Eleven people came out to hike the Kopp Lake trail, one of the oldest sections in the Waskahegan Trail system.
The conditions these days are ideal for hiking: not too warm but not yet cold, and no mosquitoes. We can see not only the start of fall colours, but fat juicy cranberries ripening on bushes, a greater variety of birds as they make their way south, and huge perfect orbs of grey paper fashioned by industrious wasps.
Thanks to Helen for scouting and leading the hike and to Trail Maintenance for the great work in clearing this trail. You can find more photos on Flickr.
Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) has showy mauve to purple-pink tubular flowers clustered on heads at the top of 50-120 cm tall stems. Blooming in July to August, the flower is a favourite of butterflies and hummingbirds.
The grey-green lanced-shaped leaves are fragrant with the scent of peppermint and oregano combined. It’s reminiscent of the scent of Early Grey tea, which is actually scented with a different product—oil of bergamot from the citrus tree, bergamot orange.
Wild bergamot is found on dry banks as well as scrubby patches and moist waste places, in the open areas near poplar patches.
Rich in thymol, the plant has many uses in traditional indigenous culture—as a medicine, disinfectant, insect repellent (for instance on dried meat and drying berry cakes), perfume, and in smudges. One source, Plants of the Rocky Mountains, mentions that the Cheyenne (Suhtai, Tsitsistas) “perfumed favourite horses with the chewed leaves”, which is probably why it is also called horsemint.
WASKAHEGAN FIELD NOTES
In 2019, we had a lot of rain, which possibly raised the water table. That was also the year we noticed large patches of wild bergamot where we had never noticed it before, on the dry slopes of the Stoney Creek trail, and in the open areas of the North Coal Lake trail.
On a hot summer day on the Stoney Creek trail, you’ll smell the warm and spicy mint and oregano in the air before you even see the flowers.
Linda Kershaw, Andy MacKinnon, Jim Pojar. Plants of the Rocky Mountains.
R.G.H. Cormack. Wild Flowers of Alberta.
F.R. Vance, J.R. Jowsey, J.S. McLean. Wildflowers Across the Prairies.
Nineteen people came out to hike the Ministik Bird Sanctuary. This is an area we had not hiked for a few years. Most of the path is through dense bush, so we understood quite well what a challenge it must have been for the trail maintenance work party to do the clearing for this hike.
The whole area is dotted with sloughs, which makes it very attractive for nesting birds.
When we reached Williams Lake we stopped for lunch. A pair of swans were in the distance.
On the way back, we checked in on the Berg Stopover, which was built in 1984 on the private land of Dr. Berg, a former dean of Agriculture and Forestry at the University of Alberta.
Thanks to Lee for scouting and leading the hike and to Trail Maintenance for a job well done. You can find more photos on Flickr.