Oster Lake

In the wintertime, when the natural world is slumbering under a blanket of snow, we still find country hikes vastly different from city trails. At least, this is what the 11 of us found out on today’s hike around Oster Lake in Elk Island National Park.

For one thing, we found unexpected silence and solitude. The Tawayik Lake parking lot was at least 60% full when we started out on the trail. But the area is so vast that we came across no more than ten small groups in the five hours we were walking on the trail.

The other thinTree bark eaten by animalsg is that the natural world is not really slumbering. We saw the traces and tracks of animals everywhere—the footprints of small creatures all over the pristine snow…the tree branches that had been chewed bare of their tasty and nutritious bark by hares…the beaverlodge which had a well-worn path in its snow cover from the top down to the ice, betraying where the beavers enter their home…and the circles of ground where the snow had melted, because a small herd of ungulates had bedded there for the night.

Squirrel tracks in snow

In the wintertime, we love getting outside for the fresh air and exercise. But a trip into the country gives us so much more. Peace and quiet…truly fresh air…and a strong impression of how the wildlife around us get themselves through the winter.

You can experience this again in two weeks, when Irene leads the hike in Blackfoot Recreational Area on the south side of Highway 16. (And some of us are bringing our snowshoes. If you have them, bring yours.)

Here is a link to some more pictures from today’s hike.
2017-01-15 Hike: Oster Lake

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

See more photos on Flickr
2016-11-06 Waskehegan Stage to Meadow Shelter