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With social distancing measures ramping up, options for safe activities not amongst crowds are few.
Fortunately, escaping outside for a walk in the fresh air remains a safe option for now — and the Tri-Cities have an abundance of hiking opportunities.
But at this time of the year, some options are still off the table for the average person because of trail conditions. The higher areas of Eagle Ridge and Burke Mountain are now covered in snow and ice, and require mountaineering skills and specialized equipment to safely explore (ice axes, crampons, snowshoes, avalanche safety equipment, etc.). Unless you have the necessary experience and equipment for deep snow and ice, do not consider going into these areas. Coquitlam Search and Rescue every year has to rescue people who underestimate difficulties above the snow line.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are still plenty of great hiking opportunities to enjoy before the snow melts in early July.
(Please note that this was written before any possible measures were imposed that would restrict people’s movement outside their homes.)
Below is a list of easy or moderate walks/hikes that can be enjoyed year round, taken from the “hike of the week” series published in The Tri-City News a few years ago:
• Jug Island, Belcarra Regional Park (easy);
• Admiralty Point and Burns Point, Belcarra Regional Park (easy);
• Minnekhada Regional Park, Coquitlam (easy);
• Ridge Park, Coquitlam (easy);
• Woodhaven Swamp, Belcarra (easy);
• Eagle Bluff Trail, Anmore (moderate);
• Widgeon Falls, Coquitlam (moderate);
• Crystal Falls and Bullet Dodger, Coquitlam (moderate);
• and Sugar Mountain Loop, Belcarra Regional Park (moderate).
WHAT TO BRING
For any of these hikes, it is still important to be prepared. This means:
• Take the “10 Essentials” (flashlight and spare batteries, extra food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, emergency shelter, whistle and other signalling devices, first aid kit, pocket knife, fire starter and sun/bug protection).
• Take additional items specific to the season; for now, these may include extra warm clothing, a thermos flask with hot beverage, a small camping stove, micro-spikes if it’s icy. A spare flashlight is a good idea in case your primary light source fails. Also be aware that deadfall, leaves, etc. can make trails harder to follow at this time of the year.
• Research where you are going thoroughly beforehand, and make sure that you and everyone in your group has the necessary fitness and skills for your route.
• Make sure that someone will raise the alert if you fail to return. Make a trip plan, either using old-fashioned pen and paper or using a trip planning/registration app such as Overdue.
As well, in these COVID-19 days, there are a few additional precautions you should take to help contain the disease:
• Do not go if you are feeling unwell at all.
• Go out with people you already have close contact with (eg family members).
• Keep your distance — two metres is the minimum is recommended. Also be comforted that outdoor spaces are amongst the safest to be in.
• Avoid hiking in areas that are already busy.
• Do not share water bottles, food, etc. with your fellow hikers.
Above all, have fun. A day out in the great outdoors can boost your mood and mental health, something that is much needed in these dark days.
Steve Chapman is a Coquitlam Search and Rescue volunteer, a member of the Burke Mountain Naturalists and the creator behind a detailed map of Tri-City trails. He previously wrote a hiking column for The Tri-City News.
Read more of our COVID-19 coverage here.