Flying through the Fog

“If you can’t see the mountain, don’t waste your time,” is what I read over and over when doing research on visiting Grouse Mountain.  But, I don’t like being told what to do, so we walked to Canada Place and hopped a shuttle to the base of the mountain.  We were hoping to go paragliding but fog seemed to be clinging to the mountain with no indication of dissipating anytime soon thus cancelling all paragliding tours.  However, the ziplines were running, so we purchased a zipline time for a little later in the day hoping to give the skies time to clear.

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Tickets in hand, we boarded the skyride which lifted us to the top of the mountain.  There we checked out the Lumberjack Show which even in the front row was hard to see due to the thick fog.  After the show, we took a hike with a guide who tried to tell us what we would see if it weren’t so foggy.  He gave us indications of how high the snow gets in the winter, where bears had created trails, and stories about First Nations people.

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Between the rain, fog, and wind, I was having a hard time staying warm.  At this point I was regretting the decision to leave the fleece in the hotel room.  So, in an attempt to both kill time and keep warm, we headed over to the two resident grizzly bears, Coola and Grinder.  Both bears were orphaned and brought to the mountain to be cared for by park rangers.  I watched as they lumbered around their habitat thankful that we had not run into bears this large in Ketchikan only days before.  These two bears were massive with intimidating claws that inspired a healthy fear of them.

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The fog had turned to drizzle as we made our way to the zip lining building.  There we met up with the guides and a girl from New Zealand that would be joining us.  A few minutes were spent going over how to safely hook up to the zips as well as the correct position for stopping.  These zips were not the kind that you find in the Caribbean where you use your hand to break, instead you flip back in your sling, shoot your feet straight into the air, and slam into a giant spring which stops you at the next platform.

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We practiced our form on the first zip which was very short and went above a walkway where people were headed to see the grizzly bears.  This was one of the only lines in which we could actually see the ending platform.  Lines two and three were longer than the previous and allowed us time to play around with our camera.

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Then we jumped on the Alpine Lift that took us further up the mountain for zips four and five.  Here we chatted with our new Kiwi friend who was living in Vancouver to do an internship as a doctor.  As we ascended the mountain, the fog grew even thicker.

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As Geoff and I prepared to race each other on zip four, we could not see the other platform.  As we stepped off and headed at speeds upwards of 50mph, we were enveloped in the fog.  The tops of pine trees poked out of the fog in our immediate sight line, but looking forward there was nothing but thick grey and white clouds.  The only sound was the whir of the zip line as we sped toward the next platform.  Being encased in fog was quite surreal.  What we could see of the forest below us took on a mystical feeling, and I felt like phantom flying through the air.  One minute later, we were slamming into the spring jarring us back to reality.

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The last zipline included a very steep hike to the next platform.  The “stairs” we had to climb were hewn out of the mountain and were sometimes so high I had to literally climb them with hands and feet.  Arriving at the wooden platform was a relief so that I could catch my breath before ascending fifty more stairs and hooking up to the last line.  All of the work getting to the last zipline was so worth it.  It was over 200 feet high and,if I remember correctly,  about a mile long.    Within five feet of leaving the platform all I could see was Geoff next to me.   Arms flung wide open, we sailed down the last zip, the wind slapping our faces.  There was an overwhelming silence as we cut through the fog which was punctuated by the slamming force of both of our slings hitting the springs indicating the end of our flying experience.

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While our day on Grouse Mountain did not include the sweeping views of downtown Vancouver that the brochures promised, we were rewarded in other ways.  I’m sure that when most people picture zip lining they view tropical lush canyons or white sand beaches.  Zip lining through the fog beats zip lining in any of those places hands down.  On my next trip to Vancouver, I would love to head up Grouse Mountain again, but maybe this time I’ll hit the snow-covered zips and and try my hand at some snowboarding.

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