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.

img_5186

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.

img_5187

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.

img_5191

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.

img_5189

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.

img_5182

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.

img_5184

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.

img_5199

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.

img_5192

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: Terwillegar Dog Park

img_5065

I have been meaning to go to the Terwillegar Dog Park for a while now but wanted to wait until the bridge construction connecting the south and north sides of the river was completed. That just happened. So when I woke up Saturday morning, I had that magnetic force pulling me in that direction.

Terwillegar is not easily accessible for me. It is located in the South West corner of Edmonton and I have never felt like this was where my people lived. I am more of a central located kinda of gal even though I do not live central, I play there a lot. I visit those parks, restaurants, shops and many of my pals are centrally located so I am drawn there. South West, not so much. However, I pride myself on being familiar with every corner of my city. The Captain and I hopped into my car and we headed for this park.

Terwillegar has a reputation of being a great dog park. My dog is not able to go off his lead for safety reasons. The Captain is mostly a super a friendly dog, but he demands that other dogs respect him as Alpha. This is usually fine as most dogs are smaller and automatically accept this, but every now and then a large do comes along and Captain usually says to the other animal, “Kneel before me peasant” and if that dog does not comply, a battle will ensue. I also do not trust that Captain will come when I call him. He pretty much comes when he feels like it. Being a responsible dog owner, I know I cannot control my dog off lead, so he doesn’t get to run around the park…ever. This prevents any and all unwanted lawsuits.

img_5052

When we arrived, parking was at a premium. I managed to find a spot and looked over the field to see the pack. This park was busier than other parks I visit. Captain was pretty excited to see all the dogs racing around. I admit to feeling apprehension because of his unpredictable nature – my guy was a wild dog rescued from a reservation up north. He hunted and lived within a pack but I suspect he often went rogue. He talks to coyotes and hunts small game still. The field did not hold much interest for him, other than all the sniffing that was possible, he led me off towards the river and forest.

img_5055

This place does not do well after rain and snow, lately Edmonton has had its fair share of moisture. The place was a mud bog. My white dog sported black little legs in no time. I also was covered in mud, my least favourite thing unless I am barefoot or in wellies, I was wearing neither.

Once we arrived at the river, I could see the new foot bridge to the east of where I was. It was still a fair way off, so we made our way towards it through the woods. Huge mistake.

img_5057

I am fairly well versed in bush-wacking, this was a skill I put to good use as the trails were squelchy with muck. We tried to stay off the mud path and keep to the side for several reasons, my balance lately has been very unstable, so I did not need to slide around on the path most taken. The other reason being, I had a scheduled visit in an hour with my aunt who lived close by and I did not need to look as if I had been playing in the mud pretending I was 5. The final reason being, Captain hated baths. This guy would trapes through mud puddles as if this was the best thing in the world, but put his foot in clean water and you’d think I was punishing him for no good reason.

30 minutes of hiking through the mud and water, we finally came to the paved path that led to the bridge. This road had a think layer of muck as well. There was no place that was safe.

img_5058

After the City comes back in the spring to finish the landscaping, (add grass?) I can see this being a lovely spot, but today it filled me with regret.

img_5059

As we approached the bridge I marvelled at the engineering of this structure. Apparently it is the second longest stressed ribbon bridge in Canada, although I am unable to determine the longest. News reports didn’t offer that information. Essentially it is a high tech rope bridge. I walked across it with a fair amount of people sharing the bridge ( I wait a really long time to get a photo with out people) and I am happy to report it felt solid. The over hangs remind me of wings, giving the appearance the bridge is hovering or floating above the North Saskatchewan River.

img_5060

Of all the Edmonton Parks, I must admit this is my least favourite. The mud didn’t help, but I can certainly look past it. I doubt I will ever return but I do understand why the locals enjoy it and now with the bridge, they are connected at last with the River Valley Trail system that I am deeply in love with.

 

Then They Came for Me

Listening to everyone, you would think the world is on fire.

It is not and we are all going to be okay.

I was listening to a Scott Hamilton video this morning. He is facing his 3rd regrowth of a Brain Tumour. Do you know what he said?

“You set the tone.”

Every now and then I hear words that knock me off my feet. This was one of them. Recently – well since January –  I gave up behaviours because I lost track of my direction, sense of self and most importantly, my values.

