Backyard: Start Line

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

Sunday Runday and my usual social weekend run date has turned into a solo expedition from my backyard.

But training calls, and has little respect for blips in the calendar like global pandemics and provincial lockdowns and excuses about being stuck in one’s own backyard.

Knowing a convincing distance run (by which I really mean a modest ten kilometers these days) was going to take some additional motivation, I gave myself a mission: I would visit the graffiti tunnel.

While I can hardly claim to had discovered a concrete underpass painted thick with years of graffiti, I’d like to think I may have seriously helped popularize this local off-the-beaten-path bit of culture.

The construction of a highway ring road around the city completed construction of this leg just over a decade ago, and in planning for future southward expansion of the park system, the designers incorporated a culvert-style concrete tunnel with a suspended walking path to accomodate the local creek and pass everything under the roadway above. The catch: the footpath was connected to nothing. It was little more than a bit of infrastructure for the future.

For years few people noted this as anything more than a strange sort of bridge on the highway passing over a bit of wilderness.

Then about five years ago I got adventurous. I went out on a long run (very much like I did today) and followed an old stretch of closed off road, went down through the trees, climbed down a grassy bank along the highway, and found myself in a graffiti-filled wonderland.

Obviously the countless people who had decorated the place had known about this secret for a while.

After sharing my photos on the socials and telling my run crew, I spent that summer leading multiple adventure runs into the off-trail wilds that led to the secret Edmonton graffiti tunnel.

The next year other run groups, led by runners who had been along on my previous adventure runs, were posting their own shots from their own treks with larger groups of people, and the summer after that my feed was routinely populated by people who had driven from across town or from different cities to run down to this photogenic secret spot.

By the summer of 2020 I started seeing the graffiti tunnel appear in semi-pro photo portfolios of local photogs I follow, blogs writing it into their local attractions guides, and even the radio stations promoting it as a hot thing to check out on a weekend.

It had become mainstream, even to the point that it’s not unsual to see cars (illegally) parked along the aforementioned highway as their occupants take the shortcut down the ditch path to check out the tunnel.

This morning, five klicks into my solo long run, I was the only one wandering through the graffiti tunnel, kinda like my first trip five years ago.

Very solo.

And if I couldn’t run with friends, at least I could visit an old favourite spot.

Addendum: as I was writing this, one of my running crew with whom I have been running cohort through the pandemic posted the update from her Sunday solo run. She had run from her backyard too, and made her way to the same tunnel. We’d missed each other by less than ten minutes.