Edmonton Tourist: Horse Lovers Lane

Christmas break is more meaningful to me now then when I was teaching. I have limited time so I make the most of it. I am also not as mentally exhausted so I have more energy to do other things. If you know a teacher, remember to thank them. Their job was hard before, now it is nearly impossible.

After all the baking was done and the tree was put away, I decided my pal Cap and I needed to get out and explore the valley. It had been a wile because let’s face it, Albertans are not following the shelter in place rule. The malls are packed. The ski hills are packed. The skating rinks are packed. I just don’t want to be around people for my health. I thought Keillor Road might be a good choice.

There were people out walking but I am happy to report, those in groups wore masks. I probably came across 15 people total. I had my mask even though I am alone. It makes me feel better about talking to people – what does one Canadian say to the other on the street? Hello.

Cap and I parked at Whitemud park. The place was packed because everyone was at the toboggan hill at the Savage Centre. Very few were walking along the river. I chose this park because my pal Cap will stop everything he is doing to watch a horse on tv. I thought he might like to visit a few. The Whitemud Equine Centre is nestled between Fox Drive and the Whitemud Park.

We walked half way down Keillor road, which runs parallel to the North Saskatchewan River, before we decided to follow a path the took us through horse pasture. The centre is currently closed to the public, but it is city land, so I thought it would be okay to walk on the designated paths.

We approached the horse paddock and Cap stopped, looked and then kept sniffing. He could care less that there were horses, nothing like his behaviour when he sees them on tv.

We turned away and followed a path through another pasture that led to the centre’s main road.

Cap found horse tracks and dog tracks that seemed far more interesting. Walking down this road was lovely in the twilight hour. There wasn’t a soul around.

We cam upon an adorable sign that sums up this trail.

Ain’t that the truth. My daughter went to horse camp here and still asks for a horse every year for Christmas. She wants to board it here. She loves this road and is likely her favourite place in the city. That is the best thing about Edmonton, you can go for a walk in the valley and it feels like you are in the middle of no where. Yet I was only five or ten minutes from the University of Alberta.

I encourage you to explore some of the roads less traveled. It is peaceful and can do your soul a world of good.

Stay healthy friends!

Edmonton Tourist: Emily Murphy Park

I tried to wander around Emily Murphy Park Saturday morning but I couldn’t find a parking spot. This is arguably one of my favourite river valley parks because it is secluded and there is a kick-ass fire pit hidden within the park. I am not divulging the location, even today when the park was slammed with people my beloved firepit stood alone – hidden waiting for me to return (or my pal because I told her about it).

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While going through my archives, I realized I never visited this park as part of the Edmonton River Valley Park series. Cap and I made our way down to see a huge party at the shelter. No masks, no social distancing….so I guess in two weeks we will know the outcome. I took a photo of Emily Murphy herself (in bronze) and thought briefly about first wave feminism. Don’t @ me about how terrible it was these famous five women didn’t consider bipoc in their quest to be know as people. That is why it is first wave. The ones who came first to open the door and suggest the world could be different. Super flawed but most people don’t consider others, they only think of themselves. It’s up to you to change that. Don’t like it? Do something.

I circled the park. To the south the road is closed because of the Groat Road construction. That is a shame because that way leads to the trails along Mayfair Gold Course and into Hawrelak Park. The photos below are from 2011. The park hasn’t changed.

To the east the trail was clear. That path takes you into Kinsmen Park, The Walterdale Museum, the Highlevel Bridge and the Walterdale Bridge.

Sitting on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, Emily Murphy Park feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. The University of Alberta is up the hill. Downtown is across the river. But it feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. That is what I like best about Edmonton’s River Valley Park system. It feels like wilderness in the middle of the city. Where else can you live and be surrounded by wildlife one minute and head for the coffee bar the next?

This shows the park in all her glory when the park was empty on a Friday night in 2011.

When we left the park, we headed for Government House. I wanted a view of the valley and about 500 less people. I will save that story for next time.

Edmonton Tourist: ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ Kâhasinîskâk

Have you seen the new bridge that spans Connors Road? It is beautiful and will need a revisit after the LRT Valley line construction is complete because you just can’t get close enough to take a good photo. I did a drive by and it doesn’t do it justice.

