Suddenly, Fall


Seems like an entire season has passed since I posted something here, but it’s been just a little over three weeks. In that time, or more specifically, in the last week, fall has arrived. The last week of August was cool and rainy (as opposed to the entirety of summer – which was warm and rainy). I have a few days off, and this morning we took the neighbour’s dog Teddy down to the ravine, and it was positively autumnal. Leaves along the paths, wet and cool, the sour (and evocative) smell of rotting foliage. The temperature forecast is in the teens for the foreseeable future. What happened??

Teddy on path

Teddy of the Trails

I have been walking, just not posting. Mostly, it’s been with Tom, in and around Whitemud, with lots of after-work walks from the university to Glenora. All pleasant, of course. About a week ago we went for an evening walk down to the river, which was at its highest this year. Funny, when the City of Edmonton announces that the river is peaking and for people to stay away, it always has the opposite effect. Even on that rainy evening, the banks were full of looky-loo’s like us, admiring the power of nature.

Teddy poses

Teddy poses

Up close Teddy

Up close Teddy

So much rain this summer. The grass is a deep emerald green and Sharon’s garden has never looked so beautiful and lush. And yet, the trees are starting to look dry and yellow. A sunny, hot day would largely erase the signs of fall. Above ground, that is.

Teddy of the powerline

Teddy of the powerline

Walking with Ted was wonderful. It’s been about a year since Maggie has been able to walk into the ravine, and I really miss having her beside me. Ted is a gentle giant, with piercing ice-blue eyes. He is actually a Great Pyrenees cross, but there must have been a husky in the woodshed at some point to account for those laser eyes. Though he’s a friendly doggie and happy to meet and greet the other dogs on the path, like Maggie, he’s a people person. It was no trouble at all to keep him close to us.

Teddy of the bush

Teddy of the bush

Sharon, Teddy and I took the path into Whitemud Ravine via the powerline. The bank is collapsing again, so there was machinery and workers about, putting in some kind of an emergency ‘band aid’ fix (their words) to keep the water from flooding and taking out the bridge like it did a few years ago. At the bottom of the hill just past th bridge, we took a right into the woods. The path is still lush and overgrown, but about two weeks ahead of the rest of the ravine in terms of seasonal change. The trail was soaked in rain and fallen leaves. Ted’s face and fur was beaded with moisture but he seemed very happy trotting ahead of us through the dripping bush. We even spotted what looked like some moose tracks in the mud.

Moose tracks?

Moose tracks?

By the end of the hourish walk, all three of us had soaked feet/paws. Teddy rolled in some green grass to…actually, I’m not sure why dogs roll in grass. They seem to really enjoy it. He DID NOT enjoy going back into his house, but I think we were all in agreement that it was a fantastic walk. For October.

That's how Teddy rolls

That’s how Teddy rolls



Up and Down the Hill at the Folk Fest

Bluesky Hill

Crowds gather on the first day

You can’t count the commute from car to bus to hill, and then up and down the hill over four days as a proper walk, but it was exercise of a sort, and it was in the river valley. That counts.

It’s been years since I attended all four days of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. It was brilliant. It was incredibly entertaining and uplifting. And it was exhausting. Glad I took Monday off to recover. It’s like the rest of the world disappears, narrowing to the program and what stage to go to next. About drinking in the phenomenal music. About having incredibly personal moments amidst thousands of people. About soul-stirring generosity of spirit at the workshops. It’s about master class instrumentation and singing and in several gobsmacking instances – dancing (Gordie MacKeeman and HIs Rhythm Boys).

Gordie MacKeeman

Gordie MacKeeman

It’s also about the searing heat and early mornings and heavy backpacks. It’s about uncomfortable seats and sore asses, long trudges up the hill and expensive (but oh so tasty) food. Strange burn patterns where the sun block missed. Constant (failed) negotiations with my bladder to avoid yet another trip to the portapotty. Dragonflies darting around the crowds, feasting on the mosquitoes who were in turn, feasting on bare arms and legs. Mostly, it’s about discovery and celebration. Excited conversations about the wonders seen and heard. It’s about the laughter. It’s about the music – all the incredible music. And gratitude.

