we managed to distract her and not do that for quite a while, but finally the jig was up, and it was her “one fun thing” end of summer wish.
So off we went, and we had a blast! We learned tons about our city, so many exciting things we had no idea about at all, and we caught the bug for being a tourist in our own town.
Flash forward to this year, and we decided to embrace the not-so-sunny weather this week for our “one fun thing” before summer ends. We hit the UBC Botanical Garden and Greenheart Canopy Trail, a new local destination for our family.
It was a great place to go to on a cloudy day because the trees protected us from moisture (okay, yes, I mean rain!) and the cultured trails took us through all sorts of wild forest growth. We could let the kids run and play without getting lost easily. There is a paved path suitable for strollers:
This path leads to the more formal cultivated gardens -an Alpine, Carolinian, Food, B.C Native Garden, and a very cool labrynth -that you access through this cool tunnel:
We didn’t spend much time in the formal gardens, but my kids ran back and forth through this tunnel a few times listening to the echo as they ran yelling at the top of their lungs,
“ECHO! ECHO!.. Echo!… echo!… echo…”
There’s also a woodchip path which leads you through all sorts of glades and more wild forest areas.
Following the woodchip path leads you to the Greenhart Canopy Walkway which is a suspended trail system which allows you to literally go up into the trees and walk 75 feet above the forest floor.
So, because we were now those people who liked guided tours, we waited at the trail entrance to meet the free forest guide:
(It’s entirely possible we might have played leap-frog here).
The guided tour was fantastic! We got to listen to an enthusiastic university grad student who also had helped build the walkway tell us about the treetop trailway, forest history, the first nations’ uses of local forest materials, and lots of cool facts about the trees of this coastal temperate rainforest including western red cedar, western hemlock, Douglas fir, grand fir, and red alder. We learned that some of the trees we saw were over 400 years old, and some were thought to be close to 1000 years old at least!
I was fascinated hearing about the Taiwanese “Coffin” tree (a relative of the redwood tree which also grows in BC) whose wood is so hardy and resistant to rot, it was used for making coffins. It also has remarkable needles whose extra-thick coating of protective sap allows the massive trees to withstand the hot & sunny climate of Taiwan -the needles look green on sunny days but show blue on cloudy days due to its protective sap. We got extremely close to these enormous trees in the first part of the walkway, and because it was a dull day, we could touch and feel the sticky, visibly blue needles.
You can see the Taiwanese coffin trees’ needles close up in the top photo above, and then how the trees look blue-er than the surrounding greenery shown in the bottom pic.
My kids were thrilled to traverse the swingy walkways (slightly more than my husband and I were, mind you) and we all loved the incredible balance of adventure and learning. We didn’t make it through all of the gardens, but we plan to return soon. The forest is an incredible place to visit all year around. (Please note: the canopy trailway is best suited for bigger kids aged 5 and up, in my opinion. It is quite swingy and a wee bit tippy.)
So there’s this year’s “one fun thing” before school starts and we ticked off visiting a local tourist attraction (without getting too touristy) from my family’s summer bucket list, too! It was very fun and a great way to tackle a less-than-stunning summer day. I was proud to learn that the Greenheart Conservation Company which built the walkway is a local Vancouver company. They design, build and operate conservation-based canopy walkways and other nature-based attractions around the world. Canopy Walkways are the among the finest examples of the global trend in sustainable and responsible tourism:
“Construction is as non-invasive as possible using the patent pending ‘tree hugger’ suspension system. The tree hugger uses no nails or bolts or intrusive fasteners of any kind, using instead, a variable tension system to provide the least amount of infringement or impact on the trees.”
What one fun thing are you planning this weekend?
Click here to see the ASL sign for TREE