The bridge is called ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ or Kâhasinîskâk (pronounced kâ-(h)a-si-nî-skâk) it means “slow moving water over stones” which is in reference to Mill Creek just south of the bridge. There are a few things I love about this project. First of all I love the nod to the Cree peoples who are here now and who came before us here on Treaty 6 lands. I love the written language of Cree. I love the look of this bridge and I love that the City of Edmonton up-cycled the old bridge and moved it to Blackmud Creek. I hope Edmonton incorporates more indigenous names, artwork and architecture in our landscape.

After I drove under it to get that terrible photo, I parked at the Muttart Conservatory so Captain and I could walk over to the bridge. I used to run here a lot and was in much better shape, but I still found the hill daunting and hard to climb. In my less than fit state, I am happy to report, I climbed that hill and lived to talk about it.

The park west of the conservatory appears to be unnamed. If you know the name, let me know. I think it is Dove of Peace park. That is where the Dove was moved to after Pope John Paul II held mass under it.

I thought there used to be a swing hanging from it. Am I imagining it? Does someone else remember it? This hill also provided great views of downtown and I took a moment to wave a my pal who lives across the river. I texted her to say I was waving. She wasn’t home but said hi.

This perspective gives you some idea how steep the hill is. It is where Edmonton Ski Club is located and people sit on these hills for the Folk Fest. It provides a lovely view – plus the construction of the valley line station. Ugly but necessary. I am sure they will place public art to help with the ugliness.

I kept climbing and made it to the top where ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ or Kâhasinîskâk crossed Connors Road.

It isn’t really finished. The deck is just roofing shingles and Cap wouldn’t walk on it. Likely too hot and gritty plus he is fearful of heights. I couldn’t walk across it. It it lovely though, I love this architecture.

We headed back down the hill and saw the backside of the Dove of Peace and took in the views of Edmonton Ski Hill and the Muttart Conservatory.

When we made it down the hill, we walked around the Cloverdale neighbourhood. I like it here too but living here during Folk Fest is a no go for me. Half of Edmonton arrives in this neighbouhood for a weekend and no thanks. But it sure is charming.

Where should I go next? I might head over to Emily Murphy Park because I don’t have that in my River Valley Parks series, or maybe I will head to one of the ravines. Let me know what you would like to see next.

Stay healthy friends and get out there to explore your neighbourhoods.

Edmonton Tourist: Muttart Conservatory

I am getting braver. I still won’t go inside public buildings, except for grocery and pharmacy. But I am visiting lesser visited outdoor public spaces. This week I went to a few spots in Edmonton’s beautiful river valley.

September is sunflower season here. I was starting to see sunflowers pop up on my Instagram feed. I thought I would go and see if the Horticultural Society was still maintaining the gardens at the Muttart. The Muttart Conservatory is closed this year and next for extensive renovations. Hindsight tells them, it was good timing, the same goes for Fort Edmonton. Timing is everything! The new LRT line is under construction and quite frankly the roads are a mess.

But…

This scares people off and I’m for it.

The parking lot at the Muttart was surprisingly full but I learned that was for the construction. I found a spot in the north section and parked. A few masks were tossed on the ground. Your mom doesn’t work here so clean up after yourself. You should be ashamed. Clip those loops and toss in the trash. Better yet, purchase a pile of reusables and wash them. At least you are wearing a mask…

Captain and I walked south towards the cute little foot bridge at the path entrance.

There were a few people walking around but only two small families. My first thought was this would be a lovely spot for a wedding. I knew an Egyptian family who immigrated here years ago. They held their daughter’s wedding photos here because of the pyramids. They were beautiful photos.

I had forgotten there was a gazebo too.

This park is really charming. Cap was pulling me onward towards the gardens. I instantly spied the sunflower bed. So we headed towards it.

It shared space with zinnias, or at least I think they are zinnias. Fun fact, they were Lois Holes favourite flower – or at least she said they were in her annuals book.

You can’t tell from this photo but the space between the gardens and the cityscape is the LRT construction. Crouch low so you get the best vantage point.

