The “Canoe Trip” Run

image001Guest blog by Russell Hodgins

What better way to fill in a couple of hours then to explore trails in a new place? Life found me in Moose Jaw on March 2nd with my running gear and time to spare so I parked on Valleyview Drive overlooking the Moose Jaw River valley. A short run down on 7th Avenue SW brought me to the trails.

It has been a frigid month with today’s wind chills in the minus 30’s, but the trails were well packed, more proof that it takes more than arctic air to keep the locals indoors. Rumor has it there is no bad weather for running, only bad clothing and I was well dressed including my old favorite balaclava. This winter has provided more than its share of cold weather to perfect the right clothing combinations. Just sayin’.

A right turn right before the bridge crosses the river put me on a trail heading south along the frozen waterway. The trail was mostly in the bush, providing some respite from the strong west winds. Deer tracks were everywhere along the trail as it went past a concrete dam and continued into Connor Park. There is a large picnic structure and other amenities in this park and I assume I would see far more people on a summer day.

The trail climbed up to the top of the valley and circled east, following the river. This led to another bridge and past that, the trail ducked back into the trees. When the path became more of a deer trail, I dropped down onto the river where it was easier going. Snowmobiles had packed the snow and the strong winds completed the job, removing any loose snow leaving a very runnable surface.

One of the things I love about our province is the abundant sunshine and today was no exception. The sun lit up the snow and the views along the river were amazing as I headed out exploring. It was well treed along both banks, the exception being places where the banks were high and too steep to allow vegetation growth.

Being on the river at the base of the tall cliffs provided a new perspective, reminding me of canoeing on other rivers. I suddenly found myself on a “canoe trip” run, eagerly running to the next bend in the river to see what I could find. In places, the river was obviously shallow with a rock garden showing above the ice, some sections were straight while others almost doubled back on itself. At one point, I came to a beaver dam across a narrow section and everywhere, deer tracks crossed back and forth over the snow packed ice. With my free time half gone, I reluctantly turned around to enjoy the view in the other direction. A different season with a canoe would have meant some upstream paddling but no worries today. Canadians walk on water for a reason.

I eventually came up off the river and into the park, finding yet another well packed trail in the trees that ran parallel to 7th Avenue and brought me back to the starting point at the bridge. On the way back, I saw two robins looking very unimpressed in a tree along the trail. I’m not sure if they were recent returns or had braved this long winter but I was happy to see them all the same and I’ll take that as the first sign of spring.

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