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: Government House Park

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Such a great day for a visit to a park! But because it is early spring, choosing a park that would have very little melt or muck was important to me. Government House Park is located on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River and gets direct sunshine and heat. I figured it would have minimum spring run-off.

When The Captain and I parked, I looked around and decided to take a path less take by me. I had run this park multiple times and know where the trail leads along the river, but I had never followed the path that goes north. Until now.

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The first thing we found was a big puddle, the ground is low here and the run-off pooled to create this large pond-like water feature. We walked around it.

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We quickly discovered this path went parallel with Groat Road, something I had never walked or run on before.

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We made our way towards the new bridge that spans Groat road and is part of the Edmonton Marathon route. The old bridge is the one I broke my foot on during my very first half marathon… good times.

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Once we made under the bridge we found the path to be icy, and I was not in the mood to fall so we turned backed. I might come here in the summer and walk over to Coronation Park to explore.

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What I didn’t realize in all my years living in this city, there is an upper trail – who knew? (apparently every other Edmonton Citizen but me) It takes you by the toboggan hill. Up that hill is Government house. I always fantasized about living there as a kid and having this be my toboggan hill. Canadian Dreams….

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It is steeper and higher than it looks. But could you believe it was closed?

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We kept heading west with the intention of heading to McKinnon Ravine but as the trail combined with the lower tail, the water and mud was more than I wanted to let my white dog wander through.

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We began walking East towards the parking lot and decided to sit and enjoy the sun on our face.

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We were watching a flock of mauve/grey birds flit around when a Peregrine Falcon swooped in and crashed the party.

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Also bigger than it looks.

We headed up to Government House – the actual House. It is located on the old Royal Alberta Museum grounds. Government House was originally build as the residence of the Lieutenant Governor. That did happen for long and it soon became a meeting place for caucus. I toured it once and learned it was haunted, but I always fancied myself living here and it was the backdrop to many of my imaginary adventures.

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The now empty museum is such a beautiful building, I hope they do something amazing with it.

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It was a great day for the park adventure, but the mud was more that I had hoped for. I think I will wait a few more weeks before venturing deeper into the valley. I have a few more parks to visit to complete my river valley adventure:

  • Emily Murphy
  • Hawrelak
  • Buena Vista
  • Laurier
  • Rundle
  • Hermitage
  • Riverdale
  • Victoria

I have been to 10 (11 if you could Strathcona Science Park) I am over half way now. It should be a good summer!

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Upper Mill Creek Ravine

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I have been house bound for days. Partly due to illness and partly do to…who are we kidding, I was sick in bed for 5 days. I was feeling slightly better by Friday and today I felt slightly better than yesterday but I then came down with a serious case of Cabin Fever.

I decided to bundle up me and my pup and head to my most favourite part of the city, Upper Mill Creek Ravine. You may recall this summer, I went to the lower creek, north of the pool. Well,my favourite spot is south of the pool in the Argyll and Hazeldean neighbourhoods.

Did I mention how cold it was? I was in the kitchen drinking hot chocolate, you know the kind made from Ghirardelli and milk on the stove? Yeah, THAT kind. So delicious. When I said to my Captain, Want to go for a walk? His head snapped back so fast you would have thought we had not done this in a while. Wait…I hadn’t been at a park with him since November at the Science Park…Sorry Cap.

We both put our jackets on because it is cold. Fahrenheit on the left Celsius on the right. The wind made it feel colder -12F and -24C, that to me is the real temperature because feeling is everything.

Mill Creek Ravine is my happy place. It is the place I go when I am sad, happy, angry, resentful, disappointed, or any other myriad of emotions. I enter and become instantly relaxed. I kind of needed that today. Lets just say I am filled with complex emotions that need sorting out, so off I went.

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The upper trail is groomed and paved. The off leash dog park is way down in the gully. That is where Cap and I were headed. Not that I can trust him to be off leash, he is independent minded so I am not really sure he would come when I call him or if he would just say, “You know what Peasant? I miss living in the woods, I am out of here.” Now I am all for independent thought but I’d rather keep him safe with a chance at a long life rather than struggling to live in the wild, so I keep him on a leash. I do let him investigate all the great mouser places and animal dens. One day I am sure he will find a skunk hallow and then I will be sorry, but until then, it makes me happy watching him be happy.

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Happily there isn’t a lot of snow so far this year. That makes trekking easier and there hasn’t been any freeze/thaw cycles so no ice. This makes it safer for me who is prone to falling.

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Mill Creek trail is built on an old railway bed, so there is a converted trestle farther north, I am not convinced that what this is, it doesn’t seem sturdy enough to hold an old steam engine, but it is built in the old tresses style and is a lovely bridge over the creek. Obviously at temps that have been sub -20C for weeks, the creek is froze solid.

