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Hot hunks pole climbing and other Canadian treats

I'd just shelled out sixty dollars and twenty cents to get my two boys, aged 5 and 11, and my eleven-year-old's friend on the tram, and I was hellbent on having fun.

After the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain demanded to be done. After all, it's on the same road, only higher. An invisible force field seemed to be pulling cars from one parking lot to the other and so I gave in to the magnetic compulsion and allowed my car to turn upwards, without being sure what a ski mountain had to offer in the last days of summer. When we first arrived at the ticket office, the attendant described what sounded like a theme amusement park. There was a lumberjack show, a bird show and, for an additional fee, we could take a helicopter ride.

We'd already paid enough, I figured, and we'd already enjoyed the pioneer theme of the Capilano Suspension Bridge tour. There, they'd employed young talent and made the best out of what could have been a bad thing. The jokes had been funny, the singing sweet. But lumberjacks? Oh, well, I thought, as my five year old tugged at me. "Mom, let's go." I punched in my bank code very regretfully, knowing full well it was too late to turn back.

There had been another amusement park; before the Capilano Suspension Bridge, that is. A couple of months earlier, we’d followed the billboards leading to DinoTown, near Hope. Billed as “North America’s only cartoon Dinosaur Town,” DinoTown offered games and junk food, but little pleasure for those over five gullible enough to swivel its turnstiles.

With ever present recordings of what sounded like a DinoTown Tabernacle choir singing odes to the fun that was supposedly being had in the grotty, little tourist trap, I felt like I was being brainwashed by a cult of DinoFreaks who were trying to convince me that Dinos would soon rise from the dead, and when they did, my soul would be saved.

Sad, poorly maintained Jurassic figures and loud, loopy music didn’t buck up at $13.00 per person, even though the entry allows you the questionable privilege of staying all day.

My older son and I had the feeling that we had stumbled into a bad cartoon we couldn’t get out of, because my younger son was so utterly enthralled by it.

He didn’t care that the gooney golf carpet was so lumpy a golf ball couldn’t anymore have gotten over it than it could have sprouted legs and walked away. He saw magic in the bright pink dinosaurs and mosquito-infested paddle boat course. He was so enchanted with them that he infuriated his elders by demanding to go on the boat ride over and over and threw a mini-tantrum when we finally insisted on scratching our badly bitten bodies on land.

DinoTown was a bad Canadian dream. This had to be better.

After learning from the tram operator that over a million people a year pass through Grouse Mountain to ski or enjoy summer recreation, we contributed to the numbers by getting off and following the crowd into the Grouse Mountain Lodge.

We ate in the Grouse Grind restaurant, named after the famous trail that hikers were streaming up even as we ate our tuna fish sandwiches. We sat on the deck, enjoying the remarkable views and watching exhausted-looking men, women and children from around the world emerge out of the woods and collapse onto big boulders to lie down in the sun, or trudge the last few steps to the lodge.

Satisfied by the lunch, we headed to the first attraction: Real grizzlies living in a “real” grizzly habitat. Following the children, I scampered up a trail and found about a hundred people clustered around a fence, staring intently at a tree covered knoll.

After a while, something moved in the faux bush.

Excitement rippled through the crowd.

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