Fatoumata Diawara

Fatoumata Diawara

I’ve missed the Folk Fest in the last few years, and I’d forgotten what an amazing experience it can be, especially when you experience all four days. THANKS to Tom, a regular attendee who happily insisted that I come all four days too, my head is full of wonderful music and great memories.

Oh and thanks to the food truck with the grilled cheese wedges wrapped in a newspaper cone. That was damn fine eating.

Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese

Standouts for me include: the Icelandic blues band Kaleo and their stupidly talented and hilariously deadpan lead singer; the energetic and beautiful Mali singer Fatoumata Diawara; the aforementioned P.E.I fiddle playing and step-dancing Gordie MacKeeman; the always fantastically uplifting Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir; the Senegalese Amadou Fall Trio (and his provocatively played Kora); and our last (and possibly best) act of the festival – the North Carolina (by way of Switzerland) Kruger Brothers.

The lead singer of Kaleo has better hair than you

The lead singer of Kaleo has better hair than you

My head is still swimming. Still thinking about music and conversation and grilled cheese wedges.

Sunset Hill

Today, I slept in and then went for a short but reviving walk in Whitemud Ravine, trying to land back on earth.

Raised forest floor


Thistle in Whitemud Ravine this afternoon

About 23 all weekend, no rain.

Glenora in the Evening

Glenora fountain

Glenora fountain

Another beautiful evening walk, this time around Glenora. Still hot at times, but by the end the air was cooler. They’re ripping up the sidewalks along the streets that face the river valley so there was a bit of bushwhacking but the views were unspoiled. No mozzies, for the most part. We didn’t duck into the trails. Too late, and by the time we reached the trail head, we were already about 45 minutes into the walk.

View of the river valley from Glenora

View of the river valley from Glenora

Red leaves in someone's yard

Red leaves in someone’s yard

A view from a bench

A view from a bench


Two Days Ago

Merganser mum

Merganser mum

Went for a rare evening walk on Monday night, two nights ago. It was late when we got back, and in spite of the fantastic wildlife we saw, I just didn’t have the energy to write a post. Pretty much went straight to bed.

In the 20 plus years of walking in the river valley and ravines, I’ve walked early in the morning and in the late afternoon, but as a lone walker, a lone female walker, I’ve avoided the evening hours and I never walk at night. It’s that danger thing. So many people over the years have asked how I can walk alone in the woods, and the answer is I feel safe. I’m a day walker. Tom, on the other hand, used to run after midnight all the time. It’s simply unthinkable for most females, but I can imagine how quiet and peaceful it must be, alone along the streets at night. I’m sure I overestimate the danger, but it’s so entrenched, it’s difficult to even form the thought. Not even he, I think, would run in the river valley at night.

Purple flowers

So it was very nice to walk in the evening with Tom. The light was much softer, the air cooler and more fragrant. It wasn’t raining, which is unusual these days. We saw a beaver – a nocturnal animal that rarely comes out during the day. Usually it’s their much less impressive, although I’m sure equally affable day-cousin, the muskrat. Once I put the photo on my computer I realized it was in fact a beaver mum and her child.

Merganser ducklings

Merganser babies 2

The Merganser family island property

From a distance, we saw many swallows darting at the mosquitoes on the creek. Apparently, they eat the equivalent of their body weight in mosquitoes daily, so yay swallows! I’ve never seen anything like this before. We also saw a female merganser duck and her 17 children (Tom counted). They were very clearly playing in the water, which was deep and flowing quite fast (for the Whitemud). I’ve seen ducks, many, many ducks so this wasn’t particularly unusual, but she was a very beautiful specimen with her spiky Billy Idol crest and energetic brood.

We hope to do more walks like this, at least as long as the light holds out.

