Once when my father was walking our dog, working on his own map, he parked his old Volkswagen in the middle of an upscale neighbourhood. It wasn't a private neigbourhood but it did have much larger, nicer-looking homes than anywhere else in the Sault. He went for his walk but when he returned to his car, a police officer was there to ask him a few questions.
The officer asked, "What are you doing today, sir?"
"Walking my dog," my father replied.
"Do you live around here, sir?"
The officer was confused but has my father was doing nothing wrong he let him leave. My father's out-of-place appearance in that neighbourhood was enough for someone to think suspiciously of him. I sometimes wonder if something like that will happen to me on my walks, especially when I have to walk roundabouts like this one:
I can't blame someone for being a little suspicious. You don't see many people walk straight down a street, walk around a loop, and then continue walking. Nor do you see someone go down every single dead-end road in an area. However, as the air is getting colder outside, I've changed my focus from walking across the city to systematically completing neighbourhoods. As the rules say, you can't skip a cul-de-sac nor dead end; if you don't go down them, it doesn't count.
For many weeks now I've been slowly walking my way through Ottawa's Centrepointe, but I took a break over the weekend to cover the small Medhurst neighbourhood.
It only took me three hours to walk 14 kilometres as many streets were marked as private. There are not many private streets back in the Sault, but they seem to be all over Ottawa; sadly cutting my challenge short.
The Sault was built, and continues to expand, in a grid system. Most of the neighbourhoods are squared off, but in Ottawa there are loops, dead ends and maze-like features. Many sections force me to double back from where I came to make sure I cover the area as efficiently as possible.
These are minor inconveniences. I still enjoy the journeys I take on my outings. Medhurst has all the things I love to see on a walk: diversity, green space, and community. There is a little community centre with an outdoor activity announcement board. One of the announcements is for community members to join a Walking Club. What a great idea that is, socializing with your neighbours and getting to know your community while also getting outdoor exercise.
It reminded me of a YouTube video I saw by PBA30, about an urban hiking group in Atlanta.
In the video Eli Dickerson says, "It's just a different way to see the city, even if you’ve been to a spot near there in a car; it's totally different on foot." He is completely right. Even if you've driven by a neighbourhood, you don't really get to see it like you do on foot. On top of getting out and exploring, be it in a group or just solo, everyone can benefit from taking a walk.
Holly Drew is a Professional Writing student at Algonquin College in Ottawa. Holly is originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where she spent a lot of time hiking in the beautiful Algoma District and Upper U.P., Michigan. Holly’s other home is in Lima, Peru, where she lived for one year as a Rotary International Exchange Student. Holly enjoys adventure, photography, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and writing.