Monday, 22 April 2013

Cypress Trails Park

Located at Woodgreen Dr and Woodley Dr.

I have a confession: I didn't go to the last park until Easter. It was just so far up the hill and it was tiny and it was Cypress Trails Park, which means it was basically, just Cypress Falls Park and not even anything different from the rest of that forest. Right? Wrong!

Not only does Cypress Trails Park rock the district's most awesome park sign, it does it's own thing.

I arrived at this park via the Cypress Falls trails, but not as directly as I'd hoped. I got lost and ended up wandering around the undeveloped British Properties roads for a while, before taking a trail I'd hoped would bring me to a real road. It did me one better.

That trail opened up to a sunny clearing.

I liked the light, so I stopped and took a picture.

Then I noticed the playground in the background. I had arrived!

This is the best picture that I got of the park, because there were many young kids (one of them is seen climbing on a ladder here) with their parents watching them closely, so I couldn't stay for long. I made the comment "I hate it when there are kids on playgrounds" and immediately felt awful. It means I can't play or take pictures properly, though. I'll just have to trust my observations of the kids' fun and you'll just have to trust me that this is a really excellent playground.

There were actually multiple groups of kids there. I feel like this is how I should feel after discovering the newest, coolest underground dance club at the age of 20, but instead, I feel like I found something incredible with this park.

Good: playground, a lot of sun, benches for parental supervision
Bad: at the very top of a huge hill, oddly popular

Friday, 16 November 2012

Whytecliff Park [PPR: Local's Perspective]

Located at the very end of Marine Dr.

Throughout the summer of my epic journey, people have been asking me if I'd found the perfect park yet. I told them I already knew which one it was, but I was saving it for last. I knew right from the beginning that, at least for me, Whytecliff Park is the perfect 10. Let me explain why.

At the very end of Marine Drive exists a park that has everything. Since it has everything (I'm serious about that, by the way), Whytecliff Park is really big. It's got a whole ton of grassy space that wouldn't be good for any formal sports because it's on a little bit of a slant, but is perfect for casual games of all sorts.

The grass is really nice and soft, and full of surprises. Despite wide open spaces, there's also a lot of big trees in Whytecliff Park. Some of them are climbable if you've got some skills in that area.

Also pictured above is a picnic shelter. There's only two of these in all of West Vancouver (the other one is at John Lawson Park), which is a shame because they're great for so many things. There's a barbeque and a bunch of tables under there, making it the ideal location to hold an evening party in the spring or summer. But it's also great for colder rainy days when you want to be out of the rain but still outside. I haven't actually done this yet, but I'd really like to bring a set of speakers here on a day when it's pouring rain and have a dance party on the tables. Basically, picnic shelter = party central.

Of course, the perfect park would not be complete without a playground and kids playing on it.

This picture is terrible because it's far away and has a tree in the way, but you can still tell the playground exists. It's got a motorcycle rocker, a train, tall swings, and a big structure with slides, tic tac toe, bridges, and all that good stuff. It's not the best playground I've ever been to, but it's definitely up there. Besides, artificial play stuff isn't really the point of Whytecliff.

The point of WhyteCLIFF Park is the CLIFFS! You're probably wondering where they are at this point. Here they are:

The cliffs are nice and rugged, just like a Howe Sound shoreline should be. They're full of crevices to explore. I still find new things even after all these years of visiting. Despite all the chaos of the rocks, there's actually benches all over the cliffs. This is my favorite one:

It's one of the most ridiculously placed benches. You actually can't reach it safely without maintaining three points of contact. And obviously, it faces one of the many incredible views from the cliffs. This one is of Whyte Island and Passage Island. Other views feature Bowen Island's marina as well.

In between two cliffs, there's a spot that is known locally as "couple's beach".

It's hidden and the perfect size for two. If you ever happen to be trying to impress a hopeless romantic, then take them here. They'll love it. This park has always reminded me of something out of a movie set in the 50's where teenagers drive around in convertibles and go on dates.

Fun fact: Whytecliff is something out of a movie. A few things have been filmed here, including Scooby Doo. They built the haunted mansion up on the cliffs.

If you were thinking that couple's beach is a little small for your tastes, don't you worry. Just one more cliff over is Whyte Bay.

Hey look, sand! Unfortunately, the sand doesn't go too much further down the beach, but it's a great swimming spot nonetheless. I've swam here many times and actually enjoyed it. That's a lot coming from me. I hate swimming.

Because I hate swimming, I have never tried scuba diving, but everyone says that Whytecliff Park is one of the best dive spots in North America. It's Canada's first marine protected area. It even has its own tank at the Vancouver Aquarium. The Day I went to take pictures, there must have been a hundred people in scuba gear around. A lot of them were there taking lessons. The sheltered bay is great for beginners.

Whyte Bay is also a great one for collecting beach glass, particularly at lower tides. The tiny pebbles that are underwater in the picture are perfect for grinding down broken glass.

Another great thing about low tide at Whytecliff is the opportunity it provides to explore Whyte Island.

