Walking Vancouver: Sea Island

We had to skip a week in our Walking Vancouver exploration because Kevin was a little hung up with weekend work, but we were able to get back to it last weekend. This time, we chose Sea Island in Richmond.

We thought this walk would be cool because Sea Island is where YVR airport is and we expected that there would be a lot of planes taking off and arriving overhead. It was cool for all those things, but it was a little disappointing in a few other ways.

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For one, the description we referred to is a little outdated. There has been some development in that area so that’s not really anybody’s fault and it wasn’t even very disruptive, anyway. Just know, that if you are following the outline in the book that we used, the lot where they tell you to park is now closed and we couldn’t find any other trail-related parking so we had to park in the big, weird outlet mall that they built in 2015. The good news is that it’s almost exactly where we were instructed to park and there are thousands of spots. The bad news is that I don’t know if you’re actually allowed to park there, but it wasn’t a problem for us.

We crossed the street and found the trail easily, but then we lost it just as easily. It starts and then it just kind of disappears. If you ever do this walk, stay on the shoulder of the road or walk on the other side of the cement barrier at the side (don’t worry, it isn’t super busy) and eventually you’ll find your trail again. It’s a hard-packed raised gravel path. It’s easy walking for anyone without limitations.

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You’ll weave your way through a tangle of on-ramps, off-ramps, bridges and highways before getting to the more peaceful part of the walk.

After about two kilometres, we passed under Sea Island Way and pass the property of the Pacific Gateway Hotel. From here, the trail follows the edge of the river in between the water and industrial spaces, yards and even some places that are under development.

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The trail veered mostly away from main roads and was tucked in behind many buildings. Above, that’s BCIT Aerospace Technology Campus. Unfortunately, many parts of the path are very neglected and poorly taken care of. At time, it’s hard to even know where to go! (See below.)

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Once we crossed Gilbert Road (no crosswalk on this busy street – this wasn’t noted in our book either), the trail gets a lot nicer. You’ll see the Richmond Olympic Oval across the river (bad picture, below) and eventually pass under No 2 Road. After that, the trail opens wide up along the area that’s considered YVR’s South Terminal, where small and private planes fly in and out.

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After heading inland for a kilometre or so, the trail is now entirely riverside – we could see the water and feel the breeze coming off it. Since it was a warm day, this was very welcome. We passed Harbour Air Seaplanes and the Flying Beaver (it would be great to plan this walk around lunch in the pub) and walked as far as the entrance to the Coast Guard Station. Apparently, if we’d continued further, we’d have discovered an old hovercraft. Alas, we didn’t. (Though, we did come across the filming of iZombie.)

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We turned around at that point and we headed back exactly the way we’d come. Again, the book gave an option that would have taken us inland, but with all the changes that we’d already noted since the big, weird outlet mall had been built and the uncertainties we’d seen with the trail, we decided to stick with what we now knew. It wasn’t a great trail, but we knew it would get us back to where we started.

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In past walk reports, I’ve given kudos to Surrey, Delta, Burnaby and Belcarra for their commitment to and maintenance of the trails we’ve walked. Richmond fell a little short with this one. This trail could really use a little TLC in some spots (and a lot in others.) But the plane traffic was really cool.

92-sea-islandThe nicest view on this walk was at the very end.

This walk was estimated to be 9.5km and to take 3.5 hours. We measured 10km in two hours and fifteen minutes.

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Since we have hit our fifth walk, we decided to rank them in order that we liked them. Here goes:

  1. Belcarra Park – Burns Point
  2. Watershed Park to Mud Bay Park
  3. Steveston Greenways
  4. Deer Lake
  5. Sea Island

Kevin’s ratings were almost identical, except he reversed #1 and #2.

Walking Vancouver: Belcarra – Burns Point

This summer, we started a new habit of picking a destination from our 109 Walks book and enjoying a hike in a new Lower Mainland location each weekend. Here’s where we have visited so far: Deer Lake in Burnaby, Watershed Park to Mud Bay Park in Delta/Surrey and Steveston Greenways in Richmond.

For the fourth installment of our Walking Vancouver adventure, I chose a place that was a little special to me. The trail that we did on this particular day was one that I’ve done a thousand times before – with my parents, with my brother, with my aunt and with my cousins, in high school, I’d also done it with my friends. It was familiar, but it was also a reminder that it’s been a long time since I was in high school and that a lot has changed since then including Belcarra Regional Park.

