I only spent about half an hour of Canada Day at Sasamat Lake, but that brief time encapsulated, for me, all that we celebrate on Canada Day: our freedom, our mixture of peoples from all over the world, and most of all the wonderful summer heat that only a northern country locked in frigid weather for a good chunk of the year can fully appreciate.
My Canada Day began very early. Summer mornings, especially on Sundays and holidays, are my favourite times. I rode my bike to Rocky Point Park, hoping to snap some photos of Burrard Inlet while the water was still in a perfect glassy state, but I was too late. There were already gentle ripples in the water. People were putting their boats in the water and I saw a lone kayaker coming in.
After my brief trip to Rocky Point, I met Keith at Starbucks. We had decided to start a bike ride early before it got too hot. After fueling up (with more than coffee) at my apartment, we headed out. Today’s route would be a relatively flat one since I wanted to be cautious about some hip/hamstring aches and pains.
Keith grabbed a lead on me when I got trapped at a long red light. I had fun chasing him for the next seven kilometres–I knew he could ride at least as fast as me once we got into the winding trails along the Coquitlam River portion of the PoCo Trail. The day was already very warm, but that suited me fine. My initial sluggishness disappeared and my body felt like a well-greased machine as I began sweating steadily.
I caught Keith in the fast shady section just past the Hyde Creek Rec Centre. We would next do what we call the “Bear Loop”, an eight-kilometre loop that goes along Deboville Slough, then north beside the Pitt River, and back along the road cutting through the farmland adjacent to Minnehkada Park. This berry-rich area is naturally popular with bears.
I decided to go for speed on this section, so I picked up a good lead on Keith. I was about a kilometer from the end of the loop, watching my Garmin as I tried to get my fastest kilometre of the ride, when I rounded a curve and was suddenly almost face-to-face with a bear.
It didn’t seem interested in me but without pondering I made the decision that I’d rather pass the bear with Keith by my side. An about-face was better than a bear face-to-face, and as quickly as possible I was cycling back in the other direction. When Keith and I turned the same corner a few minutes later, there was no bear to be seen, and I regretted the missed photo opportunity.
Though we were warned about another bear a few kilometers later, the rest of the ride proved uneventful. I was happy to complete 34 kilometres still feeling strong—especially since our finish destination was my local Starbucks at Suter Brook. An iced venti mocha (shared) hit the spot and delayed the onset of the gnawing hunger that I knew would soon begin.
I didn’t want to stop for lunch, though (and it was only 10:30), because I knew a swim at Sasamat Lake would feel wonderful after our hot sweaty ride. And on a sunny holiday like this, I knew the parking lot would be full and the gate locked before noon. We changed into our bathing suits and hustled up there (by car), but by 11:00 the gates were already locked; and hundreds of cars were parked along the road!
I’d never seen it this busy before, but I had a backup plan. We would drive along the road that paralleled the far shore of the lake, opposite the beaches, take the short trail in to the walkway (and dock areas) at the south end of the lake, and swim from there.
Sure enough, we found a parking spot close to the trail. Only a few minutes later, we were looking across the walkway.
We actually snagged the last remaining real estate on one of the docks and spread out a towel! Then—1–2–3—we were in the water.
There is a huge initial shock when hot body meets cold water—but after about 30 seconds it’s just pure delight. I love swimming in the lake; it’s a completely different than the measured tedium of a swimming pool. There is no chlorinated smell here, only this almost limitless expanse of water, warm at the surface, cold with each stroke of my arm plunging down, vision filled with the huge blue bowl overhead, the tilting line where water meets sky, the blinding sun, the water shading from light to murky to dark below.
I get chilled quickly, and after five or ten minutes I haul myself up the dock’s ladder. I lie on my towel while Keith plays in the water for another fifteen minutes. Now, I finally relax completely for the first time since the morning began. For a while, I lazily people-watch. Then I lie on my stomach, cover my eyes with one arm, and let myself drift. I’m surrounded by the soothing mixture of background sounds: good-time music, voices, splashes…
Later Keith and I will go to a party some friends are putting on to celebrate their newly-acquired Canadian citizenship.
I’ll take the citizenship test on their computer and discover that yes, indeed, I’m Canadian. The pass mark is 75% and I score 90%.
But being Canadian is much more than knowing some basic historical, political, economical, and social facts. It’s about our deep experiential knowledge of our country’s extreme weather—and especially, the joy and relaxation we feel during our too-brief summers.
Now, two days later, I’m back to the work and occasional dark clouds of ordinary life.
But I had a perfect Canada Day.
And there are many more lake days to come.
* For basic information about Sasamat Lake, please read my “Quick Tips” post here.