Historic Centre of Mérida, Mexico
When I left the sun was throwing long shadows from the east, and when I returned, from the west. An all-day wander around the beautiful colonial Mexican city of Mérida. The city used to be a great Mayan city called T'hó, which was taken over by three Spanish men named Francisco de Montejo in 1542, and built over using enslaved Mayan labour and limestone.
As a foreigner, so far I stick mostly to the historic centre of town, the tourist areas. The beauty of it is partly from the sun. But then there's the colour, and the huge green trees, the centuries-old churches, the narrow crowded sidewalks, the hectic dirty market, breakdancers in the park, old mansions everwhere, the historic walking tour that was a part of my all-day walk, the craft vendors, the secret courtyards. I took lots of breaks, sitting in different plazas in the shade and resting my feet, just one among many enjoying the day and each other. The city is lively, lovely, but it smells and sounds like traffic.
Location: Centro Histórico, Mérida, Yucatán, México
Length: 10 km
Date: 11 January, 2019
Night Walk, Toronto, Ontario
We had walked a lot already, roaming the city for hours at a time. After a late supper and wine at Aloette, we walked along Queen St. W. from Spadina to the skating rink at City Hall, and back to our hotel. The last walk of the day, a winter night in the city among the streetcars, pedestrians, towers and lights.
Location: Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario
Length: 1.5 km
Date: 3 January, 2019
New Years Day, Burlington, Ontario
A loop walk in the west end of Burlington, through the neighbourhoods and cemeteries just off of Plains Road, past the Austrian Club and Easterbrook's hotdog stand. Through a busy parking lot and down the trail into the wetlands of Hendrie Valley, following the path along Grindstone Creek, through what we used to call Lamb's Hollow, and across into Hidden Valley. The creek takes us from the end of one valley and through another, where we climb the hill and catch up with Plains Road again. Muddy and chilly, this walk, but lovely and long, with footbridges.
Location: Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario
Length: 9 km
Date: 1 January, 2019
Winter Solstice, Burlington, Ontario
It was a short day, and a grey day. The trees blackened from last night's rain. The sailboats are grounded, and the docks pulled out. The far shores of the bay architected by Hamilton's steel mills and the Burlington Skyway. There are many trees down in the park, decomposing in the damp. This walk is one of my old routes when I'm here: through LaSalle Park, down to the waterfront on Burlington Bay, follow the trail along the shore (where it is busy with overfed squirrels, ducks, geese, chickadees, swans, and birdwatchers), up the hill through the woods, past the old brick high school I went to, and back through the neighbourhood.
Location: Burlington, Ontario
Length: 4 km
Date: 21 December, 2018
Waylaid Walking*, North Railway St., Medicine Hat, Alberta
The other side of the tracks. Every tree was planted, every brick was formed with clay and fired with gas. Old hotel signs still in place to catch the eye of long-gone train travelers. Windows bricked up or boarded over, but the buildings still stand. The trees still stand. Polished railway tracks still cut through town. The road stays in place as its uses change and decline. Small odd businesses in between empty buildings: arts and crafts, bars, car parts, repair, cleaning, fueling. The flour mill just a historic monument beside the overpass, as the real business now seems to be moving people to the big stores up the hill. Steamer trunk / tree trunk: imagined journey from Europe by boat, by wagon, by train, unpacking in the surprising prairie wind and staying for a hundred years. The railway tracks link to a colonial past that still haunts this street. Moving natural and unnatural resources, settlers and curiosities, indentured labour, buffalo death, grain and fuel, bricks and dishes. The tracks are a direct, if limited, line through time and space.
* "Waylaid Walking (inspired by Walter Benjamin's practice)" proposed by Charlie Fox is Walk 49 from the book ways to wander edited by Clare Qualmann and Claire Hind (Axminster, England: Triarchy Press, 2015). This international walk was one of a series organized by Blake Morris of A Wander is Not a Slog; it was walked on the same day in Manchester, England by the Loiterer's Resistance Movement, among others.
