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Calgary author discovers the local roads less travelled

Leading by example, Calgary author David Peyto hopes his book on Calgary walking adventures inspires readers/walkers to further explore the city on their own.
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Calgary author David Peyto explores the city on long-distance walks, writing about it for residents to discover too. Photo: Kim Hanson

We Albertans are being encouraged to explore our own backyard; to discover and take the roads less travelled. A local author and history buff has taken that idea to heart and been on a mission to walk his way through Calgary communities. Along the way, he's documented his route, photographed hidden gems of nature, and written mini history lessons on everything he has encountered. These 'urban ramblings' can be found in a new book, a long-distance walking guide called The Blue Jay Way.

David Peyto is an adventurer, a wanderer, a man who is deeply curious about all his city has to offer. While heading off the beaten path, his love of walking, keen interest in local history and affinity for exploration have meshed together to inspire, providing the perfect backdrop for The Blue Jay Way: Zoo Station to Hanson Ranch.

A former Calgary elementary school teacher, Peyto often organized walking tours after school for his students. “I have always enjoyed walking. As a physical education teacher, I wanted to pass on the enjoyment and benefits of walking to the children I taught," he said.

And pass it on he did, saying his walking tours were always well attended with children who found joy in nature, exercise and discovery.

Peyto comes by his proclivity for exploration naturally. His grandfather, Walter, immigrated to Canada from England, eventually settling in Alberta. Walter became the town warden for Banff, documenting his daily adventures, experiences with wildlife and musings in four journals spanning from 1914 to 1941.

The journals were discovered in a box in the attic many years after Walter's death by Peyto's sister, spawning Peyto to write a four-book series called Banff Town Warden. So as to retain copyright for his grandfather's journals, Peyto chose the self-publishing route. It has worked so well for him that Peyto continues to self-publish all his books.

The Blue Jay Way, (named for the popular Alberta bird species), takes its reader/walker on a 233-kilometre history lesson hike through 40 communities in Calgary, focusing mainly on the north west sector of the city. Peyto divides his book into walking sections or stations--as he calls them--21 in all, each averaging a bite-sized hiking distance of 11 kilometres. Stations routinely begin or end near C-Trains for ease of travel.

Not only does the book guide the reader/walker through each station with text and maps, it also lists available washrooms and cafes for coffee breaks. (The Blue Jay Way is the second book in David's long distance walking guide series. The Chickadee Way: Griffith Woods to Zoo Station is the first book in the series).

For those who choose to walk the steps of David's journey, the waterfalls, ponds and forests are some of the best nature has to offer: Waterfall Valley in the community of Silver Springs, Ravines Wetlands in the neighbourhood of Edgemont and Wood's Douglas Fir Tree Sanctuary on the south bank of the Bow River, to name a few.

When he's not walking, David is writing. He considers his work to be a 'hobby', but it's much more than that, with his books serving as a living legacy to both himself and his family. Peyto says he hopes his work inspires reader/walkers to cultivate their own love of walking and embark on a journey of exploration and discovery.

In addition to David's website, peytolakebooks.com, his books can be found at several independent Calgary booksellers: Pages on Kensington, Shelf Life Books, Owls Nest Books, Map Town, The Military Museums, Spirit West and Steeling Home.