Nothing says “March” like the advent of spring school break. When you’re looking to free yourself from winter’s bonds, there’s no need to venture far from home in Metro Vancouver. Vernal greenery and good times are on welcome display at every turn. With those rewards foremost in mind, the Georgia Straight offers a quartet of day trips for spring-break outings.
First up: South Surrey’s Redwood Park, replete with some of the best natural hide-and-seek stashes around. A grove of towering coast redwoods dominates the ridge above historic North Bluff Road, or 16th Avenue, in the Hazelmere Valley. Almost a century old, the park’s anchor tenants, members of the world’s tallest tree species, still have a ways to go before they match their record-holding cousins in Northern California, the tallest of which top out at more than 100 metres.
No matter. The redwoods’ drooping skirts encircle them and brush against each other like a troupe of Sufi dancers. As French writer Colette observed, children only value that which can be hidden. In this evergreen realm, secret alcoves abound. And not just on the ground. Look up and you’ll spy a bachelor pad–sized tree house, a replica of the one inhabited for decades by the park’s former owners, brothers David and Peter Brown. During their lifetimes, the twins planted redwoods, plus 32 additional species, on their property.
When the City of Surrey turned the Browns’ arboretum into parkland, efforts were made to attract families, including expanding a kids’ playground. That’s where the Georgia Straight met Abbotsford photographer Jeff Andrews with four of his 10 children. “Since my wife, Gisela, gave birth to triplets in April,” he said, “we’re going to be taking things day to day on spring break.” No doubt Redwood Park figures large in their plans, especially as Andrews’s in-laws conveniently live directly opposite the park. The City of Surrey Web page has detailed directions.
If you live on an island ringed with dikes, it’s easy to be lured onto a bike and to simply start rolling along. Richmond’s portion of Lulu Island boasts a sinuous 47.5-kilometre network of sea-level pathways. Some stretches touch historic landmarks, such as London Farm in Steveston, where the first Europeans began the dike-building effort. Other sections, like Middle Arm Trail, pass beside the latest city attraction, Richmond’s Olympic speed-skating oval, with its massive exterior panelling designed by Musqueam artist Susan Point.
Accenting a bike ride here are numerous other public-art installations inspired by the Fraser River’s proximity. Watch for a waterfall through which a metallic school of salmon swims. The best place to stage a visit is Richmond River Park beside the No. 2 Road Bridge, or one of the numerous pullouts along River Road between the Moray Bridge and Terra Nova Park.
Should your day trip more closely resemble a class outing in size, follow the breeze to Port Moody’s Rocky Point Park. Without doubt, this multi-activity playground will satisfy the fussiest of little rippers. Budget an hour or more to cycle, stroll, in-line–skate, skateboard—whatever—around the eastern corner of Vancouver’s inner harbour. Along the way, poke your head in at the Noons Creek Hatchery to see how the salmon fry are fattening up prior to their release.
Just uphill from the hatchery lies a mellow-flowing skateboard park, always worth a look in, as are the twin PoMo Rotary Bike Trials and Sk8 parks at Rocky Point’s downtown entrance on Murray Street. Seek out Pajo’s fish-and-chips stand inside the park. Grab some hot fries, strike out for the end of the long pier that out into Port Moody Arm, and let spring breezes freshen your worldview. For details on Rocky Point Park, search cityofportmoody.com/.
Finally, if you go out in the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise, or at least a little magic. If you go out in Pacific Spirit Regional Park next Saturday night (March 21), be prepared for something even bigger. What started 18 years ago as a Boy Scouts night hike has morphed into something called Night Quest. These days, Metro Vancouver Parks invites spring breakers to experience the heavily wooded forest on Vancouver’s West Side for themselves. In the safety of hundreds of fellow questers, of course.
Night Quest began when park volunteer and Scout leader Ed O’Brian came up with the idea of observing the changes that happen in the forest as sundown blends into twilight and night eventually envelops all. Each year, O’Brian dons a glittering, leafy-green robe as he becomes the embodiment of Pacific Spirit Park itself.
From the park’s 16th Avenue entrance just west of Blanca, Night Questers follow a two-kilometre, lantern-lit trail. Musicians line the route as shadowy forms and glistening eyes peer out on all sides. The heady scent of cedars blended with the rich loamy aroma of the forest floor lends an air of calm that you could never anticipate. Fleece up to avoid getting chilled. Gather around a campfire for entertainment as drumming fills the night. Bring flashlights or lanterns, and allow at least one hour to complete the quest. As the Boy Scouts say, be prepared—and come early.
One of the best things about Night Quest is that it’s free, and you don’t need to register. Just show up. And remember to duck out of the way of the flying squirrels, of course. Details on regional park spring-break events can be found on Metro Vancouver's Web site.