Exploring Hamilton, one step at a time

By Mackenzie Kristjon

Admittedly, when I first moved to the Hamilton area, my experience of Hamilton was pretty much sleeping in Dundas and driving to other cities —pretty standard fare for a lot of people. So much has changed since then!

Photo by Benjamin Schneider

For people who like to walk (or “hike” as I hear people call it), I live about a block away from the Escarpment Rail Trail which heads into the Dundas Valley Conservation Area. The DVCA and lots of other areas around town are a nature lover’s dream. Many trails and paths snake around the city, through the forest, beside the beach, along the escarpment and by our many waterfalls. (In addition to our waterfalls, I’m petitioning for waterslides to run alongside the various Mountain staircases.)

The distance from my house to my office downtown is around 10km. It often doubles given the circuitous routes I take in the warmer months. That means, it can take two to four hours depending on how many stops I make along the way.

Typically, I take the Rail Trail to somewhere parallel with McMaster University, then cut over to walk across campus breathing in the unbridled enthusiasm and joie de vivre exhibited by the students. Before I know it, I’m in Westdale where I might pause and grab a tea or coffee at any one of their numerous cafes.

The next half of my sojourn involves winding my way somehow to Locke Street and popping in on clients along the way. My client list often dictates my route downtown. Inevitably, I run into other people who are out and about and plans tend to erupt for later in the day or week.

By the time I get downtown, I often feel like I need to check in on James North and the Bayfront area before I really get started. The great thing is, that in this modern age, I carry a magic phone that connects me to my clients and all my work. If something comes up, there are (approximately) 100,000 cafes and restaurants along my path that are more than happy if I stop in to answer some emails.

Aside from the exercise and the intimate knowledge of the city, there is so much joy in meeting new and friendly faces. Recently a woman moved here from Toronto and I said I would show her around. She was struck by how every 20 yards, it seemed like we ran into old friends of mine -and I have not lived here all that long. It is a rather constant reminder of the small town feel we engender in this Steeltown.

One time, I left a client’s house somewhere near the Scottish Rite on King West and this car pulled up beside me and the window rolled down. I heard a voice say, “Get in!” Instantly I found myself looking for candy. (Don’t try this at home, folks!) I looked at the driver and I actually did not know this gentleman. It turned out he lives on my street and has seen me walking by his house. Sure enough, we are now friends.

Another odd human detail is the bizarre amount of abandoned clothing that I find on our streets. I have found whole outfits, pairs of shoes and single boots left on King William on a Saturday morning. I often wonder what the stories are behind these shed skins. Have our citizens been vaporized? Was this a moment of passion in a completely inappropriate place?

Of course, I started posting some of these on Instagram (#nakedinthecity #hamont -for the city that loves to turn it on and take it off!). Now I run into people on the street who lure me around corners to show me other clothing that they have found. I guess it is a little weird but I have to admit that I am strangely curious…

There is always a certain amount of safety concern when you are walking or cycling through the city (especially given these apparent vaporizations of people).

The winter months pose their own risks. Personally I have come to know which homes shovel their sidewalks in a timely manner and which do not. Let’s just say I have a lot more respect for those that do.

Personally, I feel that the bridges that cross over the highway near Dundurn on both Main and King West could be a little safer, and in your own areas, you might have other spots that feel a bit sketchy. Nonetheless, the zebra-striped crossings and bike lanes from the past few years are welcome additions to the pedestrian commuter experience. I can only encourage more of the same.

I also would encourage more people to get out there and walk around. The more people out on the streets, the safer it will be and the more likely I will run into you. Try to keep your clothes on!