The bees were busy gathering pollen for winter. I found a few hives mounted on trees to support bee life here in Edmonton, SAVE OUR POLLINATORS!

I took a pile of photos of just sunflowers. You can check those out on Instagram, some even star bees.

We wandered around the flower beds and found the afternoon to be relaxing. I missed this. I miss Edmonton’s parks. But I am reluctant to go to many places. Usually the colder weather reduces the number of people in the parks, so I am going to check more out this fall. I am not afraid of cold and snow, and it keeps people inside. All the better for me.

My plan was to climb up on top of the conservatory. The conservatory is built into the ground with the centre courtyard a flat space for walking around and looking into the greenhouse pyramids. I climbed up the steep bank only to find the walkway closed. Sad sigh on my part.

We climbed back down and walked around the south side of the conservatory. This area was ankle deep grass. It wasn’t mowed all season.

I knew the community gardens were around the west side of the conservatory so we headed there. These gardens are overrun with weeds but we found strawberries, peppers, green tomatoes, chard and milkweed.

I turned around an saw a tiny path that let to Dove of Peace Park, but I will save that for next week.

Have you been to the Muttart Gardens? It is a perfect place to sit and meditate or wander around and smell the flowers. It is worth a visit.

Edmonton Tourist: Wm. Hawrelak Park

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I was cleaning up in here and noticed I didn’t even write about Hawrelak Park. It could be because I rarely come here. But that is a lie. I just don’t think of coming here to use this space like a park or a walking place. It may because I was always here and didn’t need to explore it when I did my river valley park series. Whatever the reason for the omission, I am here now.

This place is probably the busiest of all the valley parks. It hosts festivals, races and large enough to always find a picnic spot in the summer. As a kid, we used to picnic here on a Sunday afternoon with every other Edmontontonian. Then we stopped. The World Triathlon Games are held here, I come for the Freewill Shakespear Festival every summer and I walk through this park to get to somewhere else. My health is back on track and I am working towards longer distances again. Not running, but definitely walking longer distances. This place made sense to come to because two loops = 5km. Plus the added benefit of plowed roads. The paths are packed and easily traversed.

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Cap and I parked in the southwest corner of the park and picked up the trail along the river. It was later in the day and the sun was low in the sky. To be fair, this is Edmonton in January, the sun is always low in the sky.

The trail quickly entered the woods.

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We saw lots of cross country skiers and runners along this path, with a few dogs and their humans. This trail leads towards the off-leash that runs along the North Saskatchewan River all the way to Keilor Lookout. We were not going that far.

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When we made it as far as the bridge, we crossed over to check out the views. The bridge was pack with more dogs and their humans coming from the Buena Vista Dog Park over by the Valley Zoo. We didn’t go that far either. Just to the end of the bridge and back.

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After our return trip, we walked towards the park centre. Did you know there is a skating rink on the lawn not just the pond? I had no idea! This is particularly good because the pond was not ready for people yet. Too risky.

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The best rink, in my opinion, is over at Victoria Park, especially at night with the pathways lit up with Dylan Toymakers’ beautiful lanterns. But, this place has ample parking and is lit at night too. Just not with the special lanterns.

We headed towards the north end of the park and past by the playground and many picnic sites that sat empty today. That also surprised me. Lots of people come for a fire and a chance to roast a hot dog or marshmallow. We kept moving forward and walked along the Ice Castle. I went once but don’t feel the need to go again. It is very beautiful at night but this attraction is pricey. Plus I have issues with the amount of water it uses. However, it is pretty.

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WE walked along the north end of the pond where the triathlon athletes enter the water. It looks different without all the geese on the lawn.

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You can see the amphitheatre in the back and to the left. The new Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is building something back there to commemorate 100 years in Edmonton. Construction had begun.

Cap and I passed some incredibly large trees on our walk. I have looked at these trees for so many years, they always seemed the same, but today, they were huge. I couldn’t put my arms around this guy.

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We jumped back onto the path and passed copious amounts of feeds for both squirrels and birds.

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Soon we were back at my car with the sun lighting up the downtown.

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People don’t think of winter as a time to be active outdoors, but in Edmonton, if you only went out in the spring and summer, have your life is gone in a blink. This park is filled with all-season activities.