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This is part of the off-leash walk. There are trash cans an dog bag bins all through here. All they are is old grocery bags for people to use. There is zero excuse to be a lazy pet owner. I bring my own eco ones attached to Cap’s leash.

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Lots of pets with their people come down here. If my Real Estate agent called me tomorrow to say he found me a house within walking distance to here, I would cry with joy. Who doesn’t want to live here? It is silent as if you are in the middle of the country but the convince to being 5 minutes to downtown Edmonton. To me it is perfect. I have been down here and have spotted deer, the occasional moose, falcons, hawks, eagles and coyotes. I have heard of a bear sighting once and know there are porcupines and skunks with the odd badger but my trusty pal looks after me.

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After wandering around for about an hour I asked myself why I wait so long to come back? It clearly the best place I can be.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Strathcona Science Park

I don’t know about you, but I have had a tough week. I have faced disappointment, heartbreak, painful memories and helplessness. In an effort to keep from raging I decided to visit a park that I had not been for 30 years. Truthfully it was a place where a lot of my demons live and I thought I should lay them to rest one and for all.

I packed up my pup and headed straight north from my home to Strathcona Science Park. Its not an Edmonton River Valley park, but I am counting it as one. It is within driving distance of the city , it is situated directly east of Rundle Park an the east bank of the North Saskatchewan River. But this park is a Provincial Park.

The irony of my laying my demons to rest is this place is already dead. It has been all but abandoned by the Province in an effort to push the economy forwarded. So 28 years it has been a derelict site with the exception of the mowed grassy paths. An odd juxtaposition with the cracked and damaged paved paths. I was not in the head space to really research what happened or what is was or event what its future was supposed to look like, but the Globe and Mail did and you can read about it here.

I was here to find a way to live in the moment, forget about my future and let the past go. I am getting quicker at it than I used to, focusing on the now has become a tool I use to live a stress free existence. I am not pro level but I would say I have moderate success with the now.

Cap and I pulled into the park at 3:00 pm and it felt like the sun was beginning to set. Well, it felt that way because it IS beginning to set now at the time. We are one month away from the shortest day of the year and darkness is beginning to seep into all the nooks and crannies. The sign has not changed since I worked here at the ski hill in 1985.

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Cap and I drove to the left of the sign and found parking near the abandoned pavilion. He was super excited to be somewhere with new smells and deep grass to explore.

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There was a real bald prairie feel to this park. Granted, the trees have sprouted up since I was last here, I remember this place feeling hot and oppressive under the blazing sun when I would ride my bike from Sherwood Park, this place would be part of my journey to connect with the river valley trail system where I would cycle all day on a Sunday.

The Downtown core seemed far off and remote. I know from running experience that I am about 18-20km away from City Hall. I’ve run it and find the valley the very best part of being an Edmontonian.

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As we came closer to the edge of the ridge, the North Saskatchewan River came into view.

We turned south and headed towards what appeared to be paved paths the circled the pavilion.

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This is one of the coal mines sites from the clover bar coal seam. Signage let me know I might be able to find remnant from the mines, in the 80’s there were 5 archaeological digs happening here. I have no idea what they found.

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I was standing at #10 Milner and Shoeman. My journey took me all the way to the end of the path at the loop along the river bend.

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I remember this being grassy prairie in 1986, it looks like it was left to naturalize over time with the aid of planting in 1999.

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This guy became tired of mousing and does what he does best – survey his land. All of it is his in case you did not know. Across the river is Rundle Park and to the left is Goldbar and Goldstick parks where my journey began earlier this spring. I still have 4 parks left to visit before my goal is complete. I will save those and pick them on sunny days.

The walk back to the car really showcases the prairies. Alberta is as diverse in its landscape as it is beautiful.

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It looks peaceful but the sounds from the surrounding industrial was loud and obnoxious. It was strategic on my part to not to photograph the refineries.

Will I be back? Doubtful. It no longer holds the demons I expected. Clearly I did indeed let those go. As I neared my car, the anger and rage I was feeling towards my week subsided. Nature does that for me. As the song goes, I have that peaceful easy feeling.

Edmonton Tourist: Kinsmen Park

Hot day in the city and everyone thought it was a great idea to head to the valley. My first thought was to head to Emily Murphy and walk back along the river to Kinsmen but there was no parking to be found. In fact there was huge lines of traffic trying to enter the 3 major parks that surround groat bridge. So Cap and I headed east to Kinsmen to try our luck.

  
Parking was not much better but I did find a space in front of the John Walter Museum. Walter owned a brick manufacturing company and the ferry that transported people a horses across the river from Strathcona to Edmonton. Today was the 160- something birthday of Ann Walter so the museum was serving up tea and scones to celebrate!
   
