Author Archives: Donna

Not My River Valley

Where you at, Cloverdale Footbridge?

For the first time in months – many months – I walked in Mill Creek Ravine (on Monday, after work). I totally neglected it during the winter, and most of autumn. Sorry Mill Creek. You know you are still my favourite ravine.

Hello I love you, Mill Creek Ravine

Since the last time I was down there, many things have changed, and not for the better. First surprise, Wild Earth Bakery is closed, and so is Wild Earth Foods (formerly IGA), my grocery store for two decades. How very sad. I feel like I dodged a bullet by choosing not to move back into that area, but I feel very sorry for those who still live in this beautiful, walkable neighbourhood two blocks from Mill Creek. Although the bakery had many incarnations over the years (it was a pharmacy in 1990 when I moved there, and then a video store), it became a real meeting spot for locals in the ten years of its existence. I have many fond and delicious memories of the trail mix cookies that I would often treat myself to after long walks in Mill Creek. Developers are building a couple of high-rise towers on that lot, so the small businesses are not wanted on that inevitable voyage.

After that shock, I carried on through the familiar houses on 89th, but did not see Godzilla in his pot, where he should be this late in spring. Did his owners move too? Jesus Christ.

Mill Creek Ravine (south) is thankfully the same, as far as I can tell. Still beautiful. Still deeply familiar. Also, very dry. There are lots of tiny green things that will become big green things once we get some more rain. The creek is not too low, so we’re not in a drought, but the dominant colour is still brown.

From the bridge, facing south

From the bridge, facing north

Once I crossed the pedestrian bridge over Connor’s Road, that’s when things started to change BIG TIME.

Lots of trees cut down on both sides of Connor’s Hill, and there is already some sort of structure below the hill beside the Muttart, probably the LRT station. No more running down, or up that hill. And so the only path left is around the ski club, through the Muttart parking lot, and up the pedestrian bridge over 98th. But only so far. The path has been narrowed and curved, so instead of walking into a canopy of green at Henrietta Muir Park and the Cloverdale bridge, it’s a construction site leading commuters back onto 98th.

It was jarring to see the site. I won’t go into what a devastating loss I feel looking over at all that ugliness, but suffice to say it was pretty awful. And in my mind, and many other minds, completely unnecessary. But, it is done.

Instead of a canopy of trees, what now greets pedestrians at the north end of the 98th street footbridge

After that, I dove back into the woods at the River Queen entrance, walking along the lightly verdant trail until I reached the Low Level Bridge. At this point, I had been walking for more than an hour and I was tired, hot and deflated, so I decided to treat myself to my first ever ride on the Funicular.

The Funicular is another thing that didn’t need to happen, but I enjoyed the ride and especially the views. As it only goes half way up (or down, depending on your orientation) I’m not sure it achieves the true accessibility to the river valley trails that was its original purpose. And, the elevator to the funicular wasn’t working, so in the end, I still walked up a bunch of stairs, but only half as many as I would have walked if this fancy escalator didn’t exist.

Walking up to the funicular


I miss my old river valley. Thankfully, it’s a long river, with many points of interest. But this area was really special to me. I knew it well. And now it’s gone.

Stella Saturday

Headed out early with Joanne, her dog Dexter, Sharon and Stella for a walk in Whitemud Ravine to see if the frogs were visible. Nope. But I heard them.

Last year, I found a whole bunch of frogs, hanging out in one of the bogs. Bog frogs.

About half way through, Sharon had to leave to keep an appointment, and Joanne followed, so I kept Stella and we carried on to the end of Whitemud Ravine south. Lots of folks down there, and Stella was good. Although, when we took a monkey trail to get a better look at a bog, Stella graciously jumped in. Several times. No frogs, no worries, and she seemed to enjoy the bog water. However, when I was dropping her off, she had one final shake in my car.

Shake it off, Stella!

Moments before shaking off bog water into my car

22C/10:00-11:30 am.

Maybe Spring Has Sprung

Look Stella, no snow in Whitemud Ravine!

I worked from home last Friday because I needed a bubble to complete an onerous task. The work itself isn’t the problem; it’s the quantity of it. A 48-page set of speaking notes for an upcoming event. Long story short, the uninterrupted time was invaluable. However, at noon, I dived into the woods with the dog. I spent the day with Stella because no one was home at my sister’s, and both of us needed the walk and the company.

Surprisingly, Whitemud Ravine was virtually snow-free. A few patches here and there, but clear on all the paths, and not muddy. I expected a lot more, because spring proper only started a couple of days earlier. Before that, mostly awful weather. The trails were beautiful and it was soul-restoring to be back walking them.

Frogless bog

Frogless bog (detail)

I wanted to see if the frogs had returned to one of the little bogs in the ravine, but alas, no froggies. No real spring smells either, but Stella’s snout was working overtime ferreting out other scents. She seemed very happy to be in the woods. She’s not the trouble-free dog that Maggie was, in the sense that she’s not entirely trustworthy. I can’t take her off the leash, and she randomly barks or lunges at other dogs, and sometimes people. Most of the time, she is pretty good, but unpredictable. Maggie was easy, but she was also old, and generally much more of a people person. Stella is more insecure and introverted. The poor dog was abandoned at the age of six, and Sharon thinks she might not have been adequately socialized with other dogs, so it’s not surprising Stella has a few issues.

