With Valentine’s Day getting most of the nation’s attention this month, many Canadians may not be aware that February marks a month long occasion to celebrate their hearts in an entirely different way. While the 14th may be a day all about our heart’s desires, the rest of February’s 28 days are devoted to our heart’s health.
Heart disease is the 2nd leading cause of death in the country, followed closely by stroke. In many cases, the risk of these conditions is decreased by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. We know it can be difficult to lead an active lifestyle in the middle of a Prairie winter, especially if your 9 – 5 finds you chained to a desk each day.
Not everyone in the city has the opportunity to climb Edmonton’s trees every day for their jobs. That’s why we’re using our usual virtual tour to join the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada in encouraging the nation to make heart-healthy choices this month. The River Valley Park System provides year-round opportunities to get out and about, whatever the weather may be.
This February, we return to our guide with a spotlight on Hermitage Park. Located just east of Victorian Trail and south of 137 Avenue, it marks the most northern green space included in this system. It’s also one of the larger sections of the River Valley, spanning several blocks along the west banks of the river.
Its size makes Hermitage an excellent destination for those looking to stay active this winter, as there’s enough space to accommodate a variety of activities. Hikers will appreciate the paved and naturalized trails threading through Hermitage, though you may need to equip yourself with snow shoes before you can explore the entirety of these paths. Some of these trails will lead you along the river where, in the summer, visitors can enjoy fishing and non-motorized boating.
New to the park this year are 2 cross country ski trails designed as some of the city’s first skijoring locations, making these loops another pet friendly section of the park in addition to the off-leash areas. Derived from skikjøring, the Norwegian word for ski driving, the sport combines cross country skiing and dog sledding in a bizarre yet incredibly fun winter activity that challenges every member of the family, including Fido!
Pictures are the best way to understand the fun you can have with this particular sport, but we’ll try our best at describing it. Skiers are outfitted as they usually would when expecting to cross country ski, except for one major difference: they wear a harness that attaches to a towline linking them to their dog. As the dog runs and pulls the skier behind them, the human propels their weight forward by using their skis and poles. Though it might be new to you, it has a small global following with several annual competitions set in Alaska, Quebec, and Norway each year.
Of course, if you aren’t up to racing through the snow with your four-legged friend, Hermitage is home to a beautiful picnic site in the south end that’s ideal for those looking for a break. You can find it by the Tornado Memorial, the stone structure erected in honour of the 1987 F4 tornado that killed 27 people. Take a moment to appreciate the view of the manmade lake that’s popular with fishers during the summer and the copse of trees that surround its shores all year round. See how many species you can spot, including the many pine, spruce, elm, and even apple trees that make their home in this part of the park.
Whether you plan to snowshoe, skijor, or admire the trees, Edmonton, with its 22 major parks that make up the River Valley System, makes it easy to stay active despite the weather. Make a trip out to Hermitage as you start healthy habits this February. When you’re ready for more, use our blog to read up on previous park profiles. And don’t forget to stay tuned as we continue to discover Edmonton’s urban parks, when we’re not busy caring for the city’s trees!