Friday, July 28, 2017

Summers in Mission

When I was 12 my family moved from Burnaby to the town of Mission, BC. It was about an hours drive up the Fraser valley across the River from Abbotsford.

When we first moved there, it was a bit of a culture shock for me.  I came from Burnaby, which was essentially a part of the greater Vancouver area.  Mission was so small that when we came from the Abbotsford side at night, from the other side of the river you'd only see a handful of lights on the hills of Mission.  You'd walk along the downtown stretch (all 4 or 5 blocks of it) on a Saturday morning and almost always see people you recognized from school. That almost never happened in Burnaby!

The day we moved there it had hailed and the hailstones, way bigger than what I'd ever seen in the lower mainland, looked like snow piled up on the ground and about a quarter inch in diameter! It was late fall and we had moved to a street that was essentially the hill up the side of the valley into the mountains.  I thought I'd never ride my bike again, but I soon got my legs for the hills.

I turned 13 before my first summer in Mission.  Being inland, when it warmed up, it was usually warmer there than in Vancouver, so it would start getting nice and warm about April or May.

Antoon, Mom and I on the porch of the house in Mission - I'm 13 here and wearing my swimsuit

Then, as it began to warm up that first Summer in Mission, I began to make discoveries.

I discovered was that if you were willing to ride your bike for about 20 minutes up the hills, you would arrive at a lake on the side of Dewdney Trunk road. I never knew what the park was called when I was a boy, but looking it up now, it's called Bear Mountain park.

Bear Mountain Park North of Mission on Dewdney Trunk Road
The little lake had a raft and a pole you could use to push it around. The next sunny day, I put my swimsuit on under my shorts, rode my bike up to the lake, pulled it into the bushes, pulled off everything except my swimsuit and took the raft for a spin.  I only jumped into the lake once. the reeds at the bottom made it hard to get back to the surface, which was a bit scary, not to mention yucky!

I would spend an afternoon there, poling the raft around the lake, then climb up the hill behind it and go exploring on trails, or slosh through the swamp where the water ran out of the lake, all in nothing but my swimsuit and my bare feet. I was absolutely delighted!

It didn't take long to discover other places to play. There were creeks, that usually had muddy spots where you'd pretend it was quicksand. Or you'd swim in a pool in the creek, or go fishing there.  I missed my friends in Burnaby, but there were so many fun things for a boy to do with all that forest, and lakes and creeks and mountains all around.

One of my favourite places was Mount Mary Ann.  The first time I discovered it was with a friend, who showed me a mining tunnel that ran horizontally into the mountain at the bottom of the crag. Nowadays they have it boarded up for safety reasons, but back then it was a kid's paradise to play in. It had a moss-covered rocky crag that you could climb, with a pit in it.

Aerial View of Mount Mary Ann with the rock crags that I used to climb on. The mining tunnel was at the bottom among the trees on the lower right.
I loved to climb on those crags in the summer time. I'd wear just my shorts and ride my bike there.  I'd hide my bike in the bushes and go climbing up the rocks. Then I'd sit on the rocks and feel the sun baking my skin, cooled a bit by the breeze that blew down the valley.

I remember being stopped on my bike there one day, catching my breath after climbing the Stave Lake Road hill, and a little yellow finch flew onto my handle-bars.  I froze and didn't move, just watching him so close and so cute, not wanting him to fly away!

I had always loved the outdoors, but Mission was were I developed that love into a lifelong enjoyment of camping, hiking and adventuring!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Summers in Burnaby

Summer was my favourite time of year.  As soon as it started to get warm I had a desire to take my shoes and socks off and lose my shirt.  It was fun to run around the yard in just shorts and feel the grass under my bare feet, but there were lots of other things a little boy could enjoy in a Burnaby summer back then.

When I was 9 and 10, my older brother Tony became a Playground Supervisor for the Burnaby Parks Board at Lobley Park in Burnaby.  I would walk there with him, and as soon as I got there my shirt and shoes would all come off and I'd spend the entire day in my bathing suit.  Tony and other teens would lead fun arts and crafts, and we'd go splash in the wading pool and play on the playground.

The park had lots of trees (still does) so you could always find shade to play in, and back then it had a full playground with monkey bars, swings, teeter totters and a merry go round.  Many of the trees are still there, though the playground is gone and the wading pool has been replaced by an expanded firehall.

Lobley Park today

I'd also go with my friends to the local swimming pools. There was MacPherson, which cost 15 cents, or once I was a bit older (9 years old), I was allowed to go to Central Park pool which was only 10 cents.  We'd ride our bikes there in just our bathing suits (no helmets, and bare feet) with our towels over our shoulders.  Going to MacPherson there was a hill with a dirt jump we'd go over.  If it was Central Park, we'd go as fast as we could down the main trail, then jam on the back-pedal brakes to see who could make the longest skid mark. Both pools are still there are largely unchanged.
MacPherson Pool today

Image result for Central Park outdoor pool in burnaby
Central Park Pool today

We also often went to Stanley Park. Our favourite place was Second Beach because it had a playground. I often had a friend tag along. We'd load the station wagon up with a bunch of us in the back (no seat belts back then).  We wouldn't even bother with a change of clothes or shoes. We'd go in our bathing suits and bring a towel. Nothing else required. Some pictures below of one of our Second Beach excursions:

Me and my friend Shawn at 2nd beach, play fighting. Note the sand on our bare feet.

Posing with my mom. Very sandy bare feet!

And with my dad - I'm doing bunny ears on him!