Whitemud Ravine green

7:00 to 8:40 PM/21C

Goodbye Friend

Bridge feet

Tom and DonnaTom and I walked over the Cloverdale footbridge for the last time yesterday. The City is closing it down on Monday; its destruction nigh.

I have written extensively in this blog about the south east LRT (now called the Valley Line) expansion into the river valley. I’ve attended public forums, sent letters to the Edmonton Journal, made every effort to seek information and I’ve joined forces with the good, and much more eloquent folks of the Save the Footbridge lobby. I’ve considered all sides and reached a single conclusion:

To quote Groucho Marx, I’m against it.

DM on the bridge

DM on the bridge. Vandalism seems trivial for a doomed bridge.

From an environmental and aesthetic perspective, gouging into our beloved and heavily PR’d river valley makes no sense. In terms of transportation, the use of existing corridors seems both financially responsible and environmentally sound. Everything I’ve read about BRT (or Bus Rapid Transit) suggests, at the very least, we need to take a sober and genuine second look at light rapid transit.

“If you’ve gone part way down the incorrect path, that’s regrettable—but not as regrettable as going all the way down the incorrect path.”

These words were spoken by Mayor Ivor Dent in April of 1972. City council had just voted to put the brakes on an invasive transportation plan which would’ve plowed a freeway through the MacKinnon Ravine (Vue Magazine).

That was then.

Rose garden on the north end of the bridge two years ago

Rose garden on the north end of the bridge two years ago

Apple tree in the rose garden a few years ago

Apple tree in the rose garden a few years ago

Rose garden now...

Rose garden now…

There is no energy on the part of City Council to reverse or even reconsider this decision, which appears to have been a fait accompli from the beginning.

With all due respect to the bridge, it’s not the steel and wood structure that I will miss. It’s not a beautiful bridge. It’s utilitarian, and there is at least one other like it in the city (in the Goldbar area). However, the location of this bridge, in the heart of the city and the river valley, makes it irreplaceable. Yes, in four years (probably more, given the transportation department’s ridiculous track record), this area will see a new bridge, maybe even a nice bridge, but it will serve the southeast LRT, not the pedestrians who use it, not the people who live around it, and certainly not the nature that surrounds it.

Gone, the peace of the central river valley.

View from a bridge

Gone, the unobstructed view of the river valley, with the vast and quiet expanse of sky above.

Gone, the trees, plants and wildlife that made this area their home, especially the canopy of poplar trees at the south end of the bridge. In the middle of summer, it was like walking into a lush and secret grove. In the winter, like a Gorey landscape.

south end of bridge

south end of bridge

south east side of the bridge, now

south east end of the bridge, now

Gone, the City’s commitment to The Way We Green river valley strategic plan.

Gone, the rose garden in Louise McKinney Park.

Gone, the Botanical Society gardens on the Muttart grounds.

Gone, the best commuter bridge for pedestrians in the city. A meeting place, a viewing place, and an iconic and beautiful Edmonton place.

There’s not much more to say. This bridge and the area around it has given me so much over the last 20+ years. Nothing I could say could ever repay the grace and beauty I’ve received. If it’s possible to call a thing a friend, the Cloverdale pedestrian bridge was a friend.

Goodbye friend.

Bridge on a blue sky day

A list of every blogpost where I’ve mentioned the Cloverdale Bridge by name in Donna’s River Valley (which still does not even come close to capturing all the moments I’ve spent on the bridge).

River blue...

River blue…

A bridge in winter

A bridge in winter

After Work

Green 1

Found a nice compromise walk. Took the train and then the 43 from South Campus, stopping at the top of the trail head that runs parallel to Rainbow Valley Road. So I was able to walk south for about an hour in Whitemud Ravine, before emerging at the powerline. I left work at 4:00 and got home by 5:50, so that’s a pretty good walk. There was some rolling dark clouds overhead, but they didn’t disperse their goods on my head. By the time I got home, the sky was blue and sunny.

I looked forward to it all day.

Green 2

4:41 to 5:50/20C