In this COVID-19 pandemic health officials have given the public two seemingly contradictory directives: stay home to avoid transmitting the virus, but get outside to maintain physical and mental fitness.
Here in North Vancouver and West Vancouver we are blessed to have a solution to this conundrum right outside our doors, according to the author of a new guide to family walks and hikes on the North Shore. Pick any front porch on the entire North Shore, and chances are you are just a few blocks away from a wild and wonderful walk.
“That's actually one of the best things about living on the North Shore,” said Harry Crerar, author of Family Walks and Hikes on Greater Vancouver’s North Shore (Rocky Mountain Books, $20). “You're never too far from an awesome hiking trail. You're never too far from something to explore.”
Crerar would know. His dad is renowned North Shore outdoorsman David Crerar, creator of the Bagger Challenge, an annual contest to see which trail runner could climb, or “bag,” the most mountain peaks in the Vancouver area. You could imagine Harry’s first pair of baby booties coming with a set of crampons.
“I’ve been hiking since I could walk, really,” said Harry. “One of my earliest memories is actually climbing up Goat Mountain with my dad when I was about five or six.”
He’s only just 18 years old now, but this is already Harry’s second book, having teamed up with his father to co-write The Glorious Mountains of Vancouver’s North Shore: A Peakbagger’s Guide (released in 2016).
The new book begins with a short introduction, which includes the all-important description of the 10 essentials everyone should carry if they venture into the wild, followed by a list of 45 hikes and walks on the North Shore and five on Howe Sound islands. The book is geared towards families, and Crerar gives a rating for each one describing the difficulty of each as well as listing some specific challenges or dangers that might be encountered on the trail.
The project was completed before the COVID-19 crisis hit, but the book might be even more vital now that people are looking for ways to stay healthy and sane while avoiding large crowds.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting this,” Crerar said about the timing of it all. “Hiking, for my family at least, it’s been a good way to get out and destress in these stressful times.”
That family feel is present throughout the book, as there are several colour photos accompanying the descriptions, many of which feature Crerar and his three younger siblings, age 16, 12 and seven.
“Parts of it are a bit like a family photo album,” he said. "That was that was one of the fun parts about researching this book. I'd do a lot of these hikes with my siblings. ... I could see what parts they liked, what they enjoyed. I added a lot of that into the book.”
And there are definitely some tricks you can use to spruce up a hike for a young child, said Crerar.
“There's a lot of stuff that maybe an adult wouldn't know,” he said. “Like, sometimes something like a big rock, to an adult it’s just a rock, but kids can play around it. They can pretend it's a castle. They can play hide and seek behind it. They're a lot closer to the ground than we are, so they see different things.”
The descriptions in the book include many references to landmarks that may catch a kid's eye or make for a nice carrot to dangle in front of a reluctant hiker.
“One thing I like to do is play games along the trail and stuff like that. We often do a scavenger hunt or play a game based on the book The Guffalo, where one person is the Gruffalo and they have to find everyone. There are ways to make hiking more fun in a way that appeals to kids. … It's a great way to get more family bonding time because you can explore a new trail together or discover something together. And it also gets kids outside, gets them active, which is always great. And I'd like to say hiking has definitely given me a better appreciation of the environment, of nature, of how lucky we are to be here.”
In speaking to the North Shore News Crerar noted a few things to keep in mind given the specific limitations currently in place for the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, the North Shore's two provincial parks are still closed, taking several popular hikes off the table. Even during normal times, there’s no reason to constantly hit the always-crowded favourites like the Quarry Rock Trail when so many other great hikes are wide open, said Crerar.
The Mosquito Creek Trail passes just a stone’s throw away from Capilano Mall in the heart of North Vancouver, but within a few steps you are in a beautiful forest following a winding creek on a perfect hike for the COVID era.
“It’s perfect for social distancing because it’s a really wide trail,” said Crerar. “It’s easy to avoid people.”
There are so many others just like it too, he said, listing off the Varley Trail, the Kings Mill Walk, the extensive trail network in Lighthouse Park, or the Coho Loop. The slightly more adventurous might try a hike to Norvan Falls, while the list goes on and on with the difficulty ramping up.
“There's so many other fun trails that aren't that popular,” he said, adding that he’s not worried about any criticism that may come his way for “spilling the secrets” about trails favoured by locals.
“If I do get that [criticism] it's worth it if I've brought some of these hikes to more people’s attention,” he said. “I feel lucky that I grew up exploring all these places and I hope everyone on the North Shore can discover them too.”