It’s time for the third instalment in my series about hiking – or, in this case, strolling – during the various seasons. If you’re a new reader or would like to reread my previous posts, I’ve also written about the things I love about spring and autumn hikes. Eventually, I’ll finish this series off with a post about winter walks.
Why have I switched from talking about hiking to strolling for the summer post?
Well, July and August in Toronto are extremely hot and humid. We’ve had multiple days so far in July where the humidity levels were well above 70% and the high temperature felt like 40 Celcius (104 Fahrenheit) or more.
While some Canadians do go out hiking in that weather, I’m not one of them. Spring and autumn are best for brisk outdoor exercise. Summer is better for swimming during the daytime and walking at a slower pace either before or after the hottest part of the day.
With that being said, there is still plenty to love about walking outside during this time of the year.
The Long, Warm Evenings
Sunset in Toronto generally happens between 5 and 6 pm in the winter. During the summer, sunset is at about 9 pm. When you combine those extra hours of daylight with evening weather that feels like 25 C (77 F) instead of -25 C (-13 F) after the sun goes down, it’s no wonder that summer evenings can be such pleasant times to walk.
I spent much of my childhood in a climate similar to the one that Toronto has that I was about seven years old the first time I realized summer had much more daylight than winter.
It was only after running outside for hours after dinner did I realize that the sun still hadn’t set yet that day. When I asked my mother if the sun was never going to set again, she laughed and explained the summer solstice to me in more detail than I’d known before. Her explanation gave me a sense of wonder about the world that I still feel every summer as an adult.
Winter days are short, cold, and punctuated by many hours of darkness before the sun has any hope of rising again. Summer feels magical in contrast, especially if you’re lucky enough to spend plenty of time outdoors during the evening.
The Friendly Background Noise
Yes, I know I mentioned my love of peace and quiet when I talked about spring hikes earlier this year. The interesting thing about walking during the summer is how noisy it can be!
Our streets come alive after the temperatures drop outdoors. After a long, hot day, many people spill out onto the streets to take their dog for a walk, let their children burn off energy at the park, go shopping, meet up with friends for dinner, or otherwise enjoy the nice weather.
There are countless concerts, festivals, parades, and many other events that can lead to evenings punctuated with the sounds of other people having a wonderful time if you happen to wander into the right neighbourhood at the right time.
As much as I love my quiet time, I’ve also learned to deeply appreciate the distant hum of an excited crowd or the faint vibrations of a band from a street or two away.
Being surrounded by relaxed, happy people is a lovely feeling, and Torontonians tend to be pretty happy in these scenarios.
The Sense of Community
One of the coolest and least intuitive things living in a city as large as Toronto is how often you tend to run into the same people over and over again. You’d think this would be rare given the fact that millions of people live here, but it’s really not!
This is the time of year when I stop to say hello to neighbours or acquaintances on almost every walk I take. Sometimes I’ll need to stop and talk to multiple people on the same stroll.
Since folks are spending more time outdoors being sociable in general, the chances of running into someone you know are higher than they would be in January when people tend to stay home after dark.
My parents did this regularly in the small towns I grew up in. Back then I assumed it was something that only happened in rural areas, but now I’ve learned that it’s part of city life as well. The world is a much smaller place than you’d think!
I’ve come to enjoy seeing how many people I recognize on these strolls. Some neighbours pop up so regularly I can nearly count on saying hello to them several times a week, while others only cross my path occasionally.
What do you like most about summer strolls?