Taking in Our River Valley
By Eugene Ip
I don’t remember when the fleeting moment first hit me while driving. I paid sudden attention and realized that I was at a most spectacular vantage point where Edmonton’s river valley shows itself off most wonderfully. Flowing glacially in a traffic jam of metallic snails, I am a mesmerized sightseer in the comfort of my vehicle, just letting the sweeping river valley panorama impress me for a prolonged IMAX sensation. It calls to mind sitting on a cushioned museum bench and staring for the detailing in an art exhibit.
The lookout is Scona Road at its high point looking north. There, the vista of Edmonton’s core river valley in the widest possible angle folds out in a blink from a relatively unremarkable streetscape just a moment ago. One can truly talk about it as a vantage moment, as the visual drama the vantage point offers comes from experiencing something awe-striking jumping out unexpectedly around the proverbial corner.
At the far side, on top of a natural pedestal – thanks to the deep North Saskatchewan valley – the city skyline exudes an air of self-importance for our city’s corporate forces and a social sophistication becoming of a northern metropolis. The Old Timers’ Cabin sits on a plateau to the left off Scona Road, overlooking the Muttart Conservatory pyramids to the right; and together, the heritage log house and the ancient-Egypt-inspired glassy contemporary forms create a visual statement of the city’s evolution from a storied past to a stimulating present. Driving down Scona Road hill toward the labyrinth of roads and bridges going in different directions up toward the city’s downtown core, one notices houses nestled in small forests.
The Scona Road vantage point somehow inspires me to think of nature around me in fanciful ways. I’ve drifted off to imagining the river wilderness in its pristine manifestation. On my mental silver screen, the North Saskatchewan moves with a low but clearly audible roaring undiluted by noises and sounds of an urban world; wavy lines of fast forward motion and turbulent swirls push the determined river to its destiny afar; birds gawk in mid-flight over the river; and high cliffs on both sides play bleachers for a perpetual full-house of foliage inspecting the eternal watery migration below.
My favorite time to look at this river valley landscape is during a deep freeze. Driving in the area during winter months, I have succumbed to the lure of the vantage point and taken detours so that I can be on top of Scona Road for a special wintery show. When the atmosphere behaves in extreme wintery conditions of Siberian notoriety, the Scona Road lookout offers up the city’s river valley behind a curtain of dense ice fog; then everything real and living seems to be set in place by a translucent overlay of sandy crystals of the finest grade. For me, Edmonton suddenly transforms into a piece of fine art in its most striking form, and a drive down Scona Road becomes a guided scenic viewing from a spectacular vantage point that is the best reason to call Edmonton home.