72. Belcarra

So, this trip was special for all the memories I have there, but it was also a fun opportunity to share something meaningful from my childhood with Kevin. We’d been to the picnic area at Belcarra once last summer, but he’d never been on the trails there before.

It was another hot August day so we left the house early enough to get there before things heated up too much. While legions of cars parked in all surrounding areas of Sasamat Lake and White Pine Beach, we carried on to the much less crowded Belcarra. (I honestly don’t understand why this happens every single summer day. In my opinion, Belcarra is miles nicer than Sasamat, plus it’s access to the ocean, which is also way better than lake.)

70. Belcarra

We had the option of two different trails from our starting point. The first option would take us along the Admiralty Point trail, the other in the opposite direction along the Jug Island Beach trail. We chose Admiralty Point because it’s the one I am so familiar with.

Once we were parked, we packed up my little backpack with lunch and drinks and hit the trail. It begins right beside the (very well maintained, I must say) bathrooms in the picnic area of the park.

66. Belcarra

Early on, the path head upwards. Some of the longest and steepest climbs are at the very start. That said, none of the climbs are particularly long or steep. It’s mostly a rolling trail that climbs up and then comes down, climbs up and then comes down again. It isn’t too challenging from a fitness standpoint, but it is rather precarious when it comes to grooming. Look out for roots, rocks and other unstable footing along your way. There are many railings, fences, stairs and bridges built into the trail, but it is a true nature hike vs the trail walks that we’ve being doing to date.

65. BelcarraThis isn’t a scene from the trail, it IS the trail

Early on in the trail, for the first kilometre or so, you’ll catch glimpses of the ocean as you move closer and further away, up and down on the slopes. Eventually, as we approached the second kilometre mark, we started to come across small beaches and rocky overhangs. Cod Rock is the first place that warrants a sign, the second is Admiralty Point.

67. Belcarra

Admiralty Point is 100 metres from the main trail and once you get through the trees, it opens up to rock faces at a few different heights. The first thing I did was climb down to the tiny beach area in front of the rocks. If I’d known that the tide was on its way out, I would have waited for a few minutes, but as it happened, I felt like an Olympic gymnast balancing myself while putting my bare feet into the water without getting my shoes wet or my feet cut up on the barnacles that were everywhere. (This was, of course, the day I didn’t bring my big backpack with the aqua socks inside.)

68. Belcarra

This was a really nice place to sit and eat the leftover pizza that we’d packed for lunch, catch our breath, rehydrate and enjoy the views that reach as far as the Port of Vancouver.

As a kid, Admiralty Point was our end point on this trail, but our book actually directed us to take this trail to the end which is Burns Point, overlooking the Burrard Inlet and to Barnet Highway across the water.

Burns Point is about a kilometre further down the trail, but the leg between Admiralty Point and our final destination was significantly tougher than the early trek. It’s hillier, the trails are narrower and the ups and downs are steeper, too.

58. Awesome August Day 20

Once we got to Burns Point, we did little more than just turn around and head back the way we came. Admiralty Point is certainly the highlight of the walk as far as scenery goes. If you venture out on this hike, make that the place you stop for a rest.

This trail isn’t super easy, but it’s enjoyable. It’s mostly forested area so there is plenty of shelter from the sun. Pack a hat if you plan to spend a lot of time on any of the beaches or rocky viewpoints because they are wide open.

According to the book, this hike was 5.2 km and should have taken two hours. We measured almost exactly 6 km and took one hour and forty minutes.

71. Belcarra

What’s your favourite snack to pack when out walking or hiking? Do you prefer lake or oceanside views?

Walking Vancouver: Steveston Greenways

This is our newly adopted summer adventure: every week, we are exploring a different park,trail, hike or walk someplace around the Lower Mainland and using 109 Walks as a guidebook. In week one, we went to Deer Lake Park in Burnaby then in week two, we visited Watershed and Mud Bay Parks in Delta and Surrey, respectively.

For as long as we’ve been dating, Kevin and I have always enjoyed spending time in the Ladner and Richmond area so it really wasn’t a surprise to me that Steveston would be one of his early choices. Since he was busy playing lacrosse all day Saturday, we delayed our outing until Sunday instead. Knowing how busy it can get in the historic fishing village, we set out early(-ish) to beat the traffic (and the heat.)

