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!