By Kelly Jordan
As spring blossoms into the wondrous beauty that is the Canadian summer, Edmonton becomes smaller and smaller, not literally but in the sense that every road, every park and every trail seem that much more accessible as well as developed and gorgeous. Armed with nothing more than our bikes and sheer determination, my 15-year-old brother (Cory) and I scale the hills and the lush forests that engulf our city. Not out of boredom and not for the endless stories that accumulate with each journey, but out of pure amazement with the landscape and the placement of the natural (and man-made) structures that surround our bodies as well as our minds.
We’ll often start by pedaling down the busy, yet familiar, 95th avenue. The slowly decaying light from the evening’s sun gives us just enough motivation to make haste, yet absorb every second of the fading day. When the road cuts off, we find ourselves encircled in mesmerizing architecture that one can hardly imagine, houses look more like pieces of art built to display rather than spaces to live in, but still, we carry on. We search through the distinguished area overlooking Hawrelak Park (from the opposite side of the river) for the path we desire. This often depends on our moods that follows us through out the day, for example if it was an awfully stressful day at school we would find ourselves picking a trail with the most stretched out downhill section to relieve tension and just fly through the freshest air imaginable. When soaring down the forested pathways we will pull to the side every few minutes to wipe the gnats and destroyed spider webs out of our hair and eyes. We don’t mind. Ever so often a garter snake or a lone rabbit will cross our path, one time we even came across a wild coyote. In our minds these moments seem to last hours, however it is a matter of seconds and we arrive at Hawrelak Bridge.
The faded silver bars that compose the railing draw our hands to it like magnets to create the “dinging” effect that only a biker can relate to. “The view is magnificent!” we often hear pedestrians boasting, this is the truth and we will often agree with them showing the common courtesy that any Edmontonion has grown accustomed to. After 10 or 15 minutes of taking in the sight, smell and sound of the free waters we know as the North Saskatchewan River, we re-embark on our expedition, this time to the east side of the river. We skip Hawrelak Park; not because it isn’t good enough for our current journey, but because of the anticipation that could potentially become a checkpoint to be used for another adventure. We immediately head to the right after the bridge back into the security of the birch- and spruce-filled wonderland.
This part is our destination as well as the climax of the journey for 2 reasons: A very long stretch of the river (all the way to the stables next to the Quesnell Bridge) can be seen from our secret perch that is located across from the off-leash dog park; it is also breathtaking because it is the highest point in our journey and we must use caution because it lays right before a cliff that leads directly into the river. If we were to indulge and follow this slowly declining path right down to the river, at one point in time, you would come across a man-made swing rope that once stood because someone took the time to enjoy their city in the best way possible.
This is the philosophy my brother and I try to parallel: Edmonton is a city of many wonders, its beauty is obvious and the time and effort of every hard-working Edmontonion can be seen by locals and tourists alike. The trick is to find your own escape or “swing rope” that makes Edmonton your Edmonton. The river and the paths that weave in and out are what most elegantly define my city.