42. Steveston Greenways

If you take Steveston Highway all the way past Seventh Avenue, you’ll find about six parking spots right beside the dyke that leads south to Garry Point Park and later, the Steveston everyone is familiar with – the cute little restaurants, docks and mom and pop shops. We climbed the ridge that was just high enough to hide the view behind it and hopped onto the trail. The scene there is tall grass as far as the eye can see, until that sailboats in the distance give away the fact that water is hiding behind. The trail is packed gravel, wide and steady for walkers and cyclists alike. The view of the grassy fields on one-side is countered by the houses and yards on the other. A marshy moat is the only thing separating the public from the private.

41. Steveston Greenways

Eventually, the trail opens up to Garry Point Park which offers its own network of trails and a much more distinguishable view of the Fraser River. Here, if you follow the trails out towards the water, you can get access to a couple of small beaches (though not for swimming – the current is too dangerous) and enjoy a cool breeze. We wound our way through the kite flyers and bike riders around the shoreline of the park until we entered the territory we were familiar with from our prior trips to Steveston.

If you’ve never been to Steveston, it’s adorable and it’s obvious why tourists flock here. The marina is crowded with fishermen selling freshly caught seafood right off their boats and the surrounding buildings offer great vantage points to take in all the action. Steveston was built on salmon fishing and, more accurately, salmon canning, home to at least forty-five canneries in 1890. One hundred years later, they’d all be shut down.

46. Steveston Greenways

Much of the history of the village has been preserved and it’s an enjoyable walk of its own. Our path took us through the village, but we didn’t stop to look around much.

We carried on along the top of the wharf and through town until we connected with a further waterfront that looks newly built or recently refurbished. On the right was the river again, on the left, new townhomes and apartments built in such a style that they gave off a real beach resort town vibe.

43. Steveston Greenways

After winding along the path, we eventually came to Britannia Shipyards Historic Site where a number of buildings are maintained and open for public exploration. This portion of the walkway took us over wood planks and gave us a few interesting things to look at. The area also includes a visitors centre, a water refill station and also public restrooms.

From here, we had to move inland to walk around a functioning waterfront packing plant. We eventually headed back towards the river via some inland trails and sidewalks through a townhouse complex. This was a little confusing and not very well marked, but we found our way eventually and emerged on Dyke Road just west of London Family Farm which, by the way, looks like an adorable place to visit.

44. Steveston Greenways

We crossed the road to the beachside trail on the other side and continued on, but shortly after getting onto this roadside leg of the walk, we decided to turn around. It was really hot and we weren’t entirely prepared for that. I’d left my hat at home and we were getting pretty tired from being out in the direct sun. We got to around Gilbert Road before calling it a day and the intended turnaround point was at Finn Slough. We backtracked our way to the car and cursed ourselves for not being better prepared while vowing to come back and complete this walk on a cooler day perhaps in fall or springtime.

45. Steveston Greenways C&K

The trail is flat and easy, but it should be known that there is little to no shelter here. If you head out on a sunny day like we did, be prepared. You may go long stretches before seeing even a hint of shade.

The book suggested that this walk was 15k and would take four hours. We measured our walk as 12.3km and we were out for two and a half hours.

47. Steveston Greewnays map

Walking Vancouver: Watershed Park to Mud Bay Park

This is our newly adopted summer adventure: every week, we are exploring a different park,trail, hike or walk someplace around the Lower Mainland and using 109 Walks as a guidebook. Read up on week one, when we went to Deer Lake Park in Burnaby.

For week two and my first turn to make a selection, I chose the walk from Watershed Park in Delta to Mud Bay Park in Surrey. I wasn’t familiar with either the beginning or the end so this seemed like a real adventure to me. When the book said, “If you like both forest and shoreline, this walk is for you,” I knew this walk was, well, for me.

30. Watershed Park to Mud Bay

We rolled up to the park via Kittson Parkway and found parking pretty easily. When we checked the park out on the board, I noticed little maps of the park in a baggie pinned to the frame. I thought this was a nice touch and we referred back to it a few times throughout the day.

The hike begins in Watershed Park which is a wooded area with a network of trails that meandered throughout it. We took the Low Trail straight through the park and that was pretty easy to follow because it is wide, well-trod and always obvious. It is quite beautiful and parts of the trail we took gave me an old country feel. Lush and green, it is very typical of a west coast walk.

29. Watershed Park to Mud Bay

The Low Trail in Watershed Park is easygoing and smooth. There are very few inclines and it would be welcoming to a stroller or someone who was a little unsteady on their feet.