Still, she’s a beautiful doggo and a wonderful walking buddy.

Snow goose? Duck? Dunno…

And you are?


A River Revealed

Monday, April 23

Thursday, April 19

Wednesday, April 4

And suddenly, the river is open! Suddenly, in terms of what amounts to a weekend. Not suddenly, when you realize spring arrived on March 20, notable only for its absence. Still, I am grateful for the beautiful day and weekend we had, which consisted of rain (but not snow) on Saturday and hurricane-force winds (but sunny!) on Sunday. I was going to take Stella for a walk on Sunday, but she was limping and I was working, so we played in the backyard instead.

Today, for my 40 minute walk home – gorgeous, warm and calm. I took the Groat Bridge route to see what this first day of a three-year construction project would like, and it was no problem. The pedestrian path is not yet affected, but it will be. As for the traffic, it’s one lane each way. This won’t be a fun rehabilitation, but hopefully, this route will be accessible in some form for the duration. I will be taking other routes for the rest of summer.



New Walk

Emily Murphy

These photos were taken on two separate days, one bluer than the other. My iPhone camera died for some inexplicable reason half way through my first official river valley walk home in the new ‘hood last week. I think it was just too damn cold. Today, I walked the same route and my camera was warm and compliant.

A frozen April river

I have to say, it’s not a great commute but it’s a commute, on foot, and that’s what matters. The problem is that it’s mostly in traffic. Down Saskatchewan Drive, over the Groat Bridge, up Victoria trail and then a set of stairs to 121st. It takes 40 minutes and less than 10,000 steps. This, I think, will be a walk I take in the winter and when I need a good, but not a great walk home. Once the river valley trails melt, I’ll take the woods. I also need a new pair of running shoes. I used a really old pair today because I threw out my shoes from two years ago that developed toe holes and were basically unwearable (or so my toes tell me). I usually try to get a new pair of running shoes every year, but I just didn’t last year.

I am not sure I feel settled. I haven’t landed yet in my new place, if that makes any sense. It feels like a home, and a nice home, but not my home. I don’t know why. I think I need to walk around more, get acquainted with the access points to the river valley. I kinda know them, but further east (Strathcona) and further west (in Glenora), not Oliver. I think it will come. I hope it will come.

A view from Oliver

The weather in April and most of March has been horrendous. Until today. It was above zero for the first time since the beginning of the month. I haven’t walked much, or really, at all. This weekend, I think the book dust from the boxes set off some sort of reaction and I was woozy all day Sunday. I walked to the grocery store, and the blue sky and warmth-averse sunshine felt great, but I had to make it short. This is worrisome. Am I just dead dog tired of packing and unpacking boxes (yes); am I really allergic to dust (probably not); or am I having some sort of psychological reaction to my acquisitive book habits that seem less of a good thing now that I’m having to sort, shelve, recycle and possibly re-home them? I feel overwhelmed, and strangely antagonistic to my horde.

But I digress.

I feel much better today. I hope this is the beginning of…or the return of…a new walking phase in my life. And possibly fewer books.


A Dubious Saturday

Was over at my sister’s place on Saturday to take Stella for a walk. The original intention was to drive us to the Whitemud trail head in Westbrook and hit the ravine under blue skies (wishful thinking), but the meteorological gods had different plans, presenting us with life-sucking rain-snow, grey skies and low visibility. Actually, the whole day kind of sucked. I was supposed to take delivery of my beautiful new sofa in the morning, but it was too big for the elevator and the stairs too narrow, so I had to switch it out for a love seat, which will arrive (hopefully) next Saturday. In any case, with my sister away for the weekend, I thought a walk with the doggie, who I miss terribly, would turn the day around but within three minutes I wiped out on the ice. Seconds later, Stella wiped out in front of me. I hadn’t even managed to haul myself off the ground yet. I landed on my elbow and my cell phone went flying. Luckily, no broken bones, but it hurt like hell. (The bruise is turning out quite nicely, however.) Poor Stella, she limped for a bit, but managed to walk it off within a few minutes. The next day, Sharon and I noticed that she had also cut herself under her chin!

This winter gets a D-. Do you hear that winter? Multiple freeze-thaw cycles, icy sidewalks and long stretches of frigid weather. You could say that’s a typical winter, but not really. The ice has been particularly treacherous this year, and long-lasting.  I, along with every Edmontonian, will be so fucking glad when this winter shuffles off to whence it came.

After the fall, the rest of the walk was OK. Stella had fun running after the ball, and at one point, she just dropped to the ground and starting rolling around, luxuriating in her snow bath. During her month-long vacay in Scottsdale with Sharon in February, her daily routine involved a play n’ splash in a local public fountain. She LOVES water, but she also loves snow. Burying her ball, leaping into the snowbanks. She’s an outdoorsy girl.

I haven’t quite returned to my daily walking commutes. There have been after-work things to do, so in the nine work-days I have had in my new place thus far, I’ve only walked home about three. Bad Donna. When I do start walking in the river valley this week, it will be with spikes.

-1C/one hour