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Kawhi Life: Take a hike (across the Beltline and upper-middle Toronto’s green spaces)

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It’s the long weekend for us here in Toronto, and All-Star Weekend for the NBA. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of some extra time off with a nice long walk?

Kawhi Life in Toronto: Taking a hike through Toronto’s parks Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for at least one year. While the team’s on-court success has its part to play, we’ve decided to do our part in selling the city to the Klaw. Each week we’re talking Toronto, and letting Kawhi know what his life could be like here.

Daniel is on vacation this week, and as a native Torontonian who loves this city almost as much as Daniel (probably not actually, Daniel’s in a class all his own) Josh asked if he could fill in. Welcome to the first-ever guest Kawhi Life!

This Week In Toronto

To start off, I would be remiss if I didn’t first point out that today is of course Valentine’s Day; although it’s probably far too late for you, or Kawhi Leonard, to find the perfect gift or to make a romantic dinner reservation, you should still read last week’s Kawhi Life to get you in the mood before it all goes down (ahem!) tonight.

Now, since it’s a long weekend here in Toronto (hooray for Family Day!) I’m here to tell you about one of my favourite long weekend activities in the city: going for long-ass walks! And although our city is often lamented for a lack of green space, I would like to assure you, and Kawhi Leonard, that there are more than a few spots that are ideal for a long afternoon walk, no matter the season.

I’ve lived in the upper-midtown area most of my adult life, so I’m a little partial to the green space we have up here, and The Beltline Trail might just be my favourite. There are three distinct stretches of the Beltline: From Caledonia Rd. to Allen Rd.; from Allen Rd. to Mt Pleasant Cemetery; and from the cemetery through to the Moore Park Ravine and down to the Evergreen Brickworks. The middle section is the most popular, and cuts through the swanky Forest Hill area in a nice wide trail with a high canopy of trees surrounding it. The western section is more open and paved (good for a bike ride!), and the Eastern section is more rough and wild (good for a hike!). You have pretty much all the terrain you’d like along the Beltline.

On Eastern side, the Beltline brings you close enough to a number of other beautiful green spaces. First, there’s the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery itself; some people are uncomfortable using the cemetery as a place to take a stroll, and there is a part of me that thinks it is a bit... off, to use a resting ground as a walking destination, but on the other hand, it’s a huge space; it’s quiet, with tons of old, giant trees; and the tombstones, markers and mausoleums — some of which have been there more than 120 years — are really quite impressive.

Still, if that’s not your bag, heading east down the Ravine to the Brickworks is a really cool walk. You can go off the path (such as there is one) into some more wooded areas, and then emerge down into the marsh area of the Brickworks.

And that’s really just the beginning. You can head southwest and loop back around to David Balfour Park near Yonge and St. Clair, or go east towards the Don River, and the great expanse of the Don Valley, where you have your choice of going south, towards Riverdale Park and its incredible view of the downtown skyline, or north, into the Don Parklands. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can take this even further north, up through Seton Park and into Sunnybrook Park, and even up to the wonderful Edward Gardens.

Phew! OK, that’s hell of a lot of walking, maybe too much, even for a professional athlete such as Kawhi. My point is: These gorgeous walks may not be in the downtown core, but they’re not far, and they’re a really wonderful demonstration of the green space the city has to offer.

Now you may be thinking, yeah, but it’s February, and its damn cold out there. This is true! But — and I suppose this is my Canadian-ness coming through — when you dress appropriately for a winter walk, and your only goal is to go for a walk (i.e., you’re not carrying groceries or your backpack and you don’t need fashionable shoes on, etc.) a winter walk can be lovely. You’re bundled up and warm, you’ve got nice gloves and your ears covered. There’s nothing like the bare branches of a tall tree covered in snow, or long icicles hanging from those branches, or the subdued quiet a snowfall brings. And if you have to get a coffee or a hot chocolate to help keep you warm, there’s many a coffee shop not far from these parks.

Should Kawhi Care?

Well, no.

(As a strong, silent type, Kawhi does strike me as the kinda guy who might enjoy a long solitary walk... but on the other hand, he doesn’t strike me as a super-outdoorsy type. And as much as I love walking in winter, I know it’s not for everyone... especially folks from Southern California. We should be doing everything we can to shield Kawhi from the harsh realities of a Toronto winter!

So let’s leave Kawhi to enjoy his quiet time on the treadmill or in the weight room or on the practice court. But come free agency time, let’s be sure to remind him that lack of green space is not a legit reason to want to leave Toronto!)