Enjoying summertime in and around Powell River is easy. Fish are jumping, the sun is shining, lakes are calling and the mountains are cool.
Within minutes, or, depending on the desired setting, a few hours, various playgrounds are reachable around ocean and lake shores, along forest trails and on mountaintops. For the more adventurous, even more spectacular locations can be found within a day’s travel from the city.
Secret spots, off the beaten track and known mostly to locals, cannot be found on tourist maps. Everyone has their own favourite place to spend time, whether for adventure or relaxation.
When it comes to secret places, the hardest code to crack is the elusive secret fishing hole. No signs exist to point the way to where fish are biting.
According to Sam Sansalone, owner of Powell River Outdoors, some truth and some myth coincide with tales of secret fishing holes.
“What’s funny about fishing holes is, the last time I looked, the fish don’t stay in one spot,” said Sansalone.
Fishing is usually better where fewer fishermen gather, he said.
“Those are the secret spots,” said Sansalone. “If there are 10 boats fishing in one area, that spot isn’t a secret anymore.”
According to Sansalone, a secret spot needs good fishing, good scenery and has to be a peaceful place.
“There are secret spots, definitely,” he said. “There’s a few I keep to myself, but I’m of the nature of liking to share.”
Some places can be passed by without knowing a secret awaits down the road, such as the sandy shores of Mahood Beach or the breathtaking cliffs at Eagle River.
Nothing indicates a route to the latter. A sign on the bridge states that Lois River is underneath, but locals know it as Eagle River, where jumpers leap past the falls into a pool below.
For hiking and backcountry enthusiasts, well-known local alpinist and rock climber Christie Dionne was instrumental in opening up the Eldred Valley to the climbing community. For Dionne, a special place is somewhere people have to work to get to in order to receive the payoff.
“You have to go and earn it,” said Dionne. “It needs to have the wilderness intact. It needs to be a spot where you can be alone and reflect. It needs to have a view out.”
Dionne started venturing into the backcountry in the late 1990s. “Emma Lake Hut is one of those places that is a gem in our wilderness,” she said.
Crossroads Ridge can be found further up the Emma Lake trail. “You stand on the ridge and see the whole north and south Powell Divide from that spot,” said Dionne.
After 27 years as a conservation officer for BC Conservation Officer Service, Andrew Anaka knows of many secret and out-of-the-way places.
“My favourite spots are off the beaten track, where I can get away from everybody and as far away as you can get from Powell River on a backroad,” said Anaka.
According to Anaka, some places are made special by memories. “Growing up we’d go to Freda Lake in the heat of the summer and it would be cool up in the mountains,” he said. “My mother wouldn’t let us go fishing until we picked a gallon of blueberries.”
Reaching Freda Lake requires about two hours of backcountry driving, said Anaka. “If you want a spot all to yourself, that’s one of the places to go.”
Inland Lake, although not a secret, is a much shorter drive from town. “It’s just an awesome spot so close to town and so accessible,” said Anaka. “There’s a beautiful park and so much to do. It’s underused. It’s such a beautiful place.”
People are also returning to old favourite places after many years or exploring new locations, to them, that they have never been to before.
“My family has been enjoying rediscovering newly reopened beach accesses by the regional district,” said Tracey Ellis, visitor centre manager at Tourism Powell River. Accesses include new beach entry points in Lund, Canoe Bay and other spots along the highway, with signs pointing the way to each.
Tourism Powell River summer marketing assistant Stephanie Formosa is currently compiling a collection of secret or special spots.
“There are places that locals go to and don’t necessarily share with others,” said Formosa. “That’s what we’re here for. To uncover some secrets.”