100 km in 24 Hours: Lisa & Dan’s Successful Thru-Hike Through the River Valley

This is the third and final entry of Lisa Howatt and Dan Tyrkalo’s 100 km in 24 Hours blog series. They’re two River Valley Alliance ambassadors who walked the entire length of the Edmonton region river valley, from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan (approx 100 km), for International Trails Day on June 1, 2019. In this series we learned why they want to do this hike, how to prepare for a long thru-hike like this, and how the hike actually went.

At 11:00 on the night of June 1, we found ourselves walking around a field in Fort Saskatchewan as a light drizzle fell, staring at the GPS app on our phone. We had reached our intended finish line at the end of the Riverside Nature Trail, but we were 5 kilometres short of our 100 kilometre goal. Intently fixed on the GPS app we kept going: 96 kilometres, 97 kilometres, 98 kilometres, 99 kilometre, and finally 100 kilometres. Now, we could stop walking.

We had started at the Devonian Botanic Gardens, 23 hours earlier, with the goal of celebrating International Trails Day by thru hiking the river valley trails from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan.

With headlamps on that morning, we started down the paved trails along highway 60 until they veered into a nicely treed path, leading down to Prospectors Point, which offered a scenic view of the North Saskatchewan River in the moonlight. We were then able to locate a section of single track running alongside the river, which carried us to the start of the dreaded 20 kilometre roadwork leading into the Cameron Heights Trail network.

Our dog Nala joined us for roughly 30 km of our day

We spent the bulk of the day wandering through Edmonton’s trails, passing by many of the city’s major landmarks (Talus Dome, Muttart Conservatory, Walterdale bridge) and crossing back and forth over the North Saskatchewan via the many pedestrian bridges. We finally exited Edmonton city limits at the dinner hour via the Strathcona Science Park and crossed into Strathcona County’s industrial area, where hot, dusty paths tested our tired limbs. For our final push, we hiked through the Riverside Nature Trails leading into Fort Saskatchewan, where a stunner of a sunset encouraged us to keep moving (as did the mosquitos.)

We’ve always considered the river valley trails to be one of our favourite places, an oasis in the city and our lives, but during this trek we were met with the realization of the significant role the river valley has played in our lives together. Our second date was in the trails around Emily Murphy Park, we became engaged in Rundle Park, we were married in Hawrelak Park, and celebrated our marriage at the Strathcona Science Park with a reception the ski lodge. Without intending as much, the trails had led us through a tour of our time together.

We walked over 7 pedestrian bridges during the hike

Did we have any suprises?

So many bridges! I don’t think we had previously appreciated the number of pedestrian bridges in the river valley. During our 100 kilometres we walked over 7 pedestrian bridges, which an amazing testament to the commitment to pedestrian and bike access.

Favourite section?

The single track along the north side river east of highway 60 was a new trail for us, and one we’ll return to. It offers lots of twists and turns, ups and downs and we had a blast bobbing along it in the dark with our headlamp.

Least favourite section?

The road walk from the end of the Devon trails into Lessard was horrible. We walked on the shoulder of secondary highways, all while knowing that the river valley was nearby but not yet developed with trails.

Thank goodness for audiobooks! #connectthetrails

Did it hurt?

Umm, yes. We did pretty well for the first 75 kilometres until overused feet and cramping leg muscles let themselves be heard. By the final 5 kilometres they were screaming.

Would we do it again?

Now that we’ve had a few days to recover, absolutely! Who wants to come with us next year?

Check out a detailed map of our route on Strava.