Trappers Lake to Oster Lake

For the first time, in all the years of our collective hiking, the ten of us on this day saw Trappers Lake as an actual “lake.” Yes, the trail guidebook clearly shows a big lake on the map, but all we ever saw was a field of grasses—up to now. We have had so much rain this year that the body of water has risen high enough to reveal its shining self.

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The 11.5 km hike began with a walk through the lush pasture. A herd of cows in the distance ahead of us stopped their grazing and looked up. Suddenly they rushed toward us, bellowing. It was alarming, even nerve-wracking, but Anita assured us that they were just very friendly. We slipped through the large crowd of gorgeous red-brown beasts, thankful we were not causing them to stampede.

Friendly cows

Woodpecker
Farther on, two woodpeckers swooped down and landed on some trees in front of us. One was a majestic Pileated Woodpecker, the other was a smaller version, possibly a Hairy Woodpecker. They bounced around the tree trunk, knock-knocking here and there, then took off as quickly as they came.

It was supposed to be our first cold day, just 10 degrees after a long warm summer. But the air was dry and still, and the walking kept us feeling warm even though the sky was mostly cloudy. The mosquitoes seem to be finished.

The Park put up a new high fence and built a new ladder for us. It’s even higher than the old ladder.

New ladder

The trail inside the park was rich with varieties of fungus. We took pictures of nearly every kind. The flowers at this moment in the season are mainly asters and goldenrod. The only sighting of a bison was by Michele, from the top of that high ladder.

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Lunch was on the vast lawn at Oster Lake. Our conversation was punctuated by the honking of the geese as they flew back and forth above us.

See the rest of our pictures on Flickr

Fort Ethier Hike

The hike from Fort Ethier along Bigstone Creek gave us a big taste of agriculture up close, and the opportunity to test our stamina.Bigstone Creek

The trail starts with a herd of alpacas in the distance, but we held off taking pictures–because later, we would get much closer.  Instead, we took the first of many descents to the creek level and climbs out of the gorge. More than half the slopes have rope “handrails”, which if you don’t have hiking poles, you really need.

 

 

 

But we all agreed: the views are worth it.

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Along the top of the slopes, we walked next to fields of wheat and rye, the stalks standing like soldiers, uniformly capped with rich full heads of grains. The sight got us home bakers talking about the craft of breadmaking. Perhaps the brewers among us were thinking along those lines too.

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We walked along several pastures. In normal years these fields are grazed down to the height of lawn. But with this year’s plentiful rain and sun, the grass has been growing rapidly. It’s like the cows can’t eat fast enough to keep the pastures trim.

“I have a hayfield where I normally get three bales,” the landowner told us. “This year I got ten bales.”

Nature never fails to let us know who’s in charge—and we experienced a jolt of the worst kind. Half the group had proceeded past a log—and a small hole in the ground—when a force of bees rose up out of the hole and attacked. Anita was stung 15 times, Bonnie 4 times, and Rupak once. The victims still felt they were fine to carry on.

We took a good long rest for our lunch, at the confluence of the Bigstone and Pipestone Creeks. On the way back, we were very careful to skirt around the bees’ nest.

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When we arrived at the end, we got closer to the alpacas in their pen. In fact, they are such curious animals, they approached us as we came into view. Aren’t they incredibly sweet with their recently shorn coats? You can buy the wool products from these particular alpacas at Fort Ethier Alpaca Beauties on Facebook.

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There were 13 of us on the 11 km hike. Here we are at the remnant tower of the old fort.

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You can find more of our pictures at our Flickr site.

Pipestone to Bigstone Hike: Better than the Nature channel

The Pipestone Creek trail is a favourite of moderate fitness enthusiasts, but at the height of midsummer it’s an absolute BONANZA for those of us who like flowering plants.

Pipestone CreekTwenty people from Edmonton, Beaumont, Hay Lakes, Wetaskiwin, and Camrose met on a quiet road at the bridge over Pipestone Creek. Immediately we entered the dark and mossy forest of towering old spruce that edged along the right bank. Soon we came out to open and flowered meadows that overlooked farms to the south.

We went up and down the slopes, in and out of gulleys, and stepped over many strange fungi, not to mention numerous stiles.

 

Plant lovers

The weather was humid and mostly overcast but the frequent breezes kept back the mosquitoes. We were concerned that the dirt slopes would be sticky after the rain we had, in the city anyway, almost every day this week. We were relieved to find the slopes dry.

 

 

Lunch was long and leisurely on the bank of the Pipestone where it meets the Bigstone Creek. The cows on the other side watched us and we watched them. “Better than the Nature channel,” said Kirsten.

Cows

On the way back, a violent splashing got our attention. We stopped to watch a juvenile duck beating the water with its wings, propelling itself along the surface, as it tried and tried to lift itself off into flight.

Hairy Golden Aster?
Hairy Golden Aster?
Brown-eyed Susan
Brown-eyed Susan
Hyssop
Hyssop
Fleabane
Fleabane
Large mushroom
Large mushroom
Coral mushroom
Coral mushroom

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We are deeply grateful to the Trail Maintenance crew for the fine work of mowing back the lush growth, the clearing of fallen trees, and the excellent trail signing that made this such an enjoyable hike today.

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See more photos at the Waskahegan Trail Flickr account.