Buntzen Lake offers solitude in the winter off-season
The winter off-season is often the best time to explore places that in warm weather are crazily busy.
One example locally is B.C. Hydro’s Buntzen Lake Recreation Area in the tiny enclave of Anmore near Port Moody. Although the lake is a magnet for swimmers and boaters in summer, February is an ideal month to appreciate the six-kilometre-long lake’s woodland personality on foot or by bike—without the stress of first finding a parking place amid the sprawling blacktop at its entrance.
Right now, enjoy easy access to a variety of trails that encircle the sheltered lake, both beside its clear waters and high above, across a series of 10 viewpoints on the challenging Diez Vistas Trail. Either way, there are more opportunities to explore around Buntzen than most visitors will cover in the course of a day trip. For starters, those simply looking to exercise the family dog should seek out a corner of the sandy South Beach zone that features a fenced off-leash compound.
The Georgia Straight recently journeyed to the recreation area with Port Moody pro cyclist, yoga instructor, and personal coach Ryan Leech for company. Over the past decade, Leech has been profiled in these pages for his accomplishments as a mountain-bike trials rider, a form of cycling that tests bike-handling skills over both natural and artificial obstacles.
This time out, however, the 33-year-old laced on running shoes for a workout along the Buntzen Lake Trail as it leads in an easy hour to North Beach. Well-signed as a hiking and equestrian circuit, the hard-packed, humpty-dumpty trail features few level stretches, albeit with plenty of room where necessary to allow those in a hurry to pass. In places, side tracks lead down to small landings—often fitted with picnic tables or benches—and offer easy access to the lake from the steep-sided, forested hillside traversed by the trail. At frequent intervals, wooden bridges span creeks that, over time, have worn grooves in the granite understorey. (Those pushing strollers or on bikes would be well advised to follow the level, three-kilometre Powerhouse Road approach to North Beach; although views of the lake are scarcer, views of Mount Seymour high on the western horizon more than compensate.)
The Buntzen Lake Trail affords a welcome opportunity for both an energetic walk and an exchange of ideas. In this case, the wide-ranging discussion led to a reflection on Canadian track cyclist Lori-Ann Muenzer’s observation on her hard-won 2004 Olympic gold medal in Athens: ambition attracts adversity. Leech—an Integral Coaching instructor who has studied the human-development approach formulated by American writer and thinker Ken Wilber—pointed out that Muenzer’s viewpoint extended well beyond the world of high-performance sports to the challenges of everyday life, where the interplay of change and resistance continuously unfolds.
Leech agreed the off-season quiet that pervaded Buntzen was an apt metaphor for the transition many competitors experience upon retirement. “There’s so much potential in silence, but it’s not often interpreted that way,” he said. “Unlike how it’s often perceived, especially by elite athletes accustomed to performing in front of a crowd, silence isn’t deafening. It can be enlivening and creative. For me, the emptiness is a crucible for using your imagination to connect with an inner spark and the natural desire to create something more meaningful in life rather than being held hostage by the need to produce ever better results.”
When asked how he uses pressure to achieve long-lasting, sustainable change, Leech, who has appeared globally both as an individual rider and with groups such as Cirque du Soleil, said he’s discovered there are no shortcuts, no quick fixes, no one-size-fits-all approaches. “Just like bike-riding, to achieve positive results takes time and practice. First, you have to identify something truly meaningful in the way of personal achievement, and then get yourself out of autopilot mode to work on it. Through time and with practice, change will occur.”
Leech confided that for a while in his 20s, things got fuzzy. “I had the best job in the world, yet I didn’t necessarily love it. As an athlete, there’s a certain way your results can hold you hostage and cut you off from the authentic desire that made you successful in the first place. Once I was able to untangle who I was from what was expected of me by my fans and my sponsors, that gave me the power to create something deeper.”
As the midwinter sun climbs increasingly higher in the sky each day above the ridges that encircle Buntzen Lake, here is an ideal place to mull over such deep-delving thoughts while enjoying the stillness that fosters contemplation and companionship. Thankfully, there’s never an off-season for that.
ACCESS: Buntzen Lake Recreation Area lies 30 kilometres east of Vancouver on the north side of Port Moody Arm across from Burnaby. From Vancouver, head to Port Moody on Hastings Street and the Barnet Highway (Highway 7A). Turn east onto St. Johns Street and then north onto well-marked Ioco Road. Signs point the way to Buntzen Lake via Heritage Mountain Boulevard. For schedule information on the C24 Belcarra and Anmore route via the #160 bus to Port Moody from Vancouver, call Translink at 604-953-3333 or visit translink.ca. Details on Buntzen Lake are posted at www.bchydro.com/community/recreation_areas/buntzen_lake.html. To learn more about Ryan Leech, visit www.ryanleech.com.