Mysterious Sites in Vancouver

THE BEST Vancouver Mysterious Sites

Mysterious Sites in Vancouver

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  • PookyCake
    Victoria, Canada13,665 contributions
    Siwash Rock is an interesting natural monument found along the western shore of Stanley Park, just off the Seawall and between Third Beach and Lions Gate Bridge. To the casual observer it may just look like a “neat” rock formation worthy of a photo or selfie, but there is much more to this rock than meets the eye. It is, in fact, a place where geology and legend converge to create one of Stanley Park’s most treasured and enduring narratives.

    If we take the view that Siwash Rock has its origins strictly in geology, then we would recognize it as a rather handsome sea stack. What exactly is a “sea stack?” Well, dear reader, in order to sufficiently answer that question we’d have to travel back in time approximately 32 million years. The foundation of Stanley Park is basically a whole lot of sandstone, which is a relatively “soft” rock. At some point in time, a volcanic dike was formed and a fissure in the Earth’s crust helped to push intensely hot magma to the surface resulting in the stack – Siwash Rock – being formed. Because it’s made of basalt, the stack is far more resistant to factors of erosion than the surrounding sandstone. Thus, as the sandstone connecting Siwash Rock to the rest of what is now Stanley Park eroded it left the handsome column we see today.

    The “natural” explanation of Siwash Rock is certainly interesting, but I personally prefer the Squamish legend attached to it. As told by the information plaque on the Seawall, Siwash Rock stands as an “impenetrable monument to Skalsh the Unselfish” who was turned into stone by “Q’uas the Transformer” as a reward for his unrelenting devotion to his young family. Poet E. Pauline Johnson shares another version of this story in her “Legends of Vancouver” where she recites the legend of Siwash Rock: “You [Skalsh] shall never die, but you shall stand through all the thousands of years to come, where all eyes can see you. You shall live [. . .] as an indestructible monument to Clean Fatherhood.” The didactic nature of the legend is pretty clear: Live a clean life so that those around you will ingrain selflessness into their being and carry such values forward and into the future. It’s an ancient lesson and one we clearly need to heed in 2020.

    I’d be remiss if I failed to mention, at least briefly, the recent controversy surrounding the name “Siwash.” Beginning in late 2017, action has been taken to change the name of this monument to Slhxi7lsh – the traditional Squamish name for the stack – which translates to “standing man.” I do feel the change is timely and highlights Vancouver’s commitment to reconciliation with First Nations while concomitantly revising or “correcting” the narrative of Stanley Park. As of this writing, though, the name has yet to officially change.

    Indeed, it is little wonder Inside Vancouver called Siwash Rock “one of the most iconic of Stanley Park’s father figures.” The natural history and legend of the stack is rather captivating. As you amble about the Vancouver Seawall, please do take a moment to stop and admire this place where geology and legend meet.
    Written November 21, 2020
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • PookyCake
    Victoria, Canada13,665 contributions
    Stanley Park is a Vancouver treasure. With its fine mix of urban and wilderness, it gives tourists and locals alike the illusion of being out in the middle of nowhere. As you wander the park’s many trails, you’re often surrounded by ancient trees that reach into the heavens. Sometimes it can make you feel small. At the same time, though, you’re also steps away from civilization. The Seawall or roadway might just be around the corner. The point is we often celebrate Stanley Park as an oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic and fast-moving world. Yet, this place does hold its secrets: A zoo is one of them.

    Unless you were born no later than the very early 1990s, the mention of a zoo at Stanley Park would sound foreign – very out of place. “There’s no such thing,” you might say. “The closest thing to a zoo in Stanley Park is the aquarium!” And that’s true, at least in the current day. Truth be told, though, Stanley Park was once home to a fairly vibrant zoo that housed well over 50 different animals including, monkeys, penguins, reptiles, deer, kangaroos and polar bears. Indeed, that’s probably pretty hard to imagine, especially because practically no remnants of a zoo exist anymore . . . except . . . except for the old cement polar bear habitat.