Values encompass who I am. When I participate in activities that stray from my values I feel lost.

I value kindness. This means finding humour in someone’s misfortune is not kind. I had friends  people I knew where this was their hourly fun. I didn’t agree with it but I passively stood by. I have deep regret over this.

There is a meme traveling around the inter webs  about passively standing by.

6555364fec29caa7

This is very relevant today because of the hate being spewed by people. This isn’t new, we experience this in every decade, genocide to cleanse the earth and create superior beings.

I can absolutely relate. I stood passively by and January 16, 2016 they came for me. Granted it wasn’t a world-wide catastrophe. But I do believe the world relies on individuals standing up for right. I failed to do that for for 2 years. I stood passively by and then they turned on me.

I think this is why Scott Hamilton’s words ring so powerfully to me.

“You set the tone.”

Yes I do. I used to long before then and for some reason I did not. But this too is a learning lesson. I learned what happens when you dangerously think, not me.

My entire life I was taught to champion the underdog. It does not make you popular and perhaps that is what I wanted to experience. I wanted to know what that felt light. All I can say is for me it felt like a lie. It was stressful and hurtful and it removed me from my values.

I was 9 when the doorbell rang. A girl I didn’t know very well was standing at the door and wanted to hang out. By being her friend I knew I would give myself the reputation of undesirable. There was nothing wrong with her, but this is how the kids at school marginalized her. I turned her away. My dad called me over to him and gave me a powerful lesson in empathy. How do I think she feels right at this moment? How would you feel? What could you have done to improve this situation?

I put my shoes on and went after her. All I could do was apologize and invite her back.

She did the right thing and threw it back into my face. I deserved that and it stuck with me. It was one of my greatest learning lessons. I went back to my dad and he said, “Well, what did you think would happen?” I thought an apology would fix everything. I  learned that day it does not. That was the second greatest learning lesson of my life.

I eventually learned to balance the need for empathy and kindness between others and myself. It is easy to lose yourself. It is just as important to be kind to yourself as it is to be kind to others. I can forgive others but have a harder time forgiving myself. My passive behaviour of not standing up against bullies over the past two years taught me many things.

The most important thing it taught me was be yourself. Listen to that inner voice and follow that inner compass. It lets you know who you can trust and who you can’t. It tells you to stand up for those who don’t have a voice.

I am now that person who annoys people because I speak up when tears are streaming down the faces of others. I say things that are not popular but defend the weak and vulnerable. I cannot change the World but I can change my corner and in the end, that is all I need because that is where I live. I have lost friends people but I only want to be around people who are nice, kind, compassionate and empathetic. I encounter enough people who are not and don’t need that during my personal time.

You set the tone.

 

Adventure is out there!

I just arrived home from a much needed vacation. It took me a few days to settle into my zen-like need for relaxation and rest. Once I was feeling the relaxed vibe of vacationers everywhere I was able to see things in a different light.

img_4280
Canada Place at Burrard Landing

It has taken me a very long time to learn this lesson but I think I have finally understood it completely.

Lesson: Appreciate things as they are without comparing them to what they are not.

So what does this mean? Vancouver is without question an amazing city. Vancouver is not Edmonton. Nor is it trying to be. Just like Edmonton is not Vancouver, nor does it need to be. I love both cities as they are. Each offer a perspective and views that vastly different from each other. I can appreciate eat city for its virtues and be disappointed in them for what they lack without comparison. I have been to Vancouver many times but this time, I could see it for what it is, rather than what it is not. I love Vancouver and all it has to offer.

img_4474
Seawall at Coal Harbour

The beauty of Vancouver took my breath away while at the same time frightened me with its ugliness. The juxtaposition of the art, shiny and clean city with the dirty tent cities and homelessness was a lot to take in. Vancouver has done a great job promoting the arts and sculptures on many corners throughout the city add to its vibrancy. The views from various locations were stunning and the amount of filming for TV and Movies made perfect sense. Vancouver is without question a city diverse in its beauty.

img_4357
Set front for Once Upon a Time in Steveston (Storybrooke)

People are kind and friendly, at least the ones I encountered are. Dogs are a huge part of the lifestyle of people who live here. I spent my days greeting people with pleasant salutations and admiring their pets while I was taking in many of the sites.

