The back side of the Chilliwack River Valley sign. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)

The back side of the Chilliwack River Valley sign. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)

OPINION: Beautiful B.C. – Isn’t it great? Shhh… Don’t tell anyone!

Huge numbers flocked to popular Chilliwack River Valley on Labour Day weekend

Early on in this pandemic, people were cooped up, many in a state approximating lockdown, and we were all going outside less and less often.

As the months wore on, the repeated advice from health experts switched to: Get outside, get exercise, get fresh air.

In recent months, that advice on being outside combined with restrictions on international and even inter-provincial travel – along with a dash of COVID-19 fatigue – led to British Columbians exploring the province, the place we all live, literally like never before.

There were serious concerns about overcrowding on beaches and on the roadways in the Cultus Lake area in late July, and other easily accessible hot spots were burning up with visitors.

• READ MORE: Temporary solution found for illegal parking at Cultus Lake

This past Sunday I woke up and suggested to the family we go “early-ish” to one of the best local family friendly hikes, Lindeman Lake in the Chilliwack River Valley (CRV). Sunday delays such as pancakes and eggs, meant we left a little before noon driving past more vehicles/campers/human beings than I have ever seen in the CRV.

“This was a bad idea,” I, Captain Obvious, suggest to my wife, not far from Lindeman.

I found a place to park 500 metres from the trailhead along Chilliwack Lake Road along with about 300 other vehicles. Very quickly we did some math. Given the hordes of people present and what we knew of the narrow Lindeman trail and, ahem, living in a global pandemic, we changed plans. We took a right turn just past the massive outhouse lineup and instead hiked 2.5 kilometres up towards Flora Lake, turning around when granola bars and wine gums could lure the children no further.

Not including us, we saw 10 people on this portion of the Flora Lake hike.

Posted by Paul Henderson on Monday, September 7, 2020

Here’s some admittedly dubious math based on a few estimates on the Lindeman Lake trail: There were 60 cars in the parking lot and, when we left, I estimate 280 cars lining the road. So that’s 340 vehicles.

There were very few couples, many large groups, some came in multiple vehicles, but I think a conservative guess is three people per vehicle. Three times 340 is 1,020. Of that, there were 50 people on all of Flora.

That means at about 3 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2020, there were close to 1,000 people on a popular hike that is, in most places, narrower than a grocery store aisle. Deduct 200 or so ambitious people who maybe went past Lindeman to Greendrop Lake (highly doubtful, these were not ambitious hikers for the most part), and that means 800 people were hiking up and down 1,600 metres of trail at that moment.

That’s one person every two metres. How do you think the physical distancing went on Labour Day weekend Sunday at Lindeman Lake?

I’m not judging anyone, heck, my family was there too, albeit abandoning the Lindeman hike when we realized what was happening.

And at least these people were outside, not in a mall, or crowded in restaurants or banquet halls, which are causing the problems. It was good for them to get out of Richmond and Burnaby and Surrey (assuming that’s where they were all from, based on an unscientific examinaiton of licence-plate holders).

This was the last gasp of summer, so it’s not likely to be repeated, but I’m sure trails across the Lower Mainland were packed on the Labour Day long weekend.

As a local, it was just shocking to see so many people in our backyard, and so many amid a pandemic.

As you drive out of the CRV on the back side of the “Chilliwack River Valley” sign (the front side that says “Leave only footprints, take only memories”) there is an interesting message. It’s not easy to see because of overgrowth, but the message is this: “Wasn’t it beautiful? Shhh… Don’t tell anyone!”

Maybe Tourism BC needs a new motto: “British Columbia sure is beautiful, but… you wouldn’t like it.”

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Chilliwack Progress