   
Cap and I passed. He was more interested in finding chickens. We could hear them in the coop but I kept him away because his hunting instincts kick in and I was not up for a wrestling match against my pup and his favourite meal. So we walked along the path looking at the homestead of Walter and his two homes there after.

   
   
   
    
 
We past many actors who were polite and friendly. Many people were drinking tea on this hot day.

We made our way towards the Highlevel Bridge and walked around Husky House (the Husky Football Club) and the ball diamonds. The last time I was here was for the Run for Pie which was delicious. 

   
 
My kids always called this the Blue Park. Apparently this was because of a big blue slide. We used to come here for Friday Night Picnics, play at the “Blue Park” then head to the castle to swim before bed. 

The park has been completely refurbished since my adult children were young. I had a fleeting wish I had grandchildren to bring here. It’s now Kinpark and is bear themed. It’s reminiscent of Goldbar’s Moose Meadow complete with No Moose Allowed signs.

   
    
    
    
    

Cap pulled me along to Queen Elizabeth Pool. It used to be up the hill at Queen E Park but this is a perfect location for an outdoor pool.

   
    
   
It is located across from the Kinsmen Recreation Centre that holds a special place in heart. Lots of amazing swim memories here. 

  
As Cap and I walked  away, we saw the Street Car glide across the Highlevel Bridge. Apparently it is the highest crossing in western Canada but I didn’t fact check. 

   
    
 We also found the Alberta Legislative Building or Castle as my kids liked to call it, peeking out from across the river. 

 
As Cap and I made our way back to the Car, we noticed how the new Walterdale Bridge will dominate the skyline in the valley. I quite like it.  

 
This is still one of the best multi-use parks in the city. Come give it a visit! Next week is Canada Day, so I think I’ll cross the river and head to the ledge for the festivities and check out that park.

  

Edmonton Tourist: Queen Elizabeth Park

I have not had the time to spend an hour so on just me. I find that incredibly sad. So I packed up my dog and we headed north towards one of my most favourite parks of all time.

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This park has been off my radar because of the construction on Walterdale bridge and road. The park sign is gone, so perhaps this means a new sign and park update is on the way.

I parked up by Skunks Hollow and if you told me I could live anywhere I wanted to with money being no object, Skunks Hollow would be the place. It is perfect. Your back yard is Queen E park, you have views of the river and you are walking distance to all the best places in Old Stathcona and Garneau!

I walked towards the path I never take because this park is my Friday Night picnic park, or it was. Now that the kids are grown those do not happen anymore. This park is filled with memories that I have shelved for a while. It has my bench, the place I would come for quiet contemplation. MY BENCH is filled with regret and a lot of shouldofs couldofs wouldofs. I made poor choices sitting there. Good ones too but the bad ones were doozies. Thankfully I am smarter now. You can barely see my bench but is it there hidden in the shadows.

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The playground where my children and their cousins learned to take risks while the adults watched between splayed fingers.

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Glimpses of the river is harder to see now that the trees are overgrown and lush. The rain we have had lately has really made the valley gorgeous.

When Cap and I got to the end of the road, we took our life into our own hands and crossed Queen Elizabeth Road to get to the west side of the park.

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We walked past the old pool that is now gone and a headed to the hill crest to view the new bridge in all its glory.

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It will be an amazing structure when it is completed next year, or some year… This bridge has been under construction forever it seems.

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The city views are still beautiful here and I am sure they are nicer at night when the construction is obscured by dark.

I had forgotten how much I love this park and plan to reclaim my bench to make smarter decisions than the ones I did before. But that is the beauty of this park, it gives you time to think. You feel like you are in the middle of no where while you are actually downtown.

Next week a little Kinsmen Park exploration.

Edmonton Tourist: Nellie McClung Park

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It was a very blustery day in the city. Brush fires popping up in Edmonton (People, there is a fire ban, this means No Candles, Fireworks, wood stoves, fireplaces or campfires of any kind. Alberta is BURNING. Stop and give your head a shake because I will report you in a heart beat.).I was at Run Club this morning and had intended to walk over to Nellie McClung to explore before I went home. But I didn’t have The Captain with me and the guilt I felt was intense. So I went home, ate breakfast, had a nap and then asked my pup if he wanted to join me. He of course said yes.

