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

View these pictures and more on Flickr
2016-07-24 Hike: Miquelon South A86 to A85

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

michele3

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.

IMG_2047 (800x508)

See more photos at the Waskahegan Trail Flickr account.

 

Birkebeiner Trails in the Summer: Wanisan Hike

Western Peewee
Copyright  allaboutbirds.org

It was longer than some WTA hikes, with a total distance of 12 km, but our team was seriously svelte and eager to take on a million mosquitoes. Sprayed with a plethora of chemical repellents (claiming only to be disagreeable to bugs), and further armed with mosquito nets, we began our adventure. It wasn’t long before Jerry found some flowers that he did not know, so he picked them for later identification.

As we walked along we were pleased to learn that our new recruit, Robert Scriba, was a bit of a birder. When we rested at the Wanisan Stopover, he alerted us to the proprietor of the cabin, a Western Peewee.

Ruddy Duck
Copyright Paul Higgins

 

Farther on we stopped at the Wanisan Lake Lookout, where he called our attention to a Ruddy Duck.

 

And as we elegantly navigated the boardwalks alongside a beaver pond, he pointed out an adorable family of Blue-winged Teals. It’s always a treat to have someone in the group who can teach some of us more about our natural world.

Teal ducks
Copyright Myrna Bradshaw

 

We were fortunate to time our lunch exactly when the rain came. We were sheltered in the very cabin where Darlene and David are stationed every winter while volunteering at the WTA Aid Station during the Birkebeiner.

By the time lunch was over and Jerry identified his flowers as Fringed Loosestrife, Agrimony and Yellow Rattle, the rain had relented.

Fringed Loosestrife
Fringed Loosestrife Copyright minnesotaseasons.com
agrimony-_www.lancing-nature.bn15.net
Agrimony Copyright Ray Hamblett

 

Yellow Rattle
Yellow Rattle Copyright Wild Flowers Kingdom

 

The hike back seemed fast, as it usually does. But we did have time for an impromptu boot camp featuring the classic quackgrass-between-your-thumbs whistle. Vivian was the champion and intends to keep practicing. Her son Marco was very proud! She thanks all her professional coaches. We’ll assess her progress on another hike.


Jerry later commented: The vegetation had grown rapidly. But the clearing done by the trail maintenance crew made walking much easier.

In the long stretches of trail the sunlit interludes revealed bright red sprigs of fireweed. The pretty, fragrant dogbane shrubs around the high lip of a beaver pond were amazing.

Elsewhere along the trail we found other plants in yellow flower but had to check our books to identify them.  Coots, blue-winged teal and ruddy ducks and other waterfowl were on the ponds. A few harmless garter snakes escaped the trail as we passed by. There were signs of recent beaver work along the trail and deer tracks in the muddy spots.

As you can see in the photo (below) we had to protect ourselves from mosquitoes—Nature’s indicator that we still have a somewhat pristine environment.

Wanisan Hikers