Travel … I just love to travel. But that pesky coronavirus has turned our world upside down. Out the window went a much-anticipated trip to Asia. To assuage our wanderlust, we’ve discovered many places to walk in and around the Greater Vancouver Regional District. With non essential travel outside British Columbia not recommended, We’re just thankful that, at the time of writing, our province is not in lockdown and we can leave our house for a little fresh air and exercise.
An uplifting stroll along the gravel pathway that runs beside the water from Jericho Beach to the very westernmost point of Spanish Banks is food for the soul. Just after setting out we spotted a charming statue of two children, masked and hooded, balancing on a log. Further on is a stylized anchor, crafted from reinforced concrete, which was erected in 1986. It marks the location where two Spanish explorers sighted land in 1791. However, the area is named in commemoration of a meeting in 1792 between the English and the Spanish. On a clear day, there are stunning views of the North Shore mountains and the downtown skyline. When the tide is really low, the tankers moored in English Bay seem to be almost within reach. During the pandemic Spanish Banks has been a top choice for walkers, cyclists and outdoor family gatherings. At the end there is a memorial, often bedecked with fresh flowers, to an unknown but well-loved individual. The adjacent beached logs presented an ideal resting place before retracing our steps.
Then there’s the Arbutus Greenway, a paved separated trail which starts at 5th and Burrard runs to 72nd and Arbutus. The other weekend, we set out from West 52nd and proceeded southwards. A number of small allotments, some displaying imaginative scarecrows, border the pathway. We ambled along 75th until we reached Fraser River Park, a quiet grass-covered area, dotted with poplar and alder trees. Boardwalks cross the restored tidal marshes. Powerful tugboats chugged both up and downstream. Secured log booms floated in the water. A large old wrought-iron anchor underscores the seafaring heritage of the region. Our return journey brought us back through the Angus Lands housing complex where cul-de-sacs sport such nautical names as Captain’s Cove and Tugboat Place. We then wove our way gently northwards to our starting point.
When public health protocols allowed, we drove to White Rock, a beach community bordering the sandy shores of Semiahmoo Bay. It’s famous for its huge erratic boulder whose white paint is regularly refreshed. It was a guiding beacon to sailors in the 1800s. Another claim by this City by the Sea is that, at 1,540 ft., it boasts the longest pier in Canada. We always walk to the end where dedicated anglers bob their fishing lines. Originally built in 1914, the pier initially served as deep-water mooring facility. In a fierce storm three years ago it suffered significant damage. It’s since been rebuilt and once again is open for the public’s enjoyment. A boardwalk, railway track and a road flanked by numerous small cafés all parallel the beach. We purchased a couple of steaming hot lattés and sipped them seated on a nearby bench.
Another time we visited Crescent Beach in South Surrey which during the 1920s was a summer destination for Vancouverites. En route, we spotted at least four bald eagles perched high in the treetops. We parked close to the main street and then ambled along the waterfront walkway. Young children happily played in the sand as their parents, cell phones in hand, perched on nearby rocks huddled in warm puffy jackets. A great blue heron stood in the shallows nonchalantly eyeing human activity on the shoreline. Then, to our astonishment, two young women attired in skimpy swimsuits plunged into the icy water accompanied to much applause from the nearby onlookers. We passed the Wickson Pier, which was built in 1912 and recently repaired, as well as the South Surrey Sailing Club. The wind was non existent that day. Nevertheless several enthusiastic sailors had ventured out into the bay’s calm waters. We continued on towards Blackie Spit Park, a large expanse of low-lying land that extends into Mud Bay at the mouth of the Nicomekl River. The park was named after William Blackie, the first European settler at Crescent Beach. It’s an environmentally sensitive area which is home to migrating and wintering waterfowl and a popular birdwatching site. On our return, we couldn’t resist the tantalizing aroma of fish and chips and ordered lunch to go.
A walk along either the West or South Dyke trail in Steveston is always a pleasant outing. Starting near the Terra Nova lands, our steps took us along the gravel waterfront trail atop the dyke. There’s always much to see and hear. The innovative social distancing signs … views of the coastal mountains, the distant Gulf Islands and the mighty Fraser River … the occasional artist capturing this bucolic scene on canvas … the resounding thwack of a golf ball from the nearby links … the gently tweeting of the shorebirds. The “oreo” cows (“Belted Galloways”) which graze on the marshy flats at the Steves family farm are always a highlight. There was a good breeze blowing when we reached Garry Point Park. We paused a moment in our travels as several excited youngsters watched their brightly-coloured kites soar high up in the sky.
The South Dyke trail heads in an easterly from the historic fishing village of Steveston. A short distance away is the Britannia Heritage Shipyard, built as a cannery in 1889, as well as the Murikami Visitor Centre, a group of turn-of-the-century homes once occupied by Japanese families. Continuing onward, we noticed piles of driftwood strewn on the river bank. We kept up a good pace and in no time arrived at the No. 3 Road fishing pier where ever-hopeful fishermen were angling for a good catch. It was a clear day with a good view of distant snow-capped Mt. Baker. Ahead was an off-leash dog park with whimsical canine art installations. The trail then looped inland to bypass an industrial section before heading back to the Fraser River. Our destination was Finn Slough, an historic collection of eclectic old homes built in a sheltered marsh habitat setting. It’s named after a Finnish gentleman who bought the property in the early 1890s. We must have covered more than the recommended 10,000 steps today. Mission accomplished.
COVID hasn’t curbed our desire to travel. One year into the pandemic, we’ve become tourists in our own city. In the words of one outdoor enthusiast: “No matter the weather, there are no bad walks, just bad equipment”. So, gear up, mask up and, rain or shine, go outside and enjoy all that Vancouver has to offer.