Northeast River Valley Park Hike

It was our inaugural hike on the newly-opened Northeast River Park. Eight hikers met for a wondrous winter walk through the snow covered