Thursday, September 15, 2011

ramblings on recreational trails

Along the McIntyre on my way to work
with flowers for my desk.
2010
The other day R and I were driving down east John Street, we had just past the Junot lights and were travelling along side the shared bike lane. R made the comment that he rarely sees cyclists using that lane, continuing our on-going conversation that follows all the letters to the editor in the Chronicle lately.
We're both in favour of the bike lanes, but regularly - as with all things - discuss all angles (which is one the many things I love about us). In this case, along John Street, I can see why he wondered about users - they are a little scarce, and I know why.
First, what the shared lane there does is give people the choice: to either follow the straight forward commuter route, or connect to the recreational trail. Personally, the decision is simple: recreational trail. As I explained to R,

 "The reason you don't see as many riders using the shared lane here is because anyone who really rides in this city is in behind there (pointing beyond the houses south of John) riding along one of the best stretches of recreational trail in the city."

It rolls like a coaster along the McIntyre river bends. It's a quick trip, a fun one - there's no better way to begin your day. That was my route to work...., *fond memories* ...sigh.
If you've got wheels under your seat, (or under your feet), this trail is the one to ride. It would be a beautiful walk, but I haven't walked it since 8th grade at EQ - and people are all over it with dogs and children, so you have to be aware. That's what bike bells are for.
faces along the trail
April 2011
I stop for photos along this stretch of trail often..., sometimes I ride it back and forth a few times, then stop to take photos... . There's the river, the sunshine through the trees, bends in the path and wildflowers, but what I search for with my lens are the faces. The faces have been there for years - for as long as I've taken this path. I've never seen the person who draws them despite being there are all times of day, at all times of year. They reappear after rainstorms wash them away, and are in predictable locations, but are still each different every time - as faces are.

I remember feeling heartbroken when I learned the city was moving the trail that follows McVicar Creek behind the 55+ Centre on River Street. They were cutting down trees. Thankfully I attended the Streamwalk, and heard all about the rehabilitation and conservation that has actually gone into the project - and though a few of my favourite trees are now gone, most remain, like this group standing a little too close to the old trail:
Along McVicar Creek
2006
They're still accessible as the old trail has been adopted as a detour, smaller and hidden in the new plants protecting our pretty urban stream. The new recreational trail still has a charming flow, curving with the creek, with new trail-side trees that will someday, hopefully, stand too close to the trail.

Impressed on my memory are my morning trips down this path. I didn't have a camera back then, but took the time to take it all in, remember it, appreciate it. I knew life would change and I wouldn't always take that route, it was inevitable. I did well though because it's all still there, even the sounds of the songbirds and the way the sun - when still low on the Giant's horizon - would dapple through the trees. I don't even have to close my eyes.
Evenings too are beautiful along this trail, but my memories of evenings aren't just of returning from work; rather all the evenings spent with Hannah when she was young, learning to ride her bike, and inline skating for the first time.

Back then I lived in a location that allowed me to take the recreational trails to work in less time than it took me to drive. I'd ride most of the way with my feet up, with my camera around my neck and a coffee in my hand; I’d arrive relaxed and refreshed.
between the university and college
along the McIntyre
There’s no road rage on the recreational trails in Thunder Bay. People say good morning, smile, comment on the beautiful day, on the falling rain. Or snow, and when it does snow I’ve always found that the trails are cleared before the streets are, not to mention clean with fresh snow on the trees around. Who doesn’t love fresh snow on trees?

It’s just a really nice way to travel around this city. From Current River to Westfort the recreational trails connect to commuter routes, and in many areas weave through residential streets connecting them to commercial areas, the hospital, and the university.
to McIntyre Centre
along the McIntyre
In recent years the city has been stalling information signs: some about the urban streams, other about wildlife - birds in particular - that can be seen along the way. The people do that too, I've found. Not only are good mornings and comments on the weather welcome, but people seem to strike up conversations about things they've spotted along the path. Maybe it's because I've always got my camera in my hand, and they think I'm out hunting for the perfect shot (which I always am)..., I just think it's nice that people take the time to stop.
Drivers are always in too much of a rush, and the only talking your generally hear on a Thunder Bay street is that of jeering at jerk drivers who don't know how to use a turning signal. I find that stressful, even in little doses. Little does of these recreational trails can take away that stress. 

I'm trying to come up with a short 300 words to use to describe the recreational trails for The Walleye and find myself stumped. I could go on forever about so many little things - things that mean something to me, that I love about so many places along the way. Where do I begin? Where do I end? Pick up a map, throw a dart at it and ride there by trail? Go for a walk in your backyard..., because there's probably a trail nearby...?
Hm. 
...they make my heart go boom, boom, boom?


 ..and on that note I'm going to take a break.

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