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.
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.
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.
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??).
Also 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.