    Seeing it today, this old habitat looks like something of an outlier. It is made entirely of concrete, with many irregular shapes, and doesn’t look much like a place to keep polar bears. In fact, I’d say it looks more like a postmodern art exhibit. If you’re visiting the site without context, you might wonder what it is. Thankfully, the old “Polar Bears” plaque from the 1962 installation remains.

    As I observed the polar bear compound in late Fall – with its beautiful foliage – I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, it brought back childhood memories of visiting Stanley Park Zoo and watching the polar bears perform, eliciting many a cheer from the crowd; on the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel kind of sorry for the animals that once lived here. Viewing the compound through a 21st century lens, I couldn’t help but observe, 1) How small the compound is; and, 2) The un-naturalness of it all. There’s nothing here that screams “polar bears” outside the aforementioned plaque. It is little wonder Vancouver closed the zoo after the last polar bear (and final resident), Tuk, passed away in 1997.

    The polar bear compound is an interesting fragment – a ghost – of Stanley Park’s past. While I wouldn’t come here just to see it, I do think it’s a worthwhile stop as part of a larger Stanley Park itinerary. For example, if you’re coming to see the aquarium (when it eventually re-opens), why not walk the literal 2-minutes south to this historical curiosity hidden in plain sight? It’s haunting and thought-provoking all at once.
    Written November 23, 2020
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • PookyCake
    Victoria, Canada13,665 contributions
    The “Two Spirits” carving has to be one of my favourite pieces in Stanley Park. It’s off the beaten path (Rawlings, to be precise); it’s not well-known; the artist is a mystery; and, it continues to go unrecognized by the Stanley Park Board. Taken together, each of these factors lends itself exceptionally well to the mystique of the carving. It is something of an outlier – a “guerilla” piece – but this only adds to its attractiveness and charm.

    Truth be told, I only became aware of Two Spirits after browsing Nina Shoroplova’s new book, “Legacy of Trees.” Seeing images of these two silhouettes carved into a large tree stump intrigued me. Learning that no one knows who the artist is AND that the Park Board doesn’t recognize Two Spirits as an official attraction further cemented my interest; thus, I just had to come and see this wonderful carving for myself.

    If you’re viewing any of the official Stanley Park guides, you won’t find any information on Two Spirits for the reasons noted above. Thankfully, we have Google and a number of Stanley Park-related websites which do provide pretty decent information, i.e.: directions. I think the easiest way to reach Two Spirits is if one starts at Second Beach. From here, walk behind the Second Beach Concession to Bridle Trail and then take the first left (Rawlings). Walk for about two minutes until you come upon a small clearing on your right which has a large tree growing out of a stump. Deviate from the trail here and you’ll eventually come upon Two Spirits in all its glory. I was so pleased to see this mysterious carving, though also a bit disheartened to observe that someone took it upon themselves to “improve” it with a bit of paint. Can we not leave well enough alone?

    Minor vandalism aside, I think that Two Spirits, in many ways, represents the essence of Stanley Park. Unlike a number of the other monuments or attractions in and around the park, Two Spirits is made of natural materials found on site and it rests wholly within a natural environment. Thus, unlike many of the statues, nature will eventually reclaim the stump that plays host to the carving – a process that’s already started. The canvas of Two Spirits is nature and natural while the carving is urban and city (tools). How could there be a better reflection of Stanley Park?
    Written November 22, 2020
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • Chris D
    New Westminster, Canada3,094 contributions
    Like the previous writer, I enjoy a good bit of history. But, was unable to find a source that would give me a definitive location. Following directions as best I could (forest side of the road between Nine-o-clock gun and lighthouse) I SHOULD have been in the proper place, but found no gravestones or other evidence to prove it. So, Parks Board, kindly take a moment, maybe hire some history students looking for a term paper subject, and give these people the respect they deserve, so people like me don't go tramping over their graves!
    Written May 18, 2021
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
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