Get out and enjoy your city people!

 

Edmonton Tourist: September Staycations

I get a lot of questions from people who live beyond the borders of Edmonton. I’m asked about things to do in Edmonton beyond the MALL. Questions about transit and accommodations or best places to eat. Honestly – I don’t take transit, nor do I stay in a hotel because my bed is super comfy and free. Other than offering my place to stay, I thought a monthly guide of things I might do in Edmonton might be of interest to actual tourists and locals alike.

If I was visiting my beautiful city I would stay central. Airbnb or an actual bed and breakfast in Old Strathcona, Windsor Park, Oliver or Glenora would be my first choices. Hotels downtown or Strathcona would also be on my radar if I didn’t have a car. That way walking or transit would be easier. I would want to be closest to the river valley or arts districts.

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I would consider coming in the summer during festival season. To be fair, Edmonton has festivals all year long with the Flying Canoe in February being my favourite (but the weather is TERRIBLE! It is often -40C), but the Fringe and The Works are a close second. September has Kaleido and that is charming too! I am seeing an Arts and Cultural theme here…maybe I have a severe bias.

I rank a restaurant on their breakfast menu, coffee or wine list. I am not hip and trendy, but I enjoy a great meal (mostly breakfast) and a really great cup of coffee. My favourites include but are not limited to, Café Bicyclette, Workshop Eatery, Little Brick, Sugar Bowl, Juniper Bistro and Mandolin.

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My favourite things to do are usually free or a nominal fee. You can often find me poking around any public art installation, browsing used book shops, exploring the river valley, visiting the art gallery, Royal Alberta Museum, strolling down 124 street or 82 Ave, or attending small community theatre at the Varscona, Westbury, Walterdale or Trinty.

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September has a few things I will be checking out in my city.

  1. I woke up on Sunday morning to learn about the #yegwalk or more formally known as the Commonwealth Walkway. Download the app. As you walk along the walkway you come across medallions and the app gives you voice recordings and photos of the history both colonial and indigenous as well as flora and fauna knowledge. I listened to everything already and have been on the trail thousands of times. It is a great walking tour of my beautiful city. Check it out!
  2. Something newish to the Downtown City Market is Market Sundays! IMG_6638Saturday Market is on 104 street and is my usual favourite outdoor market, plus the little shops along the way (wine and chocolate) can’t be beat for additions to my groceries. I am going to visit the Sunday market for the first time ever. It is located on 103 Ave between 96 street and 97 street. 96 street also is called the Armature – that is new-ish (new to me) and is the City of Edmonton’s first city-led green street.
  3. No Change in the Weather is a Newfoundland musical and will be at the Westbury Theatre running September 25-28. It promises to have traditional Newfoundlander songs and music. I am all for that. I love a good toe-tapper.
  4. This weekend is the Kaleido Festival It is September 13-15 over at Alberta Avenue (118 Ave between 90-95 Street). Billed as a family-friendly arts festival. There is a Front Porch music series. People playing on their front porch! How Edmonton is that? I love it!! I try to go every year. The Friday night lantern parade was super cool and begins at 9:30 pm Friday. It’s worth the price of admission (free). You make lanterns and carry them through the parade. It begins at The Carrot. I will miss it but will be back in town to catch the last bits of the festival on Sunday. While I am there, I am checking out a few of the Public Art pieces at that end of town. You should too because Edmonton is an amazing city.

Edmonton Tourist: Hermitage Park

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Forever ago I pledged to visit all the River Valley parks the city of Edmonton has to offer. My criteria were based on parks that were outlined here. Looking at that list, Buena Vista and Gallager didn’t make my cut because I wanted the park to be a destination for more than one activity. Buena Vista is a dog park and I could never go there in spite of Captain my beloved Labrador Husky. He gets distracted easily and I can’t trust that he won’t run off or hurt someone. So, he is never off-leash in my presence. I have walked past Buena Vista numerous times on my run from Hawrlak to Laurier. It looks like all the dogs who visit love it there. Gallager is another odd park, it is a hill with a view and is where Folk Fest is held every year. I have been there but I decided not to include it in my parks series.