We traversed Watershed Park in less than half an hour – by my measurement, it was just over 2km from one side to the other. From the exit on the other side, we took a short stretch of road that went under Highway 10 and connected us to a walkway that led us between some brush and some pastures. When this pathway ended, we took a right turn into what I thought was the most picturesque part of the walk, a fenced straightaway through marshland that connected us to Colebrook Road on the other side.

28. Watershed Park to Mud Bay

We followed the road for two kilometres with farmland on one side, fields buffering highway on the other and a remarkable number of cars sitting parked on the side who then hightail it when they see pedestrians coming. (I don’t even want to know.)

The walk is on the, in some places rather narrow, shoulder of the road here, but I give props to the city of Surrey because they’ve a fantastic job of putting up markers at frequent enough intervals that you’ll see one right around the time you’d probably start to wonder if you were in the right place – just one tiny step ahead.

The road winds along until it turns into another. Both were lined with perfectly ripe blackberries so I foraged while Kevin walked ahead of me. Eventually, we turned right, crossed some railroad tracks and found the sign at the entrance to the park.

32. Watershed Park to Mud Bay

The driveway into the park is quite long so when you think you’re there, you actually still have a little ways to go. Once we’d arrived, I realized that shoreline was the correct descriptor since beach wouldn’t have been appropriate. It’s a little bay of mud. There is evidence of water, but nothing more than puddles to be seen. Just mud as far as the eyes could see. (Even Kevin’s! – my vision is terrible.)

Mud Bay Park is a hotspot for bird watchers particularly during migration season. It’s calm and peaceful place with fields and raised dykes that allowed for views across the water as far as Tsawwassen and Point Roberts. Here, we picked a park bench with a view of the water and took a break to eat our lunch.

22. Awesome August Day 6

Mud Bay Park offers its own trail system that measures about three kilometres, but we continued around after our pit stop and then cut back on a trail that shortened our loop.

Our return trip was a backtrack of all the places we’d already walked through, though we each decided to take a different route once we were back into Watershed Park. I cut up to The Meadow and onto the higher Pinewood Trail while Kevin went to the actual Watershed. Somehow we both managed to hit the very nice and refreshing drinking water station (kudos, Delta!) and finish up on the same path to the car. The lesson we learned in our exploration was that the other, higher trails in the park can be killers – lots of severely uphill battles to get up there, but they’re pretty nice when you do. Also, that’s where they keep the water. 😉

31. Watershed Park to Mud Bay

We shared our walk with other casual walkers, runners, mountain bikers and even horses. That traffic dropped off once we headed towards the roadside portion of the trip and, in fact, we never saw anyone on foot again until we were in Mud Bay Park.

Wildlife spotting: 3 herons, 1 snake

The book suggested that this walk was 14km and that we should allow four hours. Even with our modifications, I measured 13.9km (Kevin was over 14) in three hours. (That didn’t include our break for lunch.) I enjoyed this walk very much especially because we went through all different kinds of scenery and topography. It’s a great way to spend a sunny morning or afternoon!

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What do you always keep in your pocket, purse or pack when out hiking?

Walking Vancouver: Deer Lake Park

A few weeks before we went on vacation, I was out at a bookstore and had a brilliant idea: I would take home this book I’d picked up and it would change our lives. Wait, isn’t that the reason we buy every book or every thing for that matter? Because we believe it will change our lives? Right, well, this one actually has that power in many ways.

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I know that I don’t have to tell you the benefits of walking, but I love the fresh air, new scenery and elevated heart rate. Exploring new areas feels like a new adventure and probably the closest thing to traveling you can do while staying home.

I bought the book, took it home, gave it to Kevin. We agreed that each week we’d alternate picking out a different trail destination and then go and check it out. Since I was out of commission at the time and then we were away, we finally got started last week. I gave him first choice and he went for something nice and easy, relatively quick and in our general neighbourhood: Deer Lake Park. We’d actually talked about checking out the trails there on a few occasions, but this was the first time we’d actually set aside time to do it.

But first…breakfast. Because no good day starts without it.

22. Fried apricots

We’d been out at Urban Digs the day before and I couldn’t resist the apricots they had at the farm stand. I picked out two not having a clue what I’d do with them. Until, that is, the woman working there told me about how she fries hers in her cast iron pan. She got my attention and I left in great anticipation of the next morning and being able to try it myself. Since I knew we couldn’t just have them on their own, I paired them up with oatmeal and added some local hazelnuts into the pot while I was cooking that.

