'My backyard is a paradise'
My friend from Singapore is planning his first visit to western Canada. Problem is, like most journalists, he’s cash-strapped.
No worries, I tell him, my backyard is a paradise and there’s plenty to do for free in the Tri-Cities.
So, with his tight budget in mind — and a little help from my Tri-City News colleagues and Coquitlam’s new tourism manager, Eric Kalnins — I start to build our August schedule, timed to match the official “stay-cation” month in B.C.:
We start our morning with a jaunt to the Coquitlam Farmers’ Market in the Dogwood Pavilion parking lot, where Metro Vancouver vendors sell their fresh fare: fruits and veggies, baked goods, beef and cheese. Started in 1996 by Simon Fraser University students, the market is run by a board of directors and includes an organic gardening program for kids at the Port Moody Police community garden.
After we unload our groceries, we head to Rocky Point Park and walk the Shoreline Forest Trail, a U-shaped path at the head of the Port Moody Inlet. We are famished at the end of the 6-km trek to Old Orchard Park and back so we get a bite at the park and enjoy the afternoon sounds from the PCT Performance Stage and the smell of the salt air.
At night, we take in the full-moon tour with Rocky Point Kayak, paddling the area and watching for seals to pop their heads out of the water.
Now that we’ve had a bit of exercise, I decide to crank up the grind by hiking the 440 steps on Eagle Mountain better known as the Coquitlam Crunch. This spring, the city installed wooden stairs along the steepest part of the trail, which rises from Lansdowne Drive and up 820 feet to the top of Westwood Plateau — a 2.2-km trek that’s equal to climbing 81 storeys. Not only is it a great workout but the view from the top offers breathtaking (literally) views of Coquitlam and the Fraser River.
Once back at the base, we take a load off with a swim at one of the city’s two outdoor pools: Eagle Ridge, an eight-lane 25 m pool that charges a toonie for drop-ins.
At night, we relax at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver on United Boulevard, eat, drink and tour the display of rock music memorabilia (and maybe wager a buck or two).
As most local bargain hunters know, Tuesdays are the best day to track down deals at thrift stores. And as many shops are located along or near the Barnet and Lougheed highways, it’s an easy shopping destination to reach the Crossroads Hospice thrift store, Value Village, La Boutique Consignment, Around My House Consignment, SPCA Thrift Mart, Thrift-Opolis and the Salvation Army, to name a few.
Afterward, we pack a lunch and our swimsuits, and pitch a tent at one of the three recreational spots on the Tri-Cities’ western edge. Buntzen Lake is a reservoir run by BC Hydro that has great picnic areas and hiking trails: Halvor Lunden (Eagle Ridge), Buntzen Lake, Energy and Diez Vistas.
At Sasamat Lake, one of the warmest lakes in Metro Vancouver, there’s White Pine Beach.
And on the west side on Belcarra regional park, at the end of Tum-tumay-whueton Drive, there’s the picnic area that overlooks Indian Arm. Here, fishing and crabbing are a common sight.
Our morning begins with a tour of the arboretum at Riverview Hospital, a mental-health institution that was closed by the provincial government in 2012 in its 100th year. Home to 1,800 rare specimen trees, the 244 acres contain a kiosk on Pine Terrace (west of Crease Clinic) for a self-guided tour of the arboretum. Crease, as well as the “Lawn,” Hillside and Valleyview Pavilion buildings are used by film and TV crews (the Riverview grounds are the most filmed-at site in Canada) and so we check out where many science fiction and thriller productions are made.
We shift gears for the afternoon, hauling our bikes to Port Coquitlam to ride the Trans Canada Trail. The PoCo portion — the Traboulay PoCo Trail — is a 10-km path that includes the Pitt River dike, DeBoville Slough and Hyde Creek trails, runs along Patricia Avenue, through Wellington Park and to Coquitlam River Park.
Art is on the agenda for the morning as we tour Place des Arts in the French-Canadian enclave of Maillardville, the gallery at Evergreen Cultural Centre and the Port Moody Arts Centre (PMAC), which on Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. will have a grand opening for the atrium linking its historic building with another heritage structure: the Appleyard House. The 1910 Edwardian home was moved in 2012 to make way for the Evergreen Line and will soon be connected to PMAC to expand its programs and services.
For the afternoon, we stroll the Port Coquitlam Farmers’ Market at Leigh Square to buy some local grub for dinner, watch the demos by fibre artist Diane Roy and enjoy the live entertainment.
Finally, at 6 p.m., we walk through the Inspiration Garden at the south end of Coquitlam Town Centre Park to hear the garden host talk about plantings.
We are back on our bikes on Friday morning to loop the perimeter of Coquitlam’s Mundy Park, a 5.5-km multi-use trail that runs past the new bike skills park for youth along Mariner Way and Spani Pool — the city’s other outdoor tank — on Hillcrest Street. We dismount at my alma mater, Hillcrest middle, and head in by foot to discover Lost and Mundy lakes. The dedicated 400-acre urban park is a popular spot for off-leash dog walkers and runners, wanting to escape the heat and be surrounded by natural beauty. At night, we go for another dip, this time in the rebuilt Chimo Pool part of the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex.
For our final stop, we head out to Minnekhada regional park in north Coquitlam, where we take one of the five trails — Lodge, Cliff, Meadow, Log Walk or Quarry — a few of which have slopes up to 18% in some places. Covering nearly 500 acres, the park includes five lookout points, with Low Knoll offering a full view of the lower marsh and High Knoll showing the Pitt River and Pitt Meadows. The lodge, now a popular site for weddings and special events, was built as a country retreat in 1934 for BC Lt. Gov. Eric Hamber and features a Japanese garden — complete with a bridge — nearby.
On our way down Coast Meridian Road, we he head to Terry Fox secondary school for a stop at the Terry Fox statue to pay tribute to the hometown hero.
And to cap off our week is a show at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam, where many events are sponsored by The Tri-City News.