I finally made it to Hermitage Park. Why did it take me so long? Well, it is far from my house. It is located in North East Edmonton and I just don’t get there very often. In the late 80’s I lived 5 minutes away by bike, do you think I ever visited? Not a chance. Strange how life takes you places.

I had no idea how to find this place but happily, the City had well-placed signs to help me locate it. Did you know it has a fishing lake? This would have been a place my grandpa would have loved. Yet, we never went.

Captain and I went on a Friday afternoon. I took some of the overtime I had and decided we needed to enjoy some sunshine after the copious amounts of rain we have had this year. The roads in the park are TERRIBLE. They are covered in potholes, flooded and are in general bad condition. I parked at the far south end in a gravel lot. This park has been around for 40ish years and there is still a gravel lot?

Cap and I hopped onto the paved bike path and began walking north.

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Heading south would have taken us under the train trestle and into Rundle park.  We walked a few minutes and found a dock. IMG_3595.jpg

I had no idea you could fish here. They keep it stocked with lake trout. It was a floating dock and Cap hated every minute we walked on it.

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But it gave us great views of the water. When we walked backed at the end of the day, a family of 6 was fishing. They were hoping to catch dinner.

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Cap was happy to be off the floating dock and back on solid ground. We discovered where the largest goose population in Edmonton is.

 

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There had to be a dozen different flocks or gaggles. This was a great location for ducks too. Strangely, Cap didn’t try to eat one bird as is his usual habit. He did enjoy scaring them by walking up to them and forcing them into the water. He had the biggest smile on his face.

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So many feathers and so loud! The point birds were directing everyone into the water, especially the younglings. Captain just walked on by.

There were several ponds, I think I counted five. Only one was stocked with fish. We walked to the top of the hill and found picnic tables and fire pits. We sat for a bit to enjoy the view.

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Further north was an off-leash dog park and some public art that we didn’t make it to because our day was running short. So we walked back along the road to check out some of the other ponds and explore the wildlife that lived there. I thought I might see muskrats but only found more ducks. The large trees provided lovely shade along the walk.

Hermitage is a lovely park but it is just too out of the way for me to visit often. If I ever decide to go fishing again, I would definitely visit here. Too bad we missed out grandpa.

Edmonton Tourist: Irene Parlby Park Take 2

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Way back in 2016 I did a quest that focused on visiting all the Edmonton River Valley Parks. I did that except one – Hermitage Park. I haven’t been yet. Maybe this weekend. I never think to go there mostly because it is in a part of town I never visit so it’s off my radar. My favourite is Mill Creek Ravine, followed by Irene Parlby Park. You can read the original post here.

I went back as I do, several times a year because I love it. If you told me I could live in Rossdale, I would pack my bags and be there in a heartbeat. Either Rossdale, Cloverdale or Riverdale, I could live there easily. I had heard the walkway from Irene Parlby to the Walterdale Bridge was open. This walkway had been closed since I began running. I ran my first half marathon in 2011, this was my first race. I am not like those other people who work their way up in mileage. No, I like to go big or go home. Now, eight years later, I realize going home is way better. I have all the things I love at home from family and my pal the dog, to coffee and my cozy blanket suitable for snoozing on the couch. But I had always wanted to see what that path was like. SO I DID IT.

Last Sunday.

I parked north of the park mostly because the area is zoned for permit parking because of the proximity to the baseball diamond, ReMax Field. Plus there was a game that day. Captain and I walked the three blocks to the start of the park.

The first thing we noticed was the lack of mowing done by the city. I thought this park was more manicured than it appears. I like growing parks naturally along the river and ravines, but this park should be an exception. Why? For no other reason than I like it that way.

The public art is still beautiful.

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We met other dogs and people along the way. Runners and cyclers were out in full force. Then we made it to the gate that had been closed my entire running career.

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Glory be! It was open and no one was happier than me and my pal Cap.

Did you know there is a new footbridge too? Well, I had no idea what was here so I am assuming its new.

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It looks new. This gave me a nice perspective of Queen Elizabeth Park (formerly my favourite park and is my favourite picnic park).

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To the untrained eye, it is just river valley forest. I know it is in there. Trust me.

