Edmonton Tourist: Whitemud Park

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I am fortunate enough to know this city very well. I explore it enough that I should have a pretty good idea what is what when it comes to the River Valley. Ask me about restaurants, bars and shops. I haven’t got a clue. But the valley? I know my way around.

This week was a very difficult week for me. Emily Murphy or Hawrelak Parks were supposed to be next, but the last thing I wanted was to be amongst the throngs of people utilizing the parks. I wanted peace and quiet or at the very least, I did not want to see people I knew and make small talk or chit chat. SO I packed up my pup and we headed towards the Whitemud Reserve located south of Whitemud park. It is a lovely unpaved path that leads to Rainbow Valley, yes it is a pretty as it sounds.

We hit the park in-between rain storms. The park itself was empty and there was a wedding over at the Savage Centre, but other than the odd hardy picnicker, Cap and I were on our own. Exactly what I was looking for.

The grass was wet but fresh. There was the smell of campfire in the air. The last time my family had a picnic here I was just a kid and the park wasn’t developed as nicely as it is now. I remember watching engineering students traverse of the creek, making a bridge for one of their projects. When they fell to the water below, it was knee deep and mostly mud.

We are on the cusp of berry season. The Choke Cherries were hanging in green bunches, the High Bush Cranberries had finished blooming and the Saskatoons were not yet ripe, but the clover was abundant and Cap decided to munch on some on our journey to the path that would lead us to the creek.

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The path took us to the wide open picnic site where one family had strung a tarp and were keeping the campfire lit. It made me think of all the reasons I love camping in the rain, then I quickly remembered all the reasons I don’t like camping in the rain. Walks were enough.

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We worked our way to Whitemud Creek and walked North towards the bridge.

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This was the spot I remembered sitting as a kid watching the engineering students before the bridge was built.

I love this section of the park. I often map out a great run route that can either be a quick little 5k or as much as a 16k depending on my mood. I avoided the running trails today knowing everyone was training for the upcoming Edmonton Marathon and they were all out for their 16k or 32k long runs today. So after I said hello to the North Saskatchewan River, I turned south and headed towards the Whitemud Nature Reserve.

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The south path takes you up the the major corner of Fox Drive (Hi Charlotte!) and Whitemud Freeway. This by no means is a peacefully quiet park. There is a lot of noise from the freeway, but visually you would think you were in the middle of nowhere.

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Before I went onto the path to the reserve, I looked at the flags that were celebrating the Canadian Olympic Trials happening this weekend at Foote Field. Most of Edmonton was there for that event. Pretty exiting seeing Olympic Champions in the making.

IMG_3637Down the path I went and noticed it might be fun to do a bit of bridge climbing but I think I was not the only one who thought of that.

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Now I was on reserve land, it boarders the Fox Farm to the west.

All along the path were naturalist signs highlighting berries and other plants that grow here in the valley. Information I already knew from my Grandfather years before, only if he forgot the name he would make one up, so my information was sketchy at best until I took my Anthropology: Comparative Medicine classes in University.

We came to a fork in the road that suggested the path was unsafe from all the water we had this year.

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So we crossed the creek again, this time heading East.

We walked past Fox Stairs and the Savage Centre heading back towards Whitemud Park. A storm was on its way and by the humidity in the air and how quickly my hair was curling, I knew a lot of water was going to drop from the sky.

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We made it back to the car just in time. I watered Cap in the car instead of outside as usual.

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I got in myself and the sky opened up.

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The quiet oneness with my pup was just what I needed. This is one of the best reasons to live here in Edmonton. A major urban centre and in 20 minutes from my home I can be in the middle of the wilderness.

 

Edmonton Tourist Globe Trotter

I have spent the last 2 days, on and off, watching movies. I do not do that very often. Each movie had a different theme and message but none of those things stuff with me, it was the visuals. It was the locations. I heard myself say “I have been there.”

Sunset on Great Slave Lake

I have had the good fortune to have parents who taught me the experience is more important than stuff. I had to go through a phase of needing stuff but thankfully I outgrew that. Give me a plane ticket or a Tiffany diamond to choose from and believe it or not, I would take the plane ticket every time.

I have been places that gave me a sense of DejaVu, The Cliffs of Moher. I felt like I had been there before or lived there. Then there are places that frightened me beyond words like the strange FanTan Alley in Victoria. I have no reason to fear it but please never make me go there again. I have been as Far North as the Canadian Arctic and as far south as dipping my toes in the Southern Ocean of Australia. I have wandered around Europe and explored kookie touristy places in Nevada. I still do not feel like I have seen enough.

