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Edmonton doctor canoes to work: ‘My commute is the best part of my day’

Edmonton doctor canoes to work
WATCH ABOVE: For a lot of people, their commute to work can be one of the toughest parts of their day. Most spend it in their car, stuck in traffic during rush hour. But one doctor has found an untapped way to get to work in Edmonton. Lisa MacGregor reports.

A doctor has found an untapped way to get to work in Edmonton. Dr. Darren Markland takes a canoe down the North Saskatchewan River.

Dr. Markland, an intensive care physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, starts his two-hour commute by portaging his canoe behind his bike from his house to the Sr. Wilfred Laurier Boat Launch on the west side of the city.

He definitely stops traffic on the way there.

“A lot of people give you space because they’ve never seen it before,” Markland said.

Dr. Darren Markland, portaging his canoe down the street in west Edmonton, Alta., Tuesday June 23.
Dr. Darren Markland, portaging his canoe down the street in west Edmonton, Alta., Tuesday June 23. Global News

When he gets to the river, he detaches the canoe, takes off the wheels underneath it, and throws his bike on top of it. In under five minutes of arrival, he’s off paddling down the river.

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Dr. Darren Markland taking off his portage to put canoe in water on the North Saskatchewan River, in Edmonton, Alta., Tuesday June 23.
Dr. Darren Markland taking off his portage to put canoe in water on the North Saskatchewan River, in Edmonton, Alta., Tuesday June 23. Global News

“I wanted to make an interesting commute. I work shift work, I had the afternoon off and I figured, hmm, there’s a river. I have a bike,” Markland said.

“Most people think their commute is the worst part of their day. I would say my commute is the best part of my day.”

Dr. Markland’s motto is to take advantage of Edmonton’s natural resources.

“I think Edmontonians are a little stuck in their cars at times and so the idea of getting anywhere other than by driving is foreign to them. The shock and amazement that you can actually get somewhere on the river.”

He said the North Saskatchewan River is a gem.

“That’s why Edmonton is here — the North Saskatchewan was the way this place was founded. And so, it’s a great arterial for moving back and forth,” Markland said. “There’s no rapids, there’s no debris, it’s slow flowing, it’s shallow — it’s an easy river to start learning.”

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Edmonton’s Dr. Darren Markland on biking and canoeing to work
Edmonton’s Dr. Darren Markland on biking and canoeing to work

Some doctors might buy a fancy car after finishing residency. Not Markland — he doesn’t even own a vehicle. In the wintertime he bikes all the way to work — even when it’s -30 C.

“Money and cars don’t make me happy. Doing things with people I love makes me happy,” he said. “Just take a look around [the river] — you’ll see incredible formations.”

For the last leg of his commute, he docks near where the Edmonton Riverboat normally would. Then, it’s mostly uphill to the Royal Alexandra Hospital on his bike — with the canoe still in tow.

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Dr. Darren Markland canoeing down the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton, Alta., Tuesday June 23.
Dr. Darren Markland canoeing down the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton, Alta., Tuesday June 23. Global News

He has what many would call V.I.P. parking in the dialysis unit at the hospital. He parks the canoe right in the garage connected to it. When colleagues at work see his mode of transportation, they’re definitely intrigued and full of questions.

Markland works long nights but still enjoys the commute home as well. He usually starts his night shift at 4 p.m. and heads home the next day at 7 a.m.

“If it’s a bad day, I have something to look forward to. If it’s a good day, I get my exercise before I even have to worry about the next shift,” he said. “I’ll load er’ up. I’ll head home early in the morning and hopefully it will be a beautiful sunrise.”

Markland’s reminder to people is that you can find beauty and adventure in your own backyard.

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