img_4298

I spent time downtown, exploring the city, dipping my feet into the sea water, checking out filming locations and stumbling upon open sets and actors – famous and not so famous. I was giddy with excitement when I saw a spoiler for one of my favourite superhero shows and was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw such beauty in the landscape for which I had no words.

img_4552
Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver

I saw Orcas, Otters, Harbour Seals, Raccoons and Bald Eagles. I experienced rain, wind and sunshine. I sampled craft beers and local wines. But mostly, I enjoyed my vacation with my family because there were zero expectations and no deadlines to meet other than be sure to catch the ferry back from the Island.

img_4535
Cute little critters at Stanley Park

This was without a doubt one of my most favourite vacations. Exploring Canada in a way I had not done it before. I am happy to be home but look forward to visiting again.

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Louise McKinney Park


It was an effort finding a park that had parking space today. Anything in close proximity to the Heritage Days Festival was filled to the brim. After trying my luck at 3 different parks, Captain and I found ourselves over at Louise McKinney, another Famous 5 park.

We ran into some friends just as we climbed out of the car. They also tried to find space in other parks. It seemed everyone was wanting some green onion cakes and gelato found down at Hawrelak Park. We bid them well and made our way along the river front path.


The first thing we noticed was lovely poetry on the light posts. 


We stopped to see some rock piles and over grown grass.


It was Turtle Rock Effigy, an old Art Works festival creation from 2010. Not much to see anymore but the Pokéstop had a great photo of it.

We met several displaced men sitting on benches, all wanting to pet Cap and tell me how handsome he was. We had a lovely visit with them and wished everyone a great day. 

The trails surrounding the park were closed while LRT construction begins over at the bridge. I had visited that area earlier this year when we went to Henrietta Muirs park.

We climbed up to the Chinese Garden. Such a lovely oasis downtown. 


The park was used as a bike corridor for so many cyclists populated the park today.

I made my way to the Shumka Stage. An odd mix of Chinese and Ukrainian culture. 


And called it a day. Next week I’ll been in Calgary’s Glenmore park so perhaps I’ll explore a yyc park inset was.

Edmonton Tourist: Irene Parlby Park


I have decided to avoid the rest of the south river parks until the big festivals and events are over for the summer. The crush of people is more than I am looking for. I am enjoying peace and solitude with my Captain. Work and life has been hectic so quiet walks are what I crave.

The Captain and I headed for one of my favourite neighborhoods, Rossdale. I’m totally open to moving there because one of the city’s best kept secrets is Irene Parlby Park. She was one of the Famous 5. The group of women who fought to make women people under the law 100 years ago. 

I have run through this park many times, driving and parking was complicated. There was a ball game at Telus field so restricted parking was in effect. I found a 2 hour spot over by Diamond Park.


We walked about 500 meters south to reach the park.


We walked under James MacDonald Bridge to reach the green space I was looking for. 


It is a non traditional River valley park. There are no picnic spots or fire pits. However, there are lovely small gardens and bench spots for sitting.


Captain and l walked the path not taken along the river first with the intent to double back on the paved multi-use path.

With the river to our left we could see Nellie McClung and Queen Elziabeth Parks across the water.


I was on the lookout for Saskatoon berries but only found Mountain Ash in full berry.


We came to a fallen log that was blocking out path. A makeshift bridge was created to traverse it. It took a while to convince Cap he could make the jump.


We traveled further down the path. It felt like wilderness but homes and the formal path were only yards away.


The main jogging loop has been closed for a few years while the Walterdale replacement bridge goes up. A permanent gate blocks access.


We turned west out of the park to walk the residential block.


This led to the next park entrance and a lovely playground. 


We came to a lovely statue in the middle of a formal garden which turned out to be a Pokéstop. 


We continued north back towards the end of the park and found ourselves sharing the path with other cyclists, skaters and runners.


Such a lovely spot in the middle of the city, yet it was quiet and felt like the middle of nowhere. I’m looking forward to the trails opening up to reach Walterdale. I’ll be back, and often.

Edmonton Tourist: Whitemud Park

IMG_3623

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.

IMG_3625IMG_3628

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.

IMG_3630

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

IMG_3631

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.

IMG_3634

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.

IMG_3639

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.

IMG_3642

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.

IMG_3652

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.

IMG_3661

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

IMG_3663

I got in myself and the sky opened up.

IMG_3665

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.