There are places I still want to visit, like St. Barts or New York or Prince Edward Island. There I places I never want to see, India, Pakistan or Sauria Arabia. I’d like to visit Copenhagen or Prague but I’ll pass on a trip to Seul. Places I have been to and would love to spend an entire summer would be Monterey, London, Vancouver, Inverness or Niece. Places that make me think one and done are Yellowknife, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Tacoma. I am torn at the thought of being given an opportunity to travel anywhere in the world and how where would I go? Someplace new or someplace that deserves more time exploring? How do you decide the place to visit? I have never been that girl who wishes to spend my holiday staying with people I know. I’d rather dip my toe in all the oceans and have someone with me who wants to experience new things than the comfort of same.

This concept has me planning my next vacation to the West Coast of Canada. Sure I have been there before but I now have the means to explore it without someone telling me what I need to do and how best I can accomplish it. That will also be next year’s trip. I am taking my vacation to a city I have dreamed of going to forever. Your trip will not be mine because we do not share the same interests. I have a list that I will check off. Following that trip? I think I will explore the East Coast of Canada and see an Iceberg for the first time.

Where do you love to go?

 

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: Mill Creek Ravine

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Can someone tell me why Mill Creek Ravine is classified as a River Valley Park? It starts in South Edmonton by Argyll Road and ends about 2km away from the River. It does follow the creek all the way into the valley, but it is not really a Vally park. Not that I am complaining. Mill Creek Ravine is park #4 in my quest to visit all the valley parks. This one is my favourite running spot. I am always on the upper trail beginning my downward decent into the valley because running downhill is the most fun you can have on legs.

The Captain and I began at the 2.5km mark. How do I know the milage? I run this trail a lot. The Mill Creek Pool upper parking lot is 2.5 km away from the trail head. I have run that a gazillion times and have explored the lower trails down below. But I had never been along the creek itself at this point of trail. So Cap and I parked the car in the busy lot and made a right turn towards the creek down the long steep hill.

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The hill was loose gravel and my sled dog thought running down it might be fun, except it was too steep for me to run so I fell and he kept dragging me down the slope while my feet dug in as brakes. I finally had to yell at him to stop. The cyclists behind me thought this was hilarious. I have a very strong pup.

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The first thing I noticed about this new trail I was on was the blossoms. It is super early for leaves and flowers but I will take it! I love summer and today had that “summer in the city’ feel to it.

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When we made it down the hill, I took the time to brush the gravel out of my hands and emptied my shoes while Cap explored the first bridge and the creek.

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I was surprised by the amount of people down here. The upper trail is always busy in the mornings with runners getting their long run in for the week. But this was 1:00 PM, the runners have finished for the day and the cyclists were out. Apparently this is where they come. So many trails that meander all over the place down here, I made sure to stay close to the creek. I knew it would come out at the river so I didn’t fear getting lost.

I crossed 7 bridges that spanned the creek. Far mare than I was expecting.

As Cap and I wandered around, we found some seniors playing Pooh Sticks. A game my kids like to play when they were little. It is a game you play by tossing a stick downstream and rushing to the other side of the bridge to see whose stick won the race. Cap and I stopped to cheer them on a bit. We continued on and found the River Valley Clean up Volunteers in full force picking up refuse and the trash to keep our parks lovely. I got into this habit long ago from my dad. Out walking and I pick up trash I see and place it in the bin. If everyone did this, a big weekend wouldn’t be needed every year. So THANK YOU Volunteers! I appreciate the work you do!

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A little further along the creek and we found two boys building a fantastic fort. This is something I loved doing as a kid. When I lived in Hay River we had a forest behind us like this one and I spent hours working on my home away from home. These two boys built an impressive lean-to and had benches and a cooking area. There is nothing I love more than to see imagination at work.

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We kept pushing onward and discovered a picnic area. It would be a bit of a trip to pack fire wood in, but it can be done!

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As we wandered along the creek, we heard lots of birds and saw dozens of dogs but the rest of the wildlife was scarce. Even water in the creek was low. It has been a dry winter and even dryer spring so I am hoping for some solid rain to happen for a while.

As we entered deeper into the forest the noise of the city became so distant we could no longer hear it. As always it amazes me that I can be in Downtown Edmonton and feel like I am in the middle of nowhere.

Before we new it, I could see the buildings peeking over the trees in an effort to remind me where I was.IMG_2595

I had expected this walk to be about 2km to Connor’s Hill, the road that leads to the downtown core. But because of the meandering creek, we ended up walking 6km much farther than my dog prefers. We needed to stop in the shade so he could snack on some greens and cool his belly on the damp grass. I finally convinced he we needed to walk further because the apple tree was in bloom and I wanted a a photo of the sign, proof we were here.