When the tide is low, it exposes a land bridge all the way out to that island. I won't tell you much about the island, but I will say that it's worth exploring. Make sure you check the tides when planning your visit.

Whytecliff park also has a tennis court,

decently clean washrooms that stay open until 10pm during the summer,

and a cafe!

The cafe is closed for the winter, but the food is fantastic when it's available during the summer, and they even have live music on the patio occasionally.

Until just recently, I thought that the one thing Whytecliff Park was missing was trails. But at the beginning of this past summer, I discovered a whole new section that I never knew existed.

The part that I never knew about was the giant area across the street from the main part. As you can see, it has a series of trails running through it. There's trailheads at the end of Hycroft Road and the park's overflow parking lot. I discovered them by accident when I was walking with my little brother half an hour before we had to be home for dinner. I came back the very next day to finish exploring the area.

What I discovered was a series of narrow trails (that you're allowed to let your dogs off-leash on) with the occasional bench off to the side.

One of those benches happens to feature one of my all-time favorite bench quotes:

"Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost." -Henry James
Peter Blutenhuis, lover of the sea & this park

The only problem I have with these trails is that they don't lead to any views. The benches were probably originally placed facing views, but the trees have since grown taller and blocked them out. But how much can trees really upset anyone? Besides, what the trails do lead to is the main part of Whytecliff Park: my favorite place in the whole world. 

Good: fields, picnic shelter, climbing trees for skilled climbers, playground, cliffs, well-placed benches, spectacular views, swimming beach, beach glass, scuba diving, island, tennis courts, washrooms, cafe, trails, teeming with adventure
Bad: I'm not allowed to live there

Batchelor Bay Park [PPR: Local's Perspective]

Access via stairs off of Marine Dr.

To me, Batchelor Bay Park is mostly just the shortcut to Whytecliff. When I think of Batchelor Bay Park, I think of stairs.

And stairs.

And more stairs. 

And those aren't even all the stairs. It is important to note that if you walk down the stairs to get to Batchelor Bay, you will have to walk back up them.

Like I said, I usually just walk straight through Batchelor Bay without stopping on my way to Whytecliff Park, but I guess it could be nice to stop and spend some time there.

It is really pretty. What I couldn't capture on camera was the remarkable semi-circular-ness of the bay. It's quite a spot. People keep their boats here for a good reason.

Around the Horseshoe Bay area, the question that always gets asked when you're hanging out with friends is "Which beach should we go to tonight?" Batchelor Bay doesn't usually end up being the choice, but maybe it should be from time to time.

Good: boats!, view, semi-circle
Bad: stairs, not many places to sit, it's right beside a gated community which kind of puts an aura of lame over everything

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Garrow Bay Park [PPR: Local's Perspective]

Access via Marine Dr > Wellington Ave > Imperial Ave.

I like to think that I am this park's local. It's only a few blocks from my house, and I've been going there as often as possible ever since I discovered it about a year ago. It took me so long to find it because the way there looks like this:

It looks an awful lot like someone's driveway, and it is someone's driveway, but it's also the way to Garrow Bay Park.

After a set of stairs through a tunnel of rose bushes, the park opens up to a grassy area. In the spring, there's two geese who live there. They've got an adorable life partner vibe going on, and they return every year to walk around slowly and eat things.

The actual bay part of Garrow Bay is pretty nice. After going down the stairs, you can get there by turning left.

The rocks are an awkward size and shape for walking or sitting on. Besides, they're usually underwater; I visited Garrow Bay at a very low tide. But the sharp rocks are good for catching logs and keeping them in place. As you can see in the picture, there's several rows of logs to walk and sit on.

If you can find a good pair of water shoes to protect your feet, Garrow Bay would be a good place for swimming, although the beach is a little lame and the depth drops quickly (I wouldn't recommend this spot for anyone who isn't a strong swimmer). That's because there's a diving raft!

There aren't many diving rafts in West Vancouver. In fact, Garrow Bay Park is the only park in the municipality with one. Even though the beach is hard on the feet, it's worth it. Diving rafts are a lot of fun if you do them right.

That stuff is great, but my favorite part of the park is the other half.

That bench is probably my favorite bench in the entire world. It's got a nice quote on it, but I once spent half an hour disagreeing with it one time that I went there alone.

Cole disagrees with my disagreement, but I think that if you define yourself as a hunter or a sailor, then your home is the hills or the sea.

But that's not why I like this bench. I like this bench because it has one of the most interesting, beautiful and dynamic views on all of the North Shore.

While sitting on this bench over the past year, I've seen all sorts of boats pass by: everything from kayaks to sailboats to ferries. It faces west, so it's perfect for watching sunsets. And then there's the islands... Bowen Island (the big one), Passage Island (the small one), Bird Islet (the really small one with the red light on it), and Whyte Islet (the main attraction).

If you've ever been to Whytecliff Park, you're probably familiar with Whyte Islet. It's that awesome rock that's accessible during low tide and super fun to explore. My favorite bench at Garrow Bay Park provides the perfect side view of it. I've always thought the islet looked like a giant sea turtle. On sunny afternoons, you can usually see people climbing on the turtle's back. Unfortunately, there weren't any people the day I took pictures. That's probably because I took the pictures on a dreary Wednesday morning in October.