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta
Length: 3 km
Date: 2 December, 2018
Trail Walk, Redcliff, Alberta
After several days driving and several days sitting around, I was fairly desperate for a walk. Starting off through the neighbourhood, I picked up a trail that took me along the rim of the coulee, between chainlinked backyards and the steep hills sloping down to the river valley. It’s spacious, Alberta, so much bright sky and land, long views, flat horizons. The trail winds down the hill and loops through the coulee, coming up alongside the South Saskatchewan River. The ground was muddy and patched with snow, cottonwood trees hulked along the shore, the river was full of ice and light. Hills are scarce around here, and walking up out of the valley made my legs sing. A few dogs and their walkers. A field full of Canada geese. Beaver, magpie, rooster, horse.
Location: Redcliff, Alberta
Length: 9 km
Date: 20 November, 2018
City Woods, Hamilton, Ontario
An after-work walk on a stretch of the Rails-to-Trails pathway between Hamilton and Dundas. It’s a lovely place to walk, away from traffic, through the ravines and tall trees that are typical of this part of Ontario. We saw city wildlife - a deer flashed its tail and ran downhill into the brush, a rabbit never breaking its frozen crouch. Half the trees were bare skeletons against the dimming sky, and half still flaunted their fall colours. We walked and talked as darkness fell earlier than it should have.
Location: Hamilton to Dundas, Ontario
Length: 3 km
Date: 7 November, 2018
Old Quebec City, Quebec
I love this city, the age of it, the architecture, the French. Taking a break from a cross-country drive, needing to move my stiff legs and aching hip, I set out for a stroll. It's a magical place, and I was happy to be there. No matter how aimlessly you walk, all streets seem to lead to the Chateau Frontenac and the promenade overlooking the St. Lawrence River. I picked up speed along the Promenade des Gouverneurs boardwalk. In the distance a silver autumn light joined the river and the slate grey sky. Skirting the Plains of Abraham, alongside the Citadel, down to the 17th century wall that once surrounded the city, and back into the narrow streets full of cafes and restaurants. I grabbed a café au lait, but had no time left for lunch before I headed west again.
Location: Vieux Quebec, Quebec City, Quebec
Length: 4 km
Date: 4 November, 2018
Freshwater Bay, Newfoundland
It had rained all night and the woods smelled amazing. The trail was springy, with boardwalks over the wettest parts, and downhill all the way in. It opened onto a view over Freshwater pond, the bay, up the coast, and out to the ocean - the opposite view of our Southside Hills walk. A tea-coloured river tumbled out of the woods, which we crossed on a sturdy footbridge. We stepped from boulder to boulder across the barachois. Water everywhere, underfoot and in the air, out to sea and up in the woods. Maybe it feels good because we are also mostly water. The damp grey days are beautiful out here.
Location: Freshwater Bay, near St. John's, Newfoundland
Length: 5 km
Companions: Stephen & dogs
Date: 29 October, 2018
Brigus Lighthouse Trail, Brigus, Newfoundland
It was a glorious day, full of bright light and subtle colour, all backed by the blues of Conception Bay and sky. Time constraints kept us from hiking the length of the trail to the lighthouse, but we walked far enough for a good view from the headland to the north-east of Brigus. A stream ran across the trail and downhill into the sea. The light playing with moving water and the sound of it made us sit still in the sunshine for a little while at the intersection of trail and stream. A poet was walking the trail that same day, as we learned at a poetry reading in the rain the next day. The threads that weave us loosely together were evident that weekend, running long, colourful threads across space and through time. The ways we are woven into each others’ lives, even when we don’t really know it. The surprising red of blueberry bushes.
Location: Brigus Lighthouse Trail, Brigus, Newfoundland
Length: 4 km
Companions: Karen, Cathia, Evelina
Date: 27 October, 2018