Blackfoot Staging Area

When Irene steps up to lead a hike she has a huge following. She is a hiker’s magnet. Thirty-one hikers, from Edmonton, Wetaskawin, Camrose and points in between met up at the Blackfoot Staging Area under cloudy skies after a week of near-constant precipitation. The minute we stepped out of our cars and took in our first breath, we experienced the rich, earthy aromatherapy that always follows a good rain. A great start.beaver lodge

The Blackfoot Recreation Area has over 170 kilometers of trails and four developed staging areas (one of which is the Waskahegan Staging Area—no relation to us). Some trails are for certain activities only while others are shared trails.

We brought our rain gear, but it was not needed as the clouds kindly chose only to shield us from the sun. We appreciated the crisp, fresh air as we hiked along lush, well-marked trails with names like Whitetail, Buck-Run and Muskrat.lungwort

Although we trekked mostly on trails for hikers only, near the end we briefly shared a trail with a considerable posse on horseback, which kept an eye on us from a respectful distance.swallowtail butterfly

Irene offered us two hike distances to choose from, and on both paths, hikers experienced a cascade of greenery—from the aspen canopy above to the middle tier of dense hazelnut bushes, sweet scented wild Alberta rose, and blooming red osier dogwood, to the ground floor that was carpeted with creeping dogwood (bunchberry), elegant meadow rue, globe flowered sarsaparilla, Solomon’s Seal, vetches (both purple and cream coloured), beardtongue and brilliant blue lungwort (who names these plants??).

Canada toadAlso seen were many ducks enjoying the wetlands, swallowtail butterflies darting about, and frogs hopping everywhere.

Most memorable was the evidence of a beaver’s handiwork on the felling of a huge, expansive and formidable balsam poplar. The beaver must have spent days gnawing on the trunk from all sides before the mighty tree finally toppled. It must have been a little disappointed that the massive project did not fall cleanly to the ground, but instead became stuck as branches tangled in neighbouring trees.

Anyway, this super-hero-class beaver has a lot of work gnawed out for itself this summer. Speculative massive construction projects are obviously being considered in the Blackfoot Recreation Area.

Group May 28, 2016 hike

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Cancelled: the Sunday May 21 hike

Cancelled due to high winds and heavy rain.
Super-glad to have the rain though.

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East Battle River Valley, “Rest and Be Thankful,” and Were We Thankful!

East Battle River

Under David’s leadership and sunny skies, 19 intrepid hikers, from New Norway, Camrose, New Sarepta and Edmonton, traversed the challenging Easternmost hike of the meandering Battle River.

Although we had to trek up and down gully after gully, the views of the river valley were spectacular. When we rested for lunch on “Rest and be Thankful” hill, we were indeed thankful —and rested— as long as our leader (who forgot his lunch) allowed.

We imagined the Grand Trunk Railway trestle bridge that once spanned the entire valley, we admired the red tail hawks riding the wind currents and ignored the plentiful seagulls squawking overhead.

Rest and Be Thankful

At lunch Elizabeth, aka Madame Butterfly, recognized the rasping, cricket-like sound of a Clay Warbler and the group pointed out several Cabbage Butterflies, a Mourning Cloak or two and a Swallow Tail Butterfly.

The musky-sweet scent of blooming Silver or Wolf Willow was distinct but not overpowering, as it can be. Other distinctive native Alberta flora caught our eye:  Three Flowered Avens or Old Man Whiskers, Heart Leaved Alexanders, False Toad Flax, lots of Saskatoon still in bloom as was the Chokecherry, Gooseberry and several types of currants. Also identified was Silverweed, Buffalo Bean or Golden Bean, Mouse-eared Chickweed and most spectacularly, Shooting Stars.

Hikers at East Battle River

Further, we saw evidence of early spring blooms on the Crocuses and some Prickly Pear Cactus came along for a ride on some of the hiker’s socks. There was no sign of the Milkweed that was planted along the route by previous irreverent WTA hikers (who will not be named).

When we looked back over the valley as we finished our hike, five sleek bay horses suddenly appeared at the top of the ridge to show us that they knew we were in their pasture and to thank us for the rare entertainment that we brought to the East Battle River Valley.

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Ross Creek Maintenance: Boardwalks Floating

On May 11, 10 of us really cleared did clear the trail well from A111 until about three quarters of the way where we came across a floating/sinking boardwalk with deep water caused again by beavers. So instead of a hike through, we returned and then went in from the other direction. Out again on May 18 we cleared trail from the gas well to A109, again running into a floating boardwalk, but this time we could route around it.

Landowner Ken Bilobrowka beside the first floating boardwalk gave us access through his property to build a new bridge. Ken also helped with the bridge by cutting a telephone pole for supporting the bridge over the water and helped put it in place along with his brother Kevin. Thank you!Ross C TM May 18 (1) Ross C TM May 18 (8)

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North Miquelon Boardwalk, Beavers, and Blooms

Our first hike in the country this year, and talk about May flowers! It was the perfect day to see blossoms on our native fruit trees and the woodland plants and shrubs.

Here is the list of what the twelve of us saw in bloom today:

early blue violet (see right)early blue violet
wood violet
fairy bell
saskatoon (see above)
pin cherry
red currant
black currant
goose berry
dew berry
bracted honeysuckle
low bush cranberry
sandwort

We also saw a white tailed deer and a frog.

North Miquelon Boardwalk

Here we are on the smart new boardwalk that the trail maintenance team installed last week. The heap of boards at the bottom left is the old walk.

 

 

 

 

Poplar tree, a beaver's work-in-progress

As you know the beavers are very active in this area. This tree will not be standing upright for much longer. Here you see only the base of a really tall poplar tree. We did not linger for long.

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