Good: diving raft, view, bench, resident geese
Bad: rocky beach, at the bottom of a steep hill

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Douglas Park [PPR: Local's Perspective]

Located at Royal Ave and Douglas St.

Douglas Park is what the kids living in Horseshoe Bay refer to as "the tennis courts".

"I'll meet you by the tennis courts."

"I live on Douglas street... Yeah, the one with the tennis courts."

"Wanna hang out at the tennis courts?"
"Haha, no!"

When I was first designing my park routes, I thought I'd skip Douglas Park because it was so insignificant. We walk by it and reference to it without ever actually looking at it. But in the end I decided to keep it on the list, because I did say I was going to "all the parks".

And it turns out that Douglas Park doesn't even have a tennis court.

Who knew that there was just a basketball/hockey court in the chain-link cage? Not I.

It turns out that there was a lot about Douglas Park that I hadn't realized. There's even a second half to the park.

It's a classic park-ish area with grass, trees and a picnic bench. Douglas Park is not too shabby from this angle.

And check this out:

It's pretty much impossible to tell from the picture, but there's actually three different types of edible berry bushes growing on this big old stump: salmon berries, huckleberries and blackberries. Come in June for the salmon berries, July for huckleberries and August for the blackberries.

Good: twice as big as I thought it was, good amount of shade from the trees, picnic bench, berries, basketball/hockey court
Bad: no tennis court, very tiny

Horseshoe Bay Park [PPR: Local's Perspective]

Located at Bay St and Royal Ave.

As the centerpiece of Horseshoe Bay village, this park is integral to the community. Every resident knows the famous propeller fountain.

But this park is important to locals and visitors alike. It's the perfect place to exhaust your kids and kill some time while you're waiting for the ferry.

Behind the ferry terminal and Swells Marina, there is a fantastic view of Bowyer Island. You'd never know it on the day I took pictures if it weren't for the public binoculars. Trust me, there is something to look at with them.

There's a very nice place to look at this rumored view too.

Besides the average park benches, Horseshoe Bay Park has these exceptionally comfortable and attractive chairs.

But if you're not the type to sit back and watch things happen, there's a place you can go to get closer. You can see a pier heading out into the water in the background on the left of the picture above. There's a floating water taxi dock at the end of it:

The coast guard keeps a boat there. That's exciting. You're welcome to go down and loiter there.

But I mentioned something about tired kids and I haven't come back to that yet. When I was a kid, the playground at this park was one of my favorites. That playground has since been replaced, but in essence, it's still the same.

It's still got a teeter-totter, swings, a pirate ship, and an awesome slide (the slide was the best). They've also added some of those spinny bucket things that are always really fun. It's a solid playground.

If man made structures don't satisfy your needs to climb on things, there's a whole row of EasyClimb Trees (trademark: Nina King) in the southwest corner .

And it wouldn't be Horseshoe Bay Park without the whale.

He's looking pretty normal these days, but this guy's had many paint jobs over the years. He's been an orca, a work of first nation's style art, and even nemo! In the summer, you can step on buttons to make him shoot water out of his blow hole.

That pretty much makes up for this park's biggest shortcoming. Although Horseshoe Bay Park is waterfront, it is not a beach.

There's a little bit of sand to walk on at low tide, but Horseshoe Bay spends most of its time underwater, putting a damper on any exploring. If you're not the type to let a little bit of water ruin your fun, I suggest you let it when you're at Horseshoe Bay. I was once paid $10 to jump off the water taxi dock, and I really wish I hadn't done it. Thanks to the ferries, private yachts and rental boats, Horseshoe Bay has some of the most disgusting water I've ever seen. It's full of engine oil and sewage. Don't touch it!

Good: place to wait for the ferry, view, nice seats, water taxi dock, playground, easyclimb trees, whale, washrooms
Bad: it's a little dirty, no beach, absolutely no swimming

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tantalus Park [PPR: Local's Perspective]

Located at Nelson Ave and Marine Dr.

I may be a little biased since Tantalus Park is the closest park to my house, but I don't really like it. I've tried to enjoy myself there because it's so convenient, but it's honestly a bit depressing.

There's only swings for babies, the slide is two feet tall, and they didn't even bother to paint the train. Oh well, at least there's a playground. I bet you could impress an 18 month old with it.

The rest of the park that isn't covered in rotting leaves consists of a flat grass field cut into the steep slope up from Horseshoe Bay. It looks like it would be good for sports if it weren't so small and if the ground wasn't soggy most of the year. It has got a picnic bench, though.

The bench moves around a lot. Although I've never seen people moving it, I've never seen it in the same place twice either. It's a lost cause if you ask me, though. The field is surrounded by trees and steep slopes on all four sides. The best place for it would probably be dead center, but it's usually in one of the corners.

Good: playground equipment, picnic bench, flat ground in a hilly area
Bad: playground equipment is lame, squishy field, not much light