Whitemud Creek, Alberta - Hans Asfeldt
Having spent my childhood in a very rural part of Alberta, I never imagined that I would live in “the city”. Here I am, of course, and much to my delight, I have found that even in the midst of a seemingly concrete jungle, nature is never far away. Very near my home in Edmonton is the MacTaggart Sanctuary where I often enjoy an evening run. A busy dad with three young kids, I often take this time to catch up with thoughts – or forget them – and take in the sunshine, breeze, and birdsong.
The Whitemud creek flows through the heart of the sanctuary, where on a single excursion I once saw two bull moose, a red-tailed hawk, and several flocks of migrating Canada geese – all within city limits. These icons define a landscape that has shaped my identity since my earliest memories and I find myself drawn back to it perhaps everyday. My time in the sanctuary never fails to return my senses and retrieve a quieter state of mind, but on one occasion, in particular, I discovered another kind of opportunity.
It is reminiscent of childhood adventures canoeing in flooded ditches with my brother and sister, paddling over beaver dam waterfalls, catching tadpoles with my mother, or riding bikes through (or into) the deepest, muddiest puddles that littered our country road. Now with children of my own, these small adventures are no strangers to me, but I sometimes imagine that my own ventures into the “wild” require a certain maturity.
And so it was that I went for my usual run in the sanctuary with a mind to enjoy the exercise and tranquility one sunny evening only to find that I could not cross the Whitemud Creek as I had often done at other times of year. Whether by some memory of adventures gone past or by some primeval inclination, I immediately set to work (or play?) maneuvering the largest fallen trees I could find, navigating the currents, avoiding protruding rocks, and mostly struggling to erect a primitive bridge by which to cross the creek.
The Whitemud is a very modest stream by any measure, but at high water it can be turbulent all the same. I managed to cross the creek and despite forfeiting hard-won progress in an effort to improve my logjam, I somehow made it back the same way without falling in. What pleases me most about this story is that I risked getting completely soaked simply to reach the other side where I would continue bridge improvements before crossing back. My very reasonable inspiration to continue my run on the other side of the creek was unconsciously forgotten, giving way to a simple delight that I relished as I made it across the creek and back again. Tiptoeing across a partially submerged log of an excuse for a bridge with rocks and menacing (or imagined) rapids on either side had my heart racing faster than any interval workout. I wonder if the beavers were watching.
This haven along the Whitemud will indeed remain a sanctuary for me and I am sure for many others. But it is also a place where the child in me can find delight in another small adventure. I hope there are many yet to come.