Spring is in the air, and this year more than ever we are being encouraged to socialize and exercise outdoors. We are lucky to have so many walking and hiking trails to explore that have great connections to our local history.
I always enjoy an easy walk through our old downtown streets, spotting a heritage home tucked away from the road that I had not noticed before, or admiring the well-kept post war bungalows along streets like Portage or Maple Avenue. If you feel like a country drive to start, you could visit The Old Yale Wagon Road which begins on Wilson Rd and ends on Yarrow Central Road. This Heritage Wagon Trail runs parallel to the Southern Railway tracks and is approximately one kilometre long. If you are near the Garrison Crossing area, you could check out the Legacy Walk which commemorates the men and women who lived and worked at the former CFB Chilliwack from 1942 to its closure in 1995. There are some maps and more info on the City of Chilliwack’s website about these paths.
One of my favourite walks (or bike rides) is the 16km stretch of Dyke that runs from McDonald Rd on Fairfield Island all the way to Ferry Rd near the base of the Agassiz bridge. It is actually part of a larger trail network named The Canyon to Coast Trail –Experience the Fraser, which when complete, will run from Hope to Vancouver all along the Lower Fraser River Corridor.
I like to park at McDonald Road by the river, (just past Island 22 off Brinx Rd) although there are other parking areas along the way if you want to experience different sections on foot. To your left, the Fraser winds and weaves in and out of view, to your right are beautiful farm fields with unencumbered 360-degree mountain views. Sunsets along this stretch of the dyke trail are truly breathtaking. You will walk past the familiar road names of some of our pioneer families, like Ballam, Jesperson, Gill to name a few. I often pause to reflect on the impact these early families had in shaping our community. You will catch glimpses of the old barns and farmhouses, with views mostly unchanged since Europeans first settled this area.
Maybe it is the almost mystical beauty of the place, but I find myself more often reflecting on the stories we don’t know as well, the family names we weren’t taught in school, as I walk this trail…those of the Indigenous people that called this stretch of river, slough, mountain and valley their home for countless generations and whose villages remain within a few miles of this trail. This trail is the traditional land of the Pelollhwx (Pilalt) tribes of the Sto:lo people. Walking this section of dyke always inspires me to want to learn more and understand more of their history, stories and rich traditions.
I hope these few suggestions have inspired you to grab a friend and get out for a walk or pack a picnic and see if you can “find heritage” in the great outdoors this Spring.
See you on the trails!