Norman D. Watt takes North Shore hikers Off the Beaten Path once again

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      Having lived on the North Shore for about 50 years, Norman D. Watt has spent a lot of time hiking its trails.

      The author of Off the Beaten Path: A Hiking Guide to Vancouver’s North Shore (Harbour Publishing) told the Georgia Straight that his favourite hikes include Whyte Lake in West Vancouver and the Bridle Path in North Vancouver, as well as the Baden-Powell Trail.

      These trails are found among the 39 local hikes, plus two near Pemberton, included in the second edition of his guidebook, which came out in March.

      “Well, there’s such a variety, of course,” Watt said by phone from his North Vancouver home. “There’s some really straightforward, simple ones. One of the new ones I added in this one was the Seaview Walk in West Vancouver, which is more properly a walk rather than a hike. And the Capilano Pacific Trail, that’s a little more of the same thing. But then there’s some peaks like Mount Strachan, Mount Fromme, and Lynn Peak that I don’t think a lot of people get up to.”

      On July 24, Watt will give a talk and slideshow at the Capilano branch (3045 Highland Boulevard) of the North Vancouver District Public Library. The free event starts at 7 p.m. (Attendees are asked to pre-register by calling the library.)

      A 69-year-old retired information-technology consultant, Watt started hiking on the North Shore in his teenage years. In the past decade, however, other hikers introduced him to a number of trails that he hadn’t visited before.

      “I was really fascinated with them, because many of those trails I hadn’t seen in other hiking books,” Watt said. “So I think what I decided to do is combine an interest I’ve always had in writing with what I discovered on these trails.”

      In 2008 and 2009, Watt wrote the Off the Beaten Path column for the North Shore News. Then his “lady friend” encouraged him to write the book. Released in 2010, the first edition featured 31 local hikes, in addition to two trips in the Pemberton area.

      The expanded second edition includes updated trail descriptions and adds more difficult hikes, including Mount Strachan and Mount Fromme. It also contains additional information about old-growth trees and hiking in the snow.

      Off the Beaten Path’s second edition includes eight new hikes.

      While the new hikes tend to cover longer distances and higher elevations that the original set, Off the Beaten Path still excludes popular destinations such as Mount Seymour’s three peaks and challenging trips like the West Lion and Coliseum Mountain.

      “I guess I wanted to also keep it maybe a little more accessible to the majority of hikers,” Watt said.

      Off the Beaten Path will appeal to those looking for easier hikes as well as those seeking the kind of detail that can only be offered by a book focused on a relatively small area.

      According to Watt, 36 of the 39 local hikes in the book are “dog-friendly”.

      He advises novice hikers to start off with shorter trips taking up to 2.5 hours to complete. Hikes fitting the bill in Off the Beaten Path include Cypress Falls Park to Nelson Canyon Park, Capilano Pacific Trail, and Mystery Lake and Mystery Peak.