A Long(ish) Walk

November 10th, and the forecast says warm and sunny. It is, I suspect, the last warm day of the year, and I’m not going to waste it. The wind gusts are forecast to be 35 – 40 kph, however, so it’s not a biking day. I decide, on the spur of the moment, to walk to Riverside Park along the river trails.

Brian joins me for the first part of the walk through the Arboretum to the Eramosa River trail. We follow the paths through Wild Goose Woods, then the old gravel pit and on to Victoria Woods. It’s quiet, aside from the drumming of a hairy woodpecker, the occasional chirp of a junco, and the familiar, cheery call of chickadees. We cross College Avenue, walk up the gravel road, and turn off onto the new Arboretum Side Trail that links the Arboretum trails with the river trail. Where it comes out on Victoria Road, just north of the bridge, we part company: Brian to walk the eastern trail section out to Stone Road, I to head west towards the confluence and the Boathouse.

Lots of dog walkers out, as usual, on this part of the trail. But good dogs, ignoring me. At Lyon Park I leave the river, cross York Road, and walk up through the Ward along Ontario Street to downtown. I’m cheating a little, not staying on the river, but it saves me a couple of kilometers—and anyhow, I like the Ward. We used to live here, and its eclectic mix of houses, old stores that are now houses (some with the signs, painted on the brick, still visible), big vegetable gardens, and old factories being converted to apartments still feels a bit like home.

St George’s bells are ringing ten o’clock when I reach downtown. I’ve been walking nearly two hours; it’s time for a coffee break. My favourite café is closed for renovations, so I choose another on the other side of St George’s Square and settle down with a café latte and an almond croissant. Not too long a break, though, or I’ll stiffen up.

So it’s not too long before I’m up and moving again. Down to Goldie’s Mill Park, and now I have a choice. The paved trail that parallels the railroad tracks out to Speedvale, or the Rapids Side Trail, a hiking trail that drops down to the banks of the Speed? It’ll be rougher, and a bit rugged in places…but it’s right at the river. If there are going to be birds anywhere, they’ll be at the river. I turn onto the blue-blazed side trail.

Speed River from the Rapids Side Trail

There are juncos and chickadees, and two squabbling downy woodpeckers, and a host of Canada geese and mallards on the river. It’s hard to believe I’m in the middle of Guelph. It’s a lot more interesting than the paved trail it parallels (as much as I like biking that one!) At a marshy area a few hundred meters before Speedvale, the path turns back to meet the paved trail.

I cross Speedvale in a break in the traffic, and now I’m in Riverside Park. Slowly, because my feet hurt by now, I walk along the bank of the river, looking at the gulls and waterfowl. There can be unusual ducks here, but not this year. I make my way up to the footbridge, cross the river, and find a bench to sit on for a while. I’ve walked about 10 km, on a whim.

But I take the bus home!

(P.S. -regardless of what Google Maps shows, it took me a bit over three hours, not including breaks.)

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