If you want to try frying apricots, it’s simple. Here’s how: in your cast iron pan, place them face down and let them cook until they start to get dark and crispy. Flip them over and sprinkle a little bit of brown sugar inside the indent where the pit used to be. It’s heaven.

So, when we were done, we hit the road and made our way to the Royal Oak parking lot and entrance to Deer Lake Park. From there, it’s a short walk to connect to the many trails that seem laid out as variations of the same general loop.

Once we connected to the trail, we turned right and continue along some fields that are apparently remnants from a farm formerly operated by Oakalla prisoners on the left and noticed the model airplane landing strip on the right. Once through that meadow, we climbed a hill that eventually led to a raised viewpoint constructed of grated metal. We climbed to the top only to discover that it was overgrown with surrounding trees completely blocking the view in all directions. We continued on our way.

13. Deer Lake

Once away from the viewpoint, we took the trail up to the high point of the trail and eventually got a glimpse of what we might have seen from the viewpoint: our first look at the lake itself as well as the mountains in the background. It was a sunny and warm day, but the clouds had yet to burn off at this point.

Tall grass lined the edges on either side of the packed gravel of this southernmost trail in the park. We commented that it was surprising that we’d seen but one other pedestrian along this part of the walk and even wondered if we’d taken a wrong turn.

14, Deer Lake 1

Soon, the scenery changed and we were in the shade of some trees as the path cut down the hill to connect with the more popular trails that are closer to the lake. Once connected to them, we took another right and were exposed to a marshier terrain than the fields we’d just been through.

Further along, we entered a more thickly forested area where boardwalks had been built. These continued on for a few minutes before our path took us onto a dead end city street that serves as a laneway to several houses on both sides.

15. Deer Lake 2

After returning to the path from the road, we could see that we were approaching the boathouse that offers rentals of paddleboats, kayaks and canoes for what I thought were pretty reasonable prices. (The only one I remember is a 2-person paddleboat for $17 per hour.) Across from the boathouse was a small wharf where people were embarking and disembarking on/from their watery adventures.

The next building housed public washrooms, water fountains and looked like it could also be the home of a snack bar, though if it was, it wasn’t open at the time. These facilities were located next to the “beach” where there were four or five park benches, about a hundred Canada Geese and a view of Metrotown that served as a great reminder of how we don’t have to go far to escape into nature.

16. Deer Lake 3

Past the beach and through a grassy area with picnic tables, the trail started to loop back towards where we’d come. We were now on the north side of the lake and found that the majority of the trails were on raised boardwalks like we’d seen for a short period earlier. The boardwalks led us much closer to the marshland where we saw a totally different type of greenery than we had in the grass and fields on the south side.

The north side led us around the grounds and wedding canopy at Hart House, along a roadway and over and around some creeks. Eventually, we passed between the lake and the Festival Lawn where outdoor concerts like Weezer and the Lumineers took place earlier this year and looked up at that back of the big stage. In this areas, there were black fabric barricades lining the boardwalk to prevent people from getting a free show by watching the backside, but in the light of day, we could get a good look at the empty venue.

18. Deer Lake 5

At one point, the trail leads away from the lake to veer around a piece of private property. Within minutes we were back on the path and the lake was back within view.

After winding through what could only be described as fields of lily pads, the boardwalks began to be surrounded by more of what we’d seen at first – tall grasses and yellow toned plants.

When we met up with our original path, we opted to head southwest and uphill again to come down the back of the park, and along Royal Oak to the car. Along this path, we found blackberry bushes that were ripe for the picking and an apple tree with a few pieces of low hanging fruit. I’ll admit that I took advantage of both. 🙂

19. Deer Lake C &K

Our book indicated that the trail was 7km and would take 2.5 hours. Though I think we veered a little from their recommendations, ours ended up measuring 6.5 km. We dawdled along the way, but it still only took us one hour and forty minutes.

The trails were nice and well kept. Though there were a few stairs, it could be tailored to be relatively (or probably entirely) flat. The boardwalks were all grated so even in the rain, they’d be safe to walk on. Overall, this walk was easy and one that we talked about doing after work in the summer because we figured we could do a straight loop of the lake in an hour or less.

21. Deer Lake map

If you ever think about visiting Deer Lake Park, here’s a map of all the trails.

What’s your favourite walk or hike in the Lower Mainland?