Trail Maintenance Wraps Up for 2020

This week, Trail Maintenance wound up for the year at Hughston Stopover at Coal Lake. There was a hike and a campfire with marshmallows. Sightings of wildlife included white tail deer, swans, beaver, rabbit, and grouse. It was a good day.

Fall is such a perfect time for trail maintenance—reasonable temperatures for working outdoors, no mosquitos, and a lot of great scenery.

Visit the Flickr album to see more of Sherry’s photos taken at Trail Maintenance this month.

Many thanks to coordinators Ellen and Sherry and to everyone who came out for this year’s work parties.  

Kopp Lake Hike

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

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.

Traditional uses

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.

Sources

  • 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.