The Greenheart Tree Walk

The Greenheart Tree Walk

When my long-time friend and writing partner visited this summer, we decided to take a trip over to Vancouver for a couple days. The hubby and I haven’t had much time to explore its attractions, and there’s only so much to see in our much smaller city. We planned our visit so that we could cram as much as possible into two days (including the drive back and forth).

The thing we most wanted to see (and all enjoyed most) was the Greenheart Tree Walk, a feature of University of British Columbia’s Botanical Garden in the heart of their Vancouver campus. It allows you to walk across a series of suspended platforms and peer down at Vancouver’s coastal temperate rainforest. When we read the description all three of us got excited, so we made it our first stop upon arriving in the city.

I was not prepared. When I read ‘suspended platforms,’ I was not expecting metal rope bridges. I’m not sure what I expected actually, since I managed to miss the pictures on their website. And when I say ‘metal rope bridges,’ that’s pretty much what they are. Instead of wood at the bottom there’s a series of metal slats and and suspension ropes that hold the platforms in place. They move quite a bit when you walk across them, especially when three people are trying to cross at once.

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The bridges connect a series of platforms surrounding tree trunks and my is the view fantastic! I’ve hiked through a lot of forests in my day, but there’s something to be said about looking down on all of it from above. Not to mention being close to the tree branches, you see a lot more than you can from below. Some highlights include a massive tree that was split halfway down its trunk, but simply kept growing in two different directions, and a massive tree trunk which had obviously been hollowed out by fire. We also saw a young tree that had grown out of the remains of a dead trunk.

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Overall it was an amazing experience, well worth wrestling a small fear of heights to experience. (I even managed the spiral staircase on the large viewing platform! Go me!) At the end of the trip, we all agreed it was the highlight.

Of course, while we were there, we took the opportunity to visit the rest of the botanical gardens. We quite enjoyed the Physic Garden. It features early European medicinal plants with a description of how each was used. A note outside the entrance warns that some of the plants are poisonous so no part of any plant is to be ingested. (Who would do that?) The signs for each plant often included the original language used to describe its effects. Our favorite described the plant as ‘violently purging both upwards and downwards.‘ Apparently it was also popular for rich ladies to put extract from the nightshade belladonna in their eyes to make the pupils dilate, because putting a deadly poison in your eyes is apparently a good idea.

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We also took a look at the Alpine Garden, which features plants from around the world. Aside from the ‘bowing’ trees, my favorite was the cactus and succulents garden. I’d like to try growing some here at home, as they’re rather pretty and I think we have the right environment for it.

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While we were on the UBC campus, we also visited their Museum of Anthropology which celebrates the art of various cultures around the world. The entrance and great hall house a plethora of Canadian First Nations art. I have never seen such spectacular totem poles. Not only were they huge (and displayed upright), they still had some of the original paint! It’s obvious the space has been designed specifically to highlight this type of art, and it works well.

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We weren’t prepared for just how many artifacts the museum houses. It’s relatively small, but it has one room with a huge number of artifacts from native cultures all over the world. Not only are the displays packed full, there are drawers beneath featuring more art and crafts. We weren’t able to look in all the drawers and we still felt a sense of overload from the sheer number of things on display. There were some truly amazing native masks – I had no idea they could be so huge!

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The museum has two rotating displays. One of them featured the work of first nations artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun while we were visiting. The display was called “Unceded Territories.” I tend to be a bit weary of art galleries. Sometimes the art is so full of symbolism that the greater message is lost on me. Not so with the Unceded Territories gallery. Not only was I struck by the first nations symbolism, which is strikingly unique, but by the fact that the messages were instantly apparent. Even without reading the description I could often see what the artist was trying to convey.

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((I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures inside the art gallery – it felt disrespectful, but here is a picture of a sculpture by first nations artist Bill Reid depicting the Haida legend of the Raven discovering men in a clam shell.))

We rounded out the day with a trip to Nandos, since our friend had never been. It was a bit of a challenge, since the city seemed to have blocked off a five mile radius for road construction on a single street, but our GPS eventually found an alternative route and a good time was had by all!

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