To cheer Cap up, we climb the paved trail back to the parking lot. This was a 2.5 km trek, a much shorter distance than the way we arrived at the bottom.

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This was my 4th park. All 4 times I have experienced something that I had not seen before. It astounds me that Edmonton still holds secrets from me. Damn I love this city!

Next up Nellie McClung Park over by the Old Timers Cabin.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Henrietta Muir Edwards Park

100 years ago this week is a big day in history for Alberta. Women received the right to vote. Women became persons under the law. That is a big deal. For all the complaining I do about how far women still need to go to achieve complete equality, I am pretty pleased I live in 2016 rather than 1916. Knowing me the way I do, I can pretty much guarantee that I was a vocal suffragette or at the very least a participatory suffragette.

Henrietta Muir Edwards was one of the Famous Five who were important figures in Canadian history and the have 5 Edmonton River Valley Parks named for them. This was my 1st Famous 5 Park and my 4th park in my quest to visit all Edmonton River Valley Parks this summer.

I was anxious to get to this park because Edmonton is in the process of adding the Valley Line through here. Soon construction will happen and the lovely little park will change because of the LRT (Light Rail Transit) slated to come through here. Evidence was clear, this will begin sooner than later. The park signage was gone and I had to dig up some internet evidence that it once existed.

The sign says Trail modifications begin April  20.

I didn’t park in the parking lot. I came from the east and parked further down in the residential area of Cloverdale. I love this little neighbourhood and have a strong desire to live here in my near future.

Cap and I began at the statue of George the Principal of Bennet School. He must have been quite the community leader to have a this area of the park dedicated to him.

This park starts out quite urban with brick sidewalks and lovely light posts. We walked across the open grassy promenade and found our way on dirt trails leading to the river.

I run through here frequently so none of this was new for me. I did notice the sounds of nature we deafening this morning. I love that I can be this close to the Edmonton Downtown Core and still feel like I am in the middle of the wilderness. The valley came alive today with birds, ducks and geese calling out to Cap, mocking him because he couldn’t reach them.

We turned away from the River and walked towards the Clover dale Bridge, the foot path that leads to Louise McKinney Park, another of the Famous 5.

 

It is April and I saw leaves budding out on the trees. I don’t know about where you live, but there should still be snow patches and no real visible signs of green for another couple of weeks.

When I run though this park, I tend to keep to the foot paths, what I didn’t realize is this is a lovely picnic spot with stoves for camp fires. I had no idea. This has been the greatest lesson for me, slowing down to take in my surroundings. I thought of lost opportunity for family picnics and made a mental note to come back once the construction began. Knowing Edmonton, they will leave this place better than they found it once the train comes through.

Captain and I walked up to the Bridge to take in the view.

Although you cannot tell, the paths were busy this morning with friends running their 20kms in training for the Vancouver Marathon in a few weeks. It was good too see so many people I know. It was a stark contrast to the deserted feeling I had last week in Goldstick Park.

I added a clarify filter to show the detail of the river valley and noticed all the ice has melted.

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The Hotel MacDonald looked majestic this morning.

The Chinese Gardens can be seen in the distance of Louise McKinney Park, a place I will visit later this summer when I begin my explorations of the North Side of the River.

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Cap and I continued exploring West towards Rafter’s Landing where the Edmonton Queen has been put on the auction block, opening bid $10, 000. Its a fixer-upper with limited traveling ability because of the sand bars on the river. I never did go for a trip via Edmonton Queen, but I have paddled down in my trusty canoe. If you ever get the opportunity to see the valley from that perspective, I highly recommend it.

Captain had a run-in with a protective gander and the two of them go into a bit of a scuffle. Luckily for me, the gander flew off because it was all I could do to hold my dog back from a tastily snack. I think the goose realized this and decided to save himself, so he and the missus flew off in unison while I stretched out my shoulders. My Pup is a big boy who is stronger than I in situations like these, but I managed to keep him at bay. I then spent the next half hour picking burrs out of his fur.

While I didn’t expect to learn or discover anything new here at this park because I frequent it regularly, it did teach me to always expect the unexpected. Give the park a visit before it changes on the 20th.

Next week The Captain and I will visit my favourite running path Mill Creek Ravine Park, but as usual explore path not travelled by me.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Goldstick Park

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Park Number 3 in my quest to visit all the Edmonton River Valley Parks. I visited Goldstick for the first time in my life. Pretty impressive, because I have lived here most of my life AND I run/walk regularly through the valley. Yet I had never been here. After visiting, all I can say is, “Mom! THIS should have been the park of my childhood, the hills alone would have my brother happy…and tired.”

