I’ve been hiking a lot lately. The weather is gorgeous, and I have weekends off. Tavistock Trail is a place where I return often. This zine contains a short essay about why you need wild places when you live in the city.
Even though I live a seven minute walk from the beach, I walk up the hill to catch a sixty minute three-bus trip so I can go hiking. There’s something about this trail that I like. I like that it’s a day trip. I like that it feels like an adventure.
But first, it’s just a bus–the same bus I take to work on Wednesdays when I teach classes in Langley. A nice ride, quiet, with long stretches of farmland and industrial parks. It’s a commuter bus, without a lot of stop and starts. Most everyone is headed from point A to Z or back home again.
The Tavistock Trail is in Fort Langley. More specifically, it’s on McMillan Island, in the Fraser River. They call it the Birthplace of BC, which is only a tiny bit true. The Kwantlen Indians lived here first, and now they’ve taken most of the island back.
When I was a kid, the Albion ferry departed here. It used to be the fastest way across the river. There’s a bridge now, a few kilometres away, and the ferry launch has been abandoned. Most of the island has been abandoned, allowed to return to the wild. The Kwantlen Indians have a few houses, a community centre, playgrounds, and sports fields. There’s also an old church, leftover from the white settlement.
The trail is part of Brae Island Regional Park, with camping, too. It’s a nice, easy hike. It’ll take you just over an hour to do the full loop. If I lived in the village, I’d walk it every day. On a bike, it’s even faster. With dogs, probably slower.
The trail follows the coast line, a view of the water peeking through the trees, full with spring leaves. It winds around into the woods, lined with salmonberries and wildflowers. It can feel very old when you’re walking alone. Then a couple of kids on their bikes from the nearby campground zoom by and an older couple in matching rain jackets say hello as they walk in the opposite direction. Then you remember how close you are to the city.
Across the bridge is Fort Langley, not a city, but a village and a tourist attraction. It’s a place kept deliberately small and homogenous. Old houses, beautiful gardens–it’s a place where only retired professionals can afford to live. Except now they’re building condos and townhouses. Now it looks like the future of BC and the past at the same time–a city built up along the line of the railroad. The railroad made this place once before. We’re doing it again.
I love hiking, always have. I think we hiked a lot when I was a kid because it’s cheap. You don’t need any special equipment, though a good pair of boots is nice. Here’s what I take with me when I go hiking: backpack, umbrella, scarf, notebook, pen, sketchbook, pastels, charcoal, sunglasses, water bottle, sunscreen, cell phone, lunch, and trail mix.
My current mix is Thompson raisins, pepitas, and sunflower seeds. It’s a bit plain, but salty and good. I keep thinking about adding a crunchy cereal (my old trail mix favourite is Honeycomb) or a candy coated chocolate, but I don’t find those as necessary as I did when I was a kid. I’m finding myself more and more happy to eat pretty healthy. It’s about variety for me these days. More than anything, that’s what I want.
Which is why my desire to return to the Tavistock Trail is so fascinating. It’s quickly become my go-to trail. When you live in the city, it’s important to have a wild place to call your own. I had that with my grandparent’s trailer on a bit of property in the Sumas Mountain, just on the other side of the Canada-US border. We spent every summer there, sometimes weeks long stretches. We spent Easters there, my brothers and I looking for hidden eggs beyond the treeline. It was our place, and we watched how it changed with the seasons, and with the new campers, and with the inevitable development.
Now, Tavistock is my place. I chose it because I already knew the way on the bus. I came back because it’s a little bit wild. (There are bathrooms, and you never know when a pack of kids will fly by on bicycles, but they’re wild, too.) Walk deep enough into those woods and the rest of the world falls away.
I can hear the water of the river, and I can hear the birds, but I can’t hear the campers sitting out in front of their RVs anymore. I can hear the crunch of rocks under my shoes, and I can hear dogs barking in the distance, but I can’t hear the city close by. I can hear the trees. I can hear the woods. There are a lot of pockets of wild, hidden around the city. It can be an adventure to get there when you don’t drive, but they’re worth finding.
You can find these places wherever you live, but this is why I live here. This is what my wild place looks like.