Commute by canoe: Edmonton doctor's daily paddle to work

For Darren Markland, trains, planes and automobiles simply won’t do. The Edmonton emergency room doctor commutes by canoe. 

'My commute was the worst part of my day and I thought well, I can change that'

Darren Markland has traded in traffic jams for lapping waves and chirping birds. (Darren Markland)

For Darren Markland, a train, plane or automobile simply won't do.

The Edmonton emergency room doctor commutes by canoe. 

Every spring, as soon as the North Saskatchewan River is fully thawed, Markland begins paddling to work.

His day begins by hitching his canoe to his road bike and making an urban portage from his home to the Sir Wilfred Laurier boat launch in west Edmonton. 

Markland commutes by canoe, travelling more than two hours each way on the waters of the North Saskatchewan. (Darren Markland)

After unrigging his vessel and placing his dismantled bike inside, he heaves off from the muddy bank and heads downtown, where he docks and again hitches canoe to bike. 

After a strenuous uphill ride, he makes his way through the downtown to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, where he parks and begins his regular 15-hour night shift.

Markland started paddling to work three summers ago after growing frustrated with the daily grind of road travel. 

"I'm a pretty busy guy and my commute was the worst part of my day and I thought well, I can change that," Markland said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"There's other ways about going about things, let's think outside the box.

"I have some friends who have canoes and I have one particular friend who showed me that you can actually transfer your canoe on a bike and then I just connected the dots." 

The two-hour water commute is worth it, said Markland, who's used to the extra effort.

He doesn't own a car and spends the winter months commuting by bicycle alone. 

By the time I get to work, my batteries are totally recharged.- Darren Markland

Instead of traffic jams and hurried pedestrians, his morning commute includes sweeping views of the river valley, singing birds and jumping fish.

"I've found people who've been panning for gold and there's people out here fishing," he said. 

"By the time I get to work, my batteries are totally recharged.

"You know, it's seven o'clock in the morning when I have to come back [home]. I look forward to getting back in my canoe and watching the sunrise." 

'Life is short'

Markland hopes his unusual commute will inspire others to paddle Edmonton's river valley and explore new ways to make the everyday a little more exciting. 

"My general philosophy is life is short. You should make every day a little adventure. 

"And so I will have my adventure today and then I will have a little adventure tomorrow that might be a little different."

With files from Pippa Reed


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