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

What are we celebrating? Our Golden Jubilee

How many Canadian centennial projects do you know that are still alive?

Most I know have disappeared. A few left a residue.

In 1967, when ideas for centennial projects were popping up all over, Fred Dorward had the idea to make a hiking trail around Edmonton. With lots of encouragement, support, and dedicated people, the project evolved into the Waskahegan Trail.

By most measures, it’s a success. The trail has grown to over 300 km, with two thirds on private land…and supported by an active membership.

But at 100 members, we’re small when you consider the value of the trail and the size of our region. Whenever outsiders stumble upon our remarkable and unique resource, they wonder why they haven’t heard of us before.

That’s about to change.

Canada’s 150th is Our 50th

The celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary is a time for individuals and groups to discover our country and define our future. As an original centennial project, we have a special place in the celebration.

This, our Golden Jubilee year, is our moment to tell Canada that we’re still here.

We might join in on the Canada 150 project and tell our amazing stories while we still have the members who can tell them. Stories such as the bridge that volunteers built over a navigable river (done over 4 years, mostly in winter)…or the “beyond” event that involved gathering 96 landowner permissions.

We could take this time to recognize and acknowledge the people who keep the trail going today, such as the landowners (including the farmer who invites us to get close to her alpacas)…the work parties who clear the brush and mark the trails…and the Sunday hikers who point out the cacti in bloom and the ripe Saskatoon berries, and help us take amazing photographs.

We can have new events that reach out to people with special interests, like naturalists…or artists.

These are just a few of the ways that we can help the residents in this region discover that the Waskahegan Trail is worth taking time for, and worth their membership and support.

There’s never been a better time for us to show off and reach out to new people. We have a bright new website that’s serving us well. Our online registration and payment system has made it super-easy for new members to join. And we’ve adopted new approaches to make sure our volunteers are recognized, appreciated, and having fun.

We are so ready for this Golden Jubilee. And we would be thrilled if you could join us in making it happen.

If you have some thoughts, or would just like to keep informed of the plans as they develop, let us know by commenting below.

Our dream is that we’ll still be going strong over the next 50 years. Don’t we all want to be able to sit on Stan’s Bench with a young person and say “This will be here for your grandchildren.”

Mountains 101—the U of A’s latest MOOC—starts soon

We appreciate having the Rockies in our own backyard and we visit them frequently. Now we can study these and other mountain landscapes around the world with a new massive open online course.

Mountains 101 The University of Alberta has partnered with Parks Canada and the Alpine Club of Canada to create the 12 week course. It’s multi-disciplinary, covering geology, biodiversity, and cultural relationships to societies. We are also promised a “tech tip” at the end of each lesson, such as how to pick the best footwear for hiking.

The first lesson can be accessed January 9. You can sign up now at