We walked further west and checked out the Rossdale treatment plant fun facts. I can’t remember any of them. All about the environment and watershed. Oh wait, I remember the headwaters come from the Columbia Icefields and Saskatchewan Glacier. I may have already known that having visited the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River at Saskatchewan Crossing many times along the Jasper/Banff Parkway.

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Bonus view of Walter in the distance.

We made our way to Walter. The new Walterdale bridge. I love this bridge. She is a beaut. I had always wanted to walk underneath but alas it was closed during construction and my entire running career. But now I had my chance and she did not disappoint.IMG_3499

The landscaping around it is lovely.

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All native Alberta plants from trembling aspen to wild rose.

We spent a good hour exploring the area and walked back through the residential Rossdale, where I fantasized about living in one of the restored homes. Although secretly I prefer Infill. Don’t tell anyone.

It’s now open for recreation use and I encourage you to take a peek. I love my city and I hope you get a chance this summer to find out you love it too.

 

Edmonton Tourist: End of the World

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I have often wanted to visit the End of the World located at the old Keillor Road in Edmonton’s Belgravia neighbourhood. For a long time, this place was the stuff legends were made of. The kind of place that was secret and only a few locals knew about. I tried to get there once before but the steep bank looked to be a bit much for me in my current state of health.  I could see myself falling into the river below or worse, breaking something that would leave me laying in the words until animals found my body, dined and scattered my bones across the valley. For obvious reasons, I never made it.

This was once a retaining wall from the old road that snaked its way out of the valley an into the University area. As the bank deteriorated and risk of collapse was something the City wanted to avoid, they closed Keillor Road and converted it into a pedestrian and bike path for people to use. It is a lovely section of the valley. You can park Whitemud Park and follow the path behind the Whitemud Equine Centre. On a good day, horses are close to the fence and come say hi. My dog Captain loves seeing the horses so this is usually a long stop for us to visit with these animals. If you follow the path up the banks of the valley, you find yourself on Saskatchewan Drive. If you make a sharp right you will find the lookout. Alternatively, follow Saskatchewan drive south, you’ll come to it eventually. The walkways are full of people running, strolling skateboarding or cycling. Don’t assume you’ll be alone. Plus there is the added fun of people having a little weed part. I went on 420 so there were a few people enjoying the first legal 420 in Edmonton.

The City of Edmonton also thought this was unsafe for people to visit, so they developed it for everyone to access the lookout. Part of me thinks it was a good idea and part of me was disappointed. Secret locations are fun and feel exotic, but now I had an opportunity to access it.

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As always, my faithful companion on all my adventures joined me. He validated my suspicion of his fear of heights. He does not like bridges and lookouts. But he was brave enough to wait while I took photos but he wasn’t allowing me to sit and take in the view.

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I entered from the south entrance via the stairs. I have to admit it felt a little anticlimactic after seeing the photos of people who hiked through the woods to get to the concrete pilings. There was a lot of people here but I waited to get them out of my photo. I descended the steps to the platform.

There is a narrow section that overlooks the southwest part of the city.

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Off in the distance is the Quenelle bridge but standing here, it’s hard to believe this is the middle of the city. I think that’s what I love most about Edmonton. Stand in the valley and you forget you are in an urban centre.

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Turning to face the river I could see the Valley Zoo parking lot, Sir Wilfred Laurier Park and the rowing club.

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Turning to my right I could see the Beauvista dog park and the bridge to Hawrelak Park.

That Alberta blue sky always gets me. I could have stood here longer taking in the view but my poor dog did not enjoy being so high up, so I let him take me further north along the lookout.

I don’t think the entire space is finished. There are snow fences placed along the edge and the path is gravel. If the city is going to make this accessible for others, I suspect they will pave the path. Although it is a fairly steep climb for a wheelchair.

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It didn’t occur to me to take the photo before climbing out of the valley, but I did turn around once I was at the top.

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I recommend visiting the lookout this summer. I think I will return once the valley is in full foliage and again in the fall. I think when everything is covered in a blanket of snow it will also be lovely. So tell me, did you ever visit before the City built the stairs? Can you tell me about the walk to the End of the World?

Remember to get out there and explore your home. Be the tourist in your town and learn the secret spots. I suspect you live in a fascinating place too.