#YEG: Sole to Soul

Walking around the city inspires a soundtrack for life.

Illustration by Katy Dockrill

I am phobic about driving on snow, so it’s lucky that ours is a very walkable city. We’re known for our river valley and ravine trails, but it’s getting from place to place by foot I’m talking about. My ­amateur detective, Randy Craig, walks through a marginally fictionalized ­Edmonton, and I’ve test-stepped every one of her not-quite-so mean streets. 

It all began, I think, with Miles for Millions, the granddaddy of the “sponsor me to do something inane for charity” programs. It was a 40-kilometre circular trail stretching from Northgate to Southgate Centre and back again. I was 11 the first time I walked it. My friend and I followed the parade of walkers and, at one point, joined a group of kids with a tall old man in casual hiking gear. Like the Pied Piper, he set a pace that we strove to match until the next pledge stamp site, where lieutenant-governor Grant MacEwan gave us hugs and strode off, trailing children in his wake. We finished the route with sunburned shoulders and horrid blisters on our heels and it was worth every step; we had laid claim to our city.

Another solid Edmonton walking tradition is the transit samba; it’s that trek you take to the next and still the next bus stop, when it’s too cold to stand around waiting. In pre-LRT days, I once made it to Londonderry from the university, having just missed my on-the-hour connection. There may be a correlation between my walking habits and the dependability of ETS, but that’s another story.

My travels by foot often trigger songs specific to the particular stretches, and perhaps I’m not alone in this — maybe we’re all secretly scoring the musical that is our lives. I hummed the theme from Rocky along the path I walked to high school; “Try to Remember” is my jam when I stroll through Bonnie Doon and Godspell’s “All for the Best” tends to be my theme tune for walking 111th Street. “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am” pops into my head on the High Level Bridge, but only heading north. Southbound, it’s “City of New Orleans.”

Walking brings you peace of mind and, if you tuck in your glutes, great quads. It also brings you sole to soul with your city, its gardens, crannies, oddities, funny signs; things you miss when going faster than five km/h.

In Condemned to Repeat, the fifth in Janice ­MacDonald’s set-in-Edmonton Randy Craig ­Mysteries (Ravenstone Books/Turnstone Press), her detective actually rents a car for a week. MacDonald spends her days demonstrating and encouraging engaged ­professional narrative in the Alberta Public Service. She has hugged two lieutenant-governors, to date.

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