Get a new perspective on the place you live

Visitors to the area point out the exceptional beauty of Hope.

Josh Hanley of Pitt Meadows takes a leap into the Coquihalla River at the mouth of Sucker Creek on Saturday. Hanley and 19 of his friends were staying at the Coquihalla campground over the long weekend.

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until you see it through the eyes of a newcomer. I was reminded of that last Saturday, when I met some weekend visitors who were checking out the swimming hole on the Coquihalla at the mouth of Sucker Creek.

It’s a surprise to some Hopians when they hear that I no longer live in Hope — but it’s true. The Stewarts moved to Chilliwack in 2004, but I kept driving back for another ten years for my teaching job, which I retired from last year. Now, I’ve continued with my weekly sports column here, fueled by the many local contacts I’ve made over the years and a continued love for this town and its stories.

It possibly looks like I never left — and I do keep coming back. I was in town on Saturday and ended the day with a visit to Sucker Creek beach, to see if I could catch a photo of some water fun, and take a dip myself.

A group of kids were playing in the warmer, shallow waters of Sucker Creek, where it mixes with the Coquihalla. Out on the diving rock, three young men from Pitt Meadows were relaxing in the sun before heading back to the Coquihalla Campground, where a group of 20 friends were camping over the weekend.

Josh Hanley still had a few jumps in him, so I got my photos and a few quotes before jumping in, myself. What a great and refreshing feeling!

Hanley said, “We don’t have clean water like this in Pitt Meadows. It’s so dirty down there.” His friends nodded in agreement.

When I got back to the beach, the woman in charge of the kids wondered if I knew how they could get back to the campground. They had waded down the river and she wasn’t looking forward to wading back up.

I said I’d lead them back to the road and show them an easy way to the campground — and the questions started coming.

“Why is the water so much warmer in the creek?”

When I explained that it came from a swamp, the woman groaned and the kids giggled in that delightful spirit you feel when you’re out enjoying nature.

Then they wanted to know about the fish, so I told them about the suckers and salmon that spawn in the creek.

I failed to ask their names, as I didn’t realize until later that a story theme was landing in my lap — but these folks were a mix of family and friends from Surrey and Delta and an exchange student from Taiwan.

I must have been giving off a Hopian vibe, because one of the young girls assumed I lived nearby and exclaimed, “You’re so lucky! There’s so much water here. It’s beautiful!”

Coquihalla Campground manager, Cathy Bruggeman, had one thing to say on Monday.

“Everybody I send to Suckers Creek raves about the sand and warm water.”

Bruggeman, now in her fifth year of working at the campground pointed out that their main group of customers are German or Dutch.

“There’s a huge group of people who rent R.Vs in Calgary or Vancouver and we’re either their first stop of their last stop. The families we get on the weekends are mostly from the Lower Mainland.”

The site is owned by the District of Hope but operated under contract by Holiday Trails and has 122 campsites that can each house up to four adults. Add some kids and the population of Hope can jump by over 500 on a busy weekend, just at that one campground.

The current campfire ban has thrown a damp towel on the ultimate camping experience — but Bruggeman said a propane campfire is the next-best thing and they sell two or three a week at the camp office.

“They give a good flame, good enough that people passing by are often confused and they phone to report a campfire,” said the manager, laughing. “But they don’t give sparks, you can’t knock them over and when you turn them off, they’re off.

“Because we’re surrounded by mountains and trees, a lot of people say we’re a lot like a provincial park here,” said Bruggeman. “Most people say it’s nice to have that background noise of the river at night, too.

“In the daytime, lots of people take their camping chairs and sit in the water and just relax.”

Hey, Hopians! You live in a beautiful, special place. If you ever forget that, chat up some tourists and see if your heart doesn’t swell with pride.