And the landslide brought me down


It was Wednesday. 11:30am. A friend joined me at Edworthy Park for a walk. After parking our cars, we crossed the railroad tracks and stepped onto the trail leading through the picnic and playground area. We crossed the Bow River and spent the next twenty minutes talking and walking.

Shortly after 12pm, I looked at my non-smart-phone, remembering my friend had said she needed to leave at about 12:45. ‘Should we turn around?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I thought we could do the whole loop,’ she replied, ‘or don’t we have time?’ And I thought about it. I’d logged the distance of the loop on various running applications, all with slightly different answers. I had it in my head the route was about 5 miles long, as I vaguely recalled running it back in June (when I was still exercising regularly) and it took me 52 minutes to get back to my car.

We kept walking, deferring decision about whether to continue or turn around until we were close to the Crowchild Bridge. ‘Let’s just go for it,’ we agreed.

I hadn’t visited the trail since the Flood of 2013. I’d noticed construction on the north side of the river when we got back from the heartland – the trail had to be completely redone in parts – but I had not seen the south side. It seemed perfectly fine, virtually unscathed. At first. And then, as we got into the wooded areas where the trail was especially close to the riverbank, it wasn’t. Fine.

The asphalt trail had seemingly been eaten up by the water in several places where it lay collapsed and broken over the newly eroded riverbank, diverting us to a dirt path through the trees and post-flood debris. It had rained most of Tuesday and the path was fairly muddy, but we kept going. It didn’t occur to us to stop – we had, after all crossed a path entirely made of ice (whilst clinging to a chain-link fence to keep from falling) on a previous Edworthy-excursion.

We were lumbering along, chatting about kids and school and whatever else occurred to us, when a jogger passed us, going the opposite direction. ‘You’re going to need to turn around,’ he relayed the news while running, ‘you can’t get through.’ ‘You’re kidding,’ were the first words out of my mouth. ‘No, they have people there who will send you back.’ We’d walked for almost an hour at this point, we were at, or past, the three-quarter mark of the trail. Surely he was misinformed? We kept walking for a couple of minutes until we met four more people going the opposite direction. ‘You can’t go through, you have to turn around,’ they stayed on message, muttering something about a landslide.

I couldn’t fathom retracing all of our steps back to our cars. It seemed cruel. But it appeared we had no choice (save continuing to walk and seeing if we could convince whoever was sending people back to let us pass through.) So we turned around, swallowing the very bitter pill that our 5 mile walk was about to turn into something…..much more. Being the weird person that I am, my mind immediately jumped to song: ‘and the landslide brought me down,’ I mentally hummed. While trying to remember who sings the song. For some reason ‘Fleetwood Mac’ is never my first response, instead it’s ‘the band that Bill Clinton likes.’ (Secretly, I like the Dixie Chicks’ version better.)

We met an elderly gentleman walking spryly towards the closed-off area. We relayed the message we’d been given. He waved his hand dismissively, ‘I go through here all the time.’ We told him about ‘the people’ and he turned around, having changed his mind. He fell into step beside us, which was lovely, but he was going a bit slower than we were and I had a bit of a time crunch on my hands.

The professor needed to be at work at 2pm and he had young Percy with him at home and the car sat in the Edworthy parking lot. And I was on [sore] foot. [Did I mention I’d broken my toe 4 weeks earlier and it seemed to be stuck in a perpetually red and swollen state?]

We told our Edworthy friend about our time-dilemma and he suggested we hike up, through the park into the neighbourhoods to save time.  ‘Do you think it’s shorter?’ I asked. ‘Oh, most definitely,’ he replied. And so, with a glimmer of hope in my sore, muddy feet, we hiked up part of the Douglas Fir Trail; our lungs and gluteal muscles protesting the sudden, rather steep incline. All whilst I’m texting the professor about our progress, and my neighbor to see if she could watch Percy and pondering solutions to get the professor to work on time.

Finally we emerged into civilization – the paved roads and houses of Spruce Cliff and Wildwood. I limped along Spruce Drive, buoyed by my rumbling stomach and the thought of the bottle of water sitting in my car. Eventually we reached the road leading down into ‘The Park’, a road that is neither short nor flat. A peppy, Barbie-esque jogger wearing a running skirt and hydration pack passed us going the opposite direction. She smiled broadly, despite the fact that she was doing a killer hill. I barely smiled back.

At 1:39pm I fell into my stagger wagon. Two hours and 9 minutes from when we’d first begun.

I raced home, noting that ‘Barbie’ was now walking instead of jogging up the killer hill. I drove the professor all the way to the university. Drove all the way home so I could get the older boys from school. And then I went straight to the computer.

I wanted to know how far my aching body had walked. But, more than anything, I wanted to know if we’d taken a short-cut or a wild goose chase.

We’d walked eight miles. If we’d retraced our steps and walked back around Edworthy Park’s [flat] trails we would have walked 7-and-a-half.



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