Tag Archives: Mill Creek Ravine

Victoria Day in Mill Creek Ravine

It’s probably been six months since I’ve walked through Mill Creek Ravine. There was a time when that would have been unimaginable. That gorgeous green space running through the middle of Edmonton was just a few blocks from where I lived in Strathcona for almost two decades, and for most of that time, I was down in the ravine at least three or four times a week. I know it extremely well, in all seasons, but it’s ‘out of my way’ now in Oliver, so I have to make a special effort to get there, as I did on the Monday of the Victoria Day long weekend.

As per usual in spring, especially this spring, it was a very windy day, but once I was in the ravine, the winds became gentle, and my eyes were able to take in the amazing lime-green landscape before me. It’s about a week away from peak spring, so the leaves are still sticky juveniles and the blossoms have yet to go full petal. The creek itself is low, and in some places, the rock bed is exposed. It can go either way in spring. Sometimes Mill Creek floods, but this year, we’ve had little rain, and the creek is mostly a trickle, especially at the south end.  Still, every single dog I passed was wet, so they were finding a way. Towards the north end, the creek was more robust, and spectacularly rejuvenating to my soul. I posted a video on Instagram, saying that I went to church on Monday morning, and I meant it. Nature is truly my church. No where do I feel more at peace than in the river valley and ravines of this city.

Trestle bridge in Mill Creek Ravine

I am tree root

In June, I will have to find alternative routes for walking, especially on my commutes, as the river valley will be well and truly wormified by the annual green caterpillar infestation. It will definitely be a challenge since the part of the river valley that is most infested lies between my work at the University of Alberta and my home in downtown Edmonton (Oliver). Stupid worms. I’ve been dealing with them since 2003. If it isn’t the constant construction in the river valley interrupting my commutes, it’s those gruesome greenies.

Frog Bog!

Lily of the Valley

But back to Mill Creek. On the upper trail, I walked by the frog bog, and while there was water (yay!) and the bubble and chirp of frogs (double yay!), I didn’t see any of them, nor were they performing that weird, love-sick frog song – just regular, I’m-not-in-the-mood frog songs (to my non-expert in amphibious song-making ear). Also, I could see that the lily-of-the-valley plants were spreading but not yet in bloom. It’s the only place in the city that I’ve ever seen wild lily-of-the-valley.

May Day flowers (I think)

About 16C (in the morning)

Mill Creek in Peak

I am writing this post retroactively (and re-dated) because I forgot to post, and then I saw the photos when I was scrolling on my phone as one is want to do. Last Tuesday was nice, around 17C, so my intention was to walk home via the new Indigenous Park where the Queen Elizabeth Pool used to be, but I took the wrong path and ended up in my final destination first – Mill Creek Ravine. I’ll try again this week.

Mill Creek was of course beautiful, sporting its yellowy cardigan and still greenish trousers. I walked a loop around the lower path first, and then strolled along the upper path to 99 Street. Ingeniously, I had a dental appointment earlier in the day so rather than park at the university for 16 bucks, I parked on my old street, and so at the end of my walk I had a car to drive the rest of the way home. It was the tail end of rush hour so it took me a long time. A bus, or on foot, would have been quicker.

On the lower path in the area closest to the last bridge, slightly south of the entrance, the path has been overrun with mud and is apparently now permanently blocked off. As I often do, I ignored the signs and walked through it anyway. My running shoes got covered with mud and about half way through I was questioning my life choices, but it was still worth it. At the end, where the cement outfall structure is, the creek was stoppered with sticks, branches and a brown tangle of unidentifiable ravine detritus. No wonder that area keeps flooding. Not sure what’s happening. Further south along the trail, one of the paths has been cut off for years due to erosion (I still cross that one too). This whole area is poorly maintained, or at least to my eyes it is, so it’s doubtful that this not-caused-by-beavers dam will be un-dammed anytime soon.

Outfall looking north

standing on top of the outfall, looking south

Note: for some reason the photos were all kind of foggy, although it was not humid. I chalk it up to the fact that the pants I was wearing have really short pockets, so I had to carry my phone in my hand – hence the fogging. Or my phone is possessed. Or I’m a shitty photographer.

One other note. This month has been the coldest September on record, Tuesday’s temperature of 17C not withstanding. I hope (beg, plead) that October is mild. Bah.

A month of walks

Up Victoria trail

It’s been a good(ish) month, walking-wise, just haven’t posted anything.

Among the good news – pretty sure the worms/caterpillars are gone. Bad news – though it’s not really bad, just annoying, it’s been stinking hot. I think of June as the worm month, not the who-turned-the-thermostat-up-to-cremate month. Lots of temps close to 30C. I’m not a fan, although I own three fans, all of them operating at hurricane strength.

Enough complaining.

Since I haven’t posted, I’ll begin backwards.

I fell in love with a tree on Saturday. The spruce tree’s bark was gone in one area, exposing its soft underbelly of wood, which was bejeweled with sap.  And I mean bejeweled. It was bleeding tiny amber gems, and in the dappled sunlight, the sparkle was breathtaking. I was there at exactly the right time for the sun to catch this glorious display. I thought, oh here you are. There’s always something unique that reveals itself on my walks. Something amazing or unusual, or extraordinarily beautiful, like this tree. I tried to capture it on film, but failed. I thanked it, and moved on.

For this particular walk, I took the bus down to 100 Street, and then walked down the new staircase to the Low Level Bridge, and then east to the ski hill and over to Mill Creek Ravine.

Along the way, I observed many caterpillar damaged trees, but happily, no dangling worms. The trees will come back. The worms, however, have now transformed into some kind of moth. Not nearly as creepy.

This grove of trees in Henrietta Muir Park, or what’s left of it, has been severely damaged by the leaf roller caterpillar, but it will return to its green self by mid-July. The river valley is full of these seemingly dead trees, most of them Green Ash.

After that, a walk through Skunk Hollow – the trail where I saw the tree (and thousands more), and the beautiful little path that eventually runs parallel to Scona Road. The upper paved part of that trail is now off limits because of severe cracking, but I went beside the gate, as many others have done judging by the well-worn path. I wonder when, or if, the city will fix this? After that, I was so hot and so tired I took the funicular back up to street level.

Generally, I don’t count steps or kms, just time, but that day I clocked in at 15,000+ steps (over about two hours in total). Pretty decent.

The other walks this June have been around the ‘hood and in Whitemud Ravine with Stella. I’ve been trying to avoid the river valley because of the caterpillars, but now that they are gone, I can resume my walks home through the trails.

My beloved Mill Creek

27C (I think…) 

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

Funicularing

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.