On Saturday, Mack and I joined hundreds of other Edmontonians on the Mill Creek Adventure Walk to take advantage of a unseasonably warm January night.
This was the event’s forth incarnation in as many years, but the first that we’ve been able to get to (we’re also embarrassed to admit that this was our first time visiting these trails, period). Though we’d seen photos of some of Mill Creek all decked out, we really didn’t know what to expect.
At the head of the trail stood a warming fire sculpture (the kind that has almost become ubiquitous with outdoor winter events in the city), not a bad place for it given the winds in that particular spot. As we ducked into the tree-sheltered paths, however, the breeze immediately dissipated. To guide the way, organizers had marked the trail with coloured lanterns, a simple but elegant touch – children and adults alike were mesmerized by the patterns they cast onto the snow.
We eventually found our way to the welcome area, festive with a combination of Caribbean beats, dazzling lights and warming fires. We guessed that the heated tents offered an opportunity to craft a lighted walking stick, but the lines deterred us from joining in.
Let there be light!
The “adventure” portion of the walk started here. The narrative woven for this year’s walk involved the Beavers of the creek rallying around the construction of a new lodge, a move opposed by the Skunks, Ravens and Magpies. In the welcome area, participants were introduced to this conflict by an actor playing the part of one of the groups concerned. It was definitely an intimate setting, as the actors were not equipped with microphones, so we had to strain to hear what was being said (curious that they situated the actor right next to the blaring music speakers). We decided at that point not to partake in the story, but to simply enjoy the other sights the walk had to offer.
Storyboards also helped to tell the story
Some points along the adventure trail were quite narrow, and given we encountered several parties trying to make their way back the same way, it was obvious that clear signs for trail options were needed (the way back, on the elevated, flat embankment was much easier to navigate).
We encountered two additional story circles along the way, both involving visuals to help set the scene. We found the Eager Beaver particularly entertaining as we passed, as well as the black-caped Raven, purring about “shiny things” and frightening children along the way.
The Really Big Lodge
The last gathering point was bustling with families, and a significant number of dogs (I think people were just waiting for an outdoor opportunity to involve their four-legged member of the family!). There was a snowfort and ice slide that kept the young ones occupied, while we grabbed a cup of hot chocolate to savour.
Edmontonians out in full force
We really enjoyed our walk in the park. We wondered if sans programming (but including heated tents), whether or not people would still come out to enjoy a midnight stroll if the lanterns were left to light the way – if so, it would be a relatively low-cost way to encourage Edmontonians to embrace the outdoors on a more regular basis.
Mack loved the look of the lights on the snow
Kudos to Winter Light and the organizers of the Mill Creek Adventure Walk – it proves that we all just need a reason to be outside!
Up next for Winter Light: Common Ground, “a warm hearted gathering of winter spirit in the inner city” on February 10-11, 2012.