Park # 6 on my quest to visit every River Valley Park in Edmonton this summer. Nellie McClung was one of the Famous 5. The women who spearheaded the Person’s Act, ensuring women would be considered people under the law. I often have to remind my bank this, especially when I wanted to withdraw money from my American Savings Account. I made an epic scene and reminded them that is had been 100 years since I was a declared a person under the law and HOW DARE they suggest I need the hubs permission to do ANYTHING….but I digress…

Nellie McClung is a tiny park located on 99 Street on the south side of the river. Sandwiched between Cloverdale park ( not listed as a River Valley Park – weird) and Queen Elizabeth Park. I pulled into the Old Timer’s Cabin and parked. The first thing that struck me is the non-traditional park experience. There was no picnic tables and and no wood stoves for picnics. I only found 1 bench and it was occupied by a friendly fellow who was clearly living off the land and spoke to his invisible friends but still managed to smile and say hello.

I use this trail a lot ever since that day I got lost and added an extra 6km to my route. Construction of the Walterdale Bridge made things complicated that day but I found a beautiful and peaceful trail as my reward. Since then, I prefer this route back to Run Club rather than the loud and noisy 99 Street.

Cap and I new if we turned north, we would be out of the park, so that doesn’t count as visiting. We headed south west towards Skunks Hollow and Queen Elizabeth Park.

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I stepped off the path to get a closer glimpse of the North Saskatchewan River. It was a beautiful green today, it looked as though it was filled with Glacier Flour, the silt that makes water green.

5 minutes later, and we were at Skunks Hollow. Well, that was the shortest walk ever.

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This is where I would move if I had my pick of anywhere in the city. It is perfect. Overlooking the river valley and has 2 parks in the backyard. Perfection. Plus, I really don’t think there are a lot of people who know it is even here.

Cap and I turned back in search of the road less traveled. After visiting 5 other parks, I have learned walkers have access to places that runners never visit. Little hidden gems that are nestled out of view. Nellie McClung did not disapoint.

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I decided on the road more travelled than the less traveled but still less travelled than the paved main path. Much safer for me because when Cap gets excited, he will drag me to my doom. I didn’t feel like swimming today so I stuck to the less precarious path.

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I was thinking about how every other park had a little gem tucked away when I came to this scene. A civilized tea set waiting for someone’s tea party. It was lovely and again I was thankful that my kids are not that thoughtful, I did not want to traverse down the steep embankment.

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We kept traveling along the path and found another path I wanted to explore but Cap was on full alert. Ears up, head still and then in crouch mode. He was ready to protect. It is a different stance from one of attack. So I trusted his instincts and we avoided that path. I will never know what he was saving me from, but I trust him enough to listen to him.

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By avoiding the potential peril, we were treated to beautiful river views.

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I have to admit, I live in a very beautiful city.

Eventually we intersected with the main path and we turned south to head back to the car.

Nellie McClung is lovely for exploring the river, great for runs, walks and bikes. It’s mostly a transitional park to either river crossing but it is a quiet lovely spot.

Next week, my second favourite park, Queen Elizabeth Park.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Capilano Park

I decided this week that I needed some minor goals to get me through until I can decide what I need for some long term decisions. My goal for this summer is to visit all 20 of Edmonton’s River Valley Parks. 

Edmonton’s park system is one of the most amazing things ever created. Miles of trails both paved and not snake through the valley. If the valley was not divided into smaller parks, the green system would be larger than Central Park in New York City. I think at some point I have been to all of them but I have never explored all the parks in depth. I have either run through the parks, rode my bike or paddled past in my canoe. This summer me and my trusty companion The Captain will explore Edmonton’s River Valley Parks.

  
Capilano Park is located on the south east end of Edmonton on 50th street. Directly across the street from Goldbar. I hadn’t realized Goldstick Park was part of the valley parks, or I would have started there. My goal is to visit them systematicly starting in the south east corner of the city every Saturday. 

The upper park is open green space with baseball diamond and paved trails for bikes and pedestrians alike. I drove to the parking lot to explore areas I hadn’t been before. 

  
I forgot there was a bridge leading across the river to Highlands.

  
The ice is mostly off the river with a bit of burg candy floating by. Cap and I stopped to taken in the valley. 

    
   
We turned back at discovered picnickers hidden in the trees. This would be a great spot for family picnics.

  
For some reason there are flags and a bit of an ampatheatre overlooking the river.

   
 
We discovered an off leash dog area in the woods. It was filled with squirrels and birds so Cap was pleased.  

The path was peaceful and quiet. I could hear birds singing in the trees and saw a small homeless camp. I need to make a note to bring protein bars to leave as I walk by. 

The path led down to the river bank. I hadn’t been along the water since I paddled regularly when I was 21.

   
 
Cap waded in and took a drink. He avoids water so this amazed me. I stood on the boat launch for a long time taking in the amazing weather for April. In Edmonton it is normally still winter. The sun was warm and the ground dry. The valley was filled with people enjoy the weather.

   
    
 
Capilano Park is lovely. Cap and I will be back