Two weeks ago I responded to a River Valley Alliance Instagram post asking for guest bloggers. They posted my submission yesterday.
Originally posted to the River Valley Alliance blog here on January 28, 2021
Things to Consider When Planning a River Valley Walk
My name is Lisa, my pronouns are she/her, and I run a social hiking group in Edmonton. When I started “On Saturday We Hike” back in August 2020 my mission was to get outside and explore new-to-me trails outside of Edmonton. And to share these experiences with family and friends. Once the weather started getting colder and the roads icier, I knew it would be a harder sell to get folks to drive out of town for these hikes. So I turned my gaze to our beautiful River Valley, and the trail system within Edmonton. Little did I realize in those early days, that my mission would stay the same: encourage folks to get outside AND introduce them to new spots!
We’ve got a few lifelong Edmontonians (40+ years) in the group who, every week, join us to explore a new trail they’ve never heard of let alone experienced. It can be intimidating for people to try new things, especially an activity that requires a specific knowledge base or skill set. Heading out for a hike in the River Valley in an unfamiliar area is safer and more fun when you bring a friend along. Or in our case, a whole group of friends! That being said, it’s still very important to follow the current covid protocols. Safety on the trails includes masks and social distancing now too.
Speaking of safety, the On Saturday We Hike regulars are a mix of abilities and skill levels when it comes to hiking. We tend to stick to the more accessible trails, and offer “Accessibility Notes” so hikers can gauge their comfort level with the location before attending. Important considerations for all trail users include but aren’t limited to features such as: inclines, elevation change, material of the path (paved, dirt, gravel), and parking or public transit access. Most of the trails we select don’t require specialized gear, but our less mobile attendees have found added comfort and security with poles and traction aids for their boots. Otherwise, a pair of good shoes or boots, and dressing appropriately for the weather are the basic items you’ll need to get out there and enjoy the trails!
All of the above are taken into consideration when selecting future trail locations. Again, many of our Saturday Hikers are long-time Edmontonians unfamiliar with how extensive our River Valley trail system is. This breadth can be intimidating to the new user. As the self-appointed group leader I do my best to review maps, see where friends have been walking lately, and then finally do a trial walk of the area myself! Being a privileged, able-bodied person it is harder for me to recognize all of the barriers to access that can come up for a diverse range of folks. I watch how other users are interacting with the trails, and note any potential barriers for attendees. This is an area I continue to work on, and one that is highly relevant for our community, our City, and for future trail planning.
Some of our favourite trail activities are saying hello to fellow hikers, watching for beaver activity, petting cute dogs, and listening for chickadees and woodpeckers. And of course, the companionship and socializing that has been harder to come by these past 11 months. A “hike” doesn’t have to be a technically-difficult mountain terrain. There is a lot to be gained from a leisurely walk outside in our beautiful River Valley with new and old friends.
Lisa Kercher (she/her)