Goldstick Park was named after a Cecil “Tiger” Goldstick, a local athlete and sports caster here in Edmonton. His tireless work for Sports Central, helping kids with out the financial means acquire sports equipment, endeared him to the city as a builder or communities. Something that Edmonton has an abundance of. People coming together to help make great and lasting legacies for the community.

I must admit to being slightly frightened about coming here. This park does not look appealing from Baseline Road and I had no idea what to expect. The fear of the unknown space or predator entered my mind. Happily, I had my wolf-boy with me. He is strong enough to pull me up hills and is fiercely protective of me. I should be solid.

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Goldstick Park is sandwiched along Refinery Road and the community of Goldbar on the East end of the city. It has been here for as long as I can remember and the entrance always left me thinking “Yuck, why would I want to go here?”

My loss. This place was filled with hills and valleys and great fort building opportunities. The kind of place that I wish I came to as a kid and worse, I missed out on bringing my kids here when they were young. It just looks sad from the entrance.

Captain and I were the only ones here. I was not surprised. Did you see the entrance?

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We found a way to what seemed to be the main path. It ran parallel to the refinery on the right.

The city had planted a large buffer along the fence of the refinery. In the summer once the leaves are out, you would never know the oil refinery is just steps away.

To the left and what is known as the upper park, is an amazing ball diamond, kitted out with DUG OUTS! I have never seen this in the city other than at Telus Field the home to  semi-pro baseball.

Behind the ball diamond is a fantastic soccer pitch. The sports fields have lights, electric scoreboards and bleachers, something that I wished for when going to my kids games. I reflected on Tiger and thought this was a fitting tribute to his memory.

There was also an Off-Leash Dog park, and in the winter, miles of groomed cross-country ski trails that spill into Goldbar Park an the bottom of this unbelievable hill.

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It is a gentle slope until its not. I was warned by a pal of mine who said he uses this hill to do hill repeats on for his track practice. No wonder that guy is fast and always wins his heats.

I let Captain lead. I wasn’t that interested about walking to the river. It was cold and out of the shelter of the trees, the wind was not kind. There were a few snowflakes in the air and I was not dressed warm enough. IMG_2348

He dragged me along the grassy ski trails that led into down to the creek. Deep in the woods, only here it has street lights for night skiing. This was also amazing!

It always amazing me at how quickly you are in the city and then suddenly you are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature’s silence. Cap made me run after Jack Rabbits, mice and Canada Geese. We heard the banging of Wood Peckers and the chirping of Sparrows in the trees. But the sounds of people and cars were nonexistent. We made it down to the creek, I think its Fulton Creek but I couldn’t find any signage labelling it.

Then the big climb. Holy heart-rate increase! I admit to being quite dizzy after all that climbing.

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Walking alone here in the valley I thought about how this place came to be. I am incredibly grateful the the Peter Lougheed Conservative government for allocating 35 million dollars of Oil Boom money to develop the River Valley Park park system. This is the greatest thing that Edmonton has ever done. Develop this space for generations to come.

While I am not sure how often I will come back here to Goldstick Park because of the hills involved, I am looking forward to coming here and building forts with any future grandkids that might enter my world.

Giant Flies and other stuff called Art

There is something lovely about a warm September Saturday.

Fall is my favorite time of year. Warm during the day and cool and crisp in the evening. It was the Kaleideo Festival in Edmonton this weekend and my friend and I went. It was an art festival. There is one thing about artists, they are very relaxed and casual.

We arrived down at Alberta Avenue just before noon. Not very much was set up, in fact, people were still setting up booths and exhibits. It was a bustling atmosphere and family friendly…just not much open.

HODA was playing on the main stage, I had heard them before when they visited my school. The food trucks were all over the place. Edmonton has take food trucks to a whole new level. Gone is the Gut Truck theme and now it is gourmet fair with tantalizing yummies. I passed and moved on to the Artist’s Village. That is where I spent the last of my birthday money. Local art that I find beautiful.

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We saw giant flies hanging from a building and popped into The Carrot, a not for profit Coffee House run by volunteers….What??? What a cool concept! We decided we needed to come back to visit this place.

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By the time we wandered the 2 blocks of street festival, we realized that we still wanted to be outside, so we headed for the City Market Downtown. I love this street market! It is my favorite Farmer’s Market in Edmonton.

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We bought spicy peanuts and butterflies, and I bought a bottle of great wine for my graduation day. The fresh vegetable smells mixed with dill and bbq was delightful. These kinds of events make me long for living close to the core of the city. I think I am done with living in the burbs. I want to step out my door and run in the valley, or walk to the market.

Out doors in the fall is fantastic.

What did you do today?