After discovering public cruising is still alive and well in San Francisco, I returned to Vancouver wondering if I could find more of the same here. The answer is yes, and few disappointments too. Here are some hot spots to check out (or skip for now):
My first stop was naturally the gay beach along from Wreck, after a friend told me he’d got quite a bit of action, and syphilis, down there.
There are two routes: down Trail 6 to the main beach then hang a left and walk along a meandering trail, or Trail 7. I decided to try Trail 7 since I’d never gone down there and I wanted to see if it was an easier climb down.
I started trekking along the water and ran into a relative of mine — was he there for the same reason? I wasn’t about to ask, and after exchanging some pleasantries I continued on. Eventually I got stuck in the mud flats and had to carefully navigate over reeds, mud and logs — man, was this a bad choice.
I later found out I’d missed a turn and ended up off the trail.
The gay beach itself was pretty nice, quite a few attractive guys and some familiar faces. After hanging out for a bit, I made my way into the bushes and along the smaller trails behind the beach. There were all sorts of guys there: clothed and nude, college-aged students and seniors. It was definitely more geared towards oral sex.
I was cautioned to keep any shenanigans off the main trail and to keep it in the bushes and smaller trails. It was pretty clear why: many hikers seem to like taking this route too, including families, and they might have been a bit perturbed by the random collection of guys standing around by themselves, like they were about to get mugged or worse.
A friend of mine joined me a bit later and I watched him have his way with a cute little British twink in the bushes — doggy style in the sand.
I’ll definitely be returning to this beach soon.
Stanley Park and Lees Trail
One of the things I hate about public cruising is the waiting around for a good piece of meat. I tend to be choosy and I have a short attention span.
However, I had a partner in crime this time — a friend of mine up from the States was staying with me and, after a tour of the park’s main attractions, I surprised him with a stop at the cruising trails.
We parked near Second Beach pool and entered the trails there. At first we didn’t see much, which I’m learning is usually the case. Then I realized something. We kept passing by people out for a stroll and on their bikes and then we’d pass the same faces repeatedly. Ah! These guys weren’t there for a stroll after all.
They were mostly older guys, 60 and up. We took a detour off the path and in amongst the trees. I could see single guys wandering around in there as well as a tourist couple with their baby, who didn’t seem to have any clue what was going on. My friend and I went deeper into the trees and found a greater mix of guys.
There was a 40-something muscly Latino guy I’d fucked at the bathhouse before. Another guy in his 20s who I knew to be a notorious cum bucket for the daddies. And there was a slim scruffy guy in his 30s. I started making out with my friend and some guys gathered around. I gestured to one of them and he came over — before you know it my friend was on the ground sucking him off.
We saw about 20 guys cruising the Stanley Park trails in our brief time there. Worth the trip into the trees.
(Kevin Moroso takes stock of the possibilities in a Vancouver park./Shimon Karmel/Daily Xtra)
I’d now covered off the two most notorious cruising spots in town, but my friends assured me there were more. So I set up a Squirt account to find out where. (Full disclosure: Squirt is an online hookup site owned by Daily Xtra’s parent company, Pink Triangle Press.)
There were a lot of places listed on Squirt and I was a bit skeptical. I read the reviews and some places had a lot of recent activity while others hadn’t seen much action since 2014. I decided I’d check out Strathcona Park near my place on the east side.
It was an unusually warm and sunny spring day when I walked over. A random assortment of hipsters were drinking in the park and a baseball game was in progress. I walked over to the washroom, which, unfortunately, was pretty close to the baseball diamond.
The washroom was empty so I stood outside, trying not to look like a predator. After a couple of minutes, two guys came walking by — a young guy with a much older dude. They weren’t talking and they headed straight into the washroom.
Their intentions were fairly obvious but they hadn’t met in the park. It looked more like a place where you arrange to meet people — probably for situations where neither guy can host.
Unfortunately, their fun was soon spoiled by two guys from the baseball game, who went in to use the toilet. The young and old guy came scurrying out.
I stuck around a bit longer but nothing else happened that day. I guess more action tends to take place if there aren’t any games on, or if it’s after dark.
Though I saw no action when I returned another evening to check again, I’m still not ready to write this place off. The location is far too suitable for a little urinal-side mutual wank or under-the-partition ploughing. And I wouldn’t worry too much about getting caught, either. It’s the east side. There isn’t much pearl clutching going on here.
The Bay downtown
Having covered the parks, I decided it was time to check out some of the toilets I’d heard were cruisey downtown.
First stop: The Bay, though friends warned me security have cracked down and would definitely try to embarrass anyone they caught.
I tried out the men’s washroom on the lower main floor through Top Man. It was nearly deserted, save for a few younger guys obviously more into shopping for clothes than for dick.
The stalls had been reinforced with steel panels that extend to the ground to prevent any interactions. I saw a security guard milling about the area.
So I went up to the sixth floor in the men’s department. I had trouble finding the washroom and went up to someone working there. When he turned around — surprise! It was someone I’ve hooked up with before.
We exchanged pleasantries. He asked if I was shopping and I told him I was doing some research and asked where the washroom was — I don’t think he connected the two.
It was the same deal in that washroom. While busier, there was certainly no cruising going on and the stalls had again been reinforced with steel panels.
My friend Todd gave me a tip about the toilets in the Bentall Tower at the northeast corner of Melville and Thurlow Streets, in the food court.
I went down hoping to find the after-work crowd. Man, this place was busier than the dark room at Steamworks on a Saturday night!
There were two stalls, both occupied, and a couple of urinals. I went up to the urinal to take a piss, since I actually had to go pretty bad. I looked around at the two men waiting to use the stalls and noticed the man next to me was staring at my junk.
One man left the washroom, only to come back in a few minutes later. In a small space, there were men of all sorts crammed around and it was pretty obvious it was for cruising.
A security guard did come in (there was a sign on the door warning that the washrooms were monitored) but he took a leak then left. I doubt he was oblivious to what was going on.
While I didn’t see any action directly, I’d say this is certainly a busy cruising spot with a lot of promise.
So there you have it: cruising is still alive and well in Vancouver. Young and old, it looks like the advent of the hookup app hasn’t destroyed this bit of our subculture.
I think the sheer risk and naughtiness of public cruising still attracts some people. Besides, hook-up apps like Grindr only work if you have a place to go hookup.
I’m still not sure I’m into park and toilet cruising myself, though. I’m a bit too impatient. But I’m certainly glad these traditions live on.
Previous: Do gay guys still cruise for public sex?
Kevin Moroso’s Filling Station column runs monthly on Daily Xtra on the last Friday of the month.