Benefits of a Hike in the Rain

The theme song that was most appropriate for today’s hike became B.J. Thomas’ 1970 hit from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

Raindrops keep falling on my head Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes
Will soon be turning red
Crying’s not for me, ’cause
I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining,
Because I’m free, ’cause nothing’s worrying me…..

The rain didn’t dampen the spirits of a dozen hikers as we hiked the 10.2 kms from Waskahegan Staging Area to the Meadow Shelter for lunch and back.  The rain alternated between a drizzle and a downpour as we navigated the muddy Lost Lake trail.  We all were dressed for the weather so we remained upbeat. A few hikers were even prepared with umbrellas that were equipped with down right deadly spokes sticking out in all directions. We were careful to avoid these rainy-day hazards.

Rain gearOther hazards on this Sunday’s hike included significant stretches of slick trails, distinct odours caused by twelve perspiring hikers wearing non-breathable rain gear, and heavy hiking boots with a couple inches of clay weighing them down. Despite the challenging conditions, cheerful interpretations of B.J. Thomas’ song were heard—even though our hoods covered our ears and the noise of the rain splatting on us was competing with our creative lyrics.

It was Bonnie who pointed out the obvious benefit of a rainy hike.  “A rainy hike out here in the country,” she said, “is like filling up at an oxygen bar.” Some of Bonnie’s friends clearly became intoxicated at Nature’s Bar and were giggling like a couple of school girls as they tried to maintain their balance on parts of the trail.

Besides the effect of oxygen-rich air  (it’s been said that rainy air has double the oxygen molecules), other highlights of our hike included the sighting of a white snowshoe hare standing out like a beacon on the brown earth, some far-off white water birds in Arrow Head Lake, a sweet Downy Woodpecker, and signs of beaver hyper-activity associated with some astonishingly massive beaver lodges. Oh yeah…and for me, the Peek Frean that Stella shared with me at lunch…..mmmm..

Good times in the rain!

Beaver lodgebeaver activity

 

 

Blackfoot Recreational Area

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2016-11-06 Waskehegan Stage to Meadow Shelter

Getting off the Pavement at Islet Lake

The trails at Islet Lake are for “glam” hikers.  However, no one seemed to mind having the opportunity to walk three or four abreast and use an outhouse every few kilometres!  The trails we hiked this Sunday are part of the 170 km of regularly maintained multi-use trails in the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area. Islet Lake

Our welcoming committee, as we naturally understood, was the swans and ducks gathered in an icy pond just before the Islet Staging Area.   When Jerry and the carpools finally arrived at the staging area, the fifteen of us were ready for take off.

Islet LakeThere was still some snow and ice on the trail which turned into mud by the end of the hike.

Along the way Marco was startled by a beaver that slapped its tail hard on the water in one of they many ponds.  Ducks and muskrats shared the ponds with beaver and along the trail we scared up a ruffed grouse.  Everyone noticed many squirrels very busy racing erratically in every direction and heard the rather eerie, low, garbled croak of ravens overhead. The highlight for many of us, however,  was a timely flock of graceful white swans that flew over us as were enjoying our lunch at the Lost Lake Shelter.

Nature and its generous splendour is always a highlight of our hikes, but the other great part of the WTA are the fellow hikers.  How refreshing it is to be with people who choose to get off the pavement; like-minded nature lovers, who do not seem to be concerned about acquisitions, name-dropping, one-upmanship or—dare I say it—fashion.  Every hike is an invigorating reminder of how the simple things like great friends and the great outdoors can truly bring us the greatest fulfilment. Upon reflection, a hike with the WTA is always time well spent!

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2016-10-23 Hike: Blackfoot Islet Lake

North Miquelon 4×4

One cannot hike Miquelon North without being reminded that it was a St. Francis Xavier Biology 30 class that put in the section of Waskahegan Trail from Miquelon Lake Park to just beyond Horseshoe Lake in the 1970s.

To commemorate their St FX posthard work the students, under the guidance of their teacher, Vi Sunohara, student Gary Hnatko, and our Pat Bourque, hauled a sharpened 4×4 post to the highest point on the trail. The students skillfully carved into the post “St FX Waskahegan Lookout.” They also had the foresight to bring the tools required to pound that post deep into the ground.

Some 40 years later, the landmark is still there and we talk about the great citizenship shown by the St. FX students and their teacher. (As evidenced by the Waskahegan Trail Guidebook: Our Millennium Edition (2001, p. 136), the students made quite an impression: “In line with the friendly bantering that went on between the class and Pat Bourque, the Waskahegan coordinator, Pat suggests that the sign on the hill should have read “St. FX Look Out!”

As we walked the trail, we imagined what a great education those students had so many years ago as they travelled the same route. Did they notice the standard summer flowers like the goldenrod, asters, sow thistle and yarrow? Or were they really keen to notice the less obtrusive Indian Pipe and Wintergreen? Were they scared silly by a pair of Ruffed Grouse like Anita and I were? Did they look up occasionally, like we did, and marvel at the zeppelin-like pelicans happily swirling with the wind currents above the lake? And was Erickson’s large culvert (a prominent landmark) still channeling massive amounts of water? Or did it look out of place then, as it does now, in the mostly dry, boggy pasture?

Indian pipe
Indian Pipe
Mushroom
Mushroom
Saskatoon berries
Saskatoon berries
snake
Snake
Ericksons culvert
Ericksons culvert
Foxtails
Mildly boggy pasture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the day, Miquelon Lake was much nicer for recreation, and the students likely took less time to eat their lunch and more time to frolic in the lake. We, however, were not tempted to go for a dip in the murky, shallow lake of today. As we enjoyed our lunch at a shady spot near the boat launch, we checked out the pictures that Vivian had already taken and gave our own student representative, Marco, the GPS so he could accurately determine our distance travelled.

Miquelon Lake

 

The route back was delightful The wide open meadows were teeming with wildflowers. During the hottest part of the day, we appreciated even more so the generous assortment of mushrooms growing in the cooler shaded areas of the bush.

As we walked along the varied terrain we could not help but appreciate the hard labour of our own trail maintenance crew that, like the kids of so many years ago, still battle large trees fallen across the path, dense slough grass, thistles, large boulders, thick shrubbery, cow patties, huge ant hills and plenty of mosquitoes. We were thankful to be able to hike on a very clear and extraordinarily well-marked trail. Total distance travelled, reported Marco, was 9.9kms.

Group

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2016-07-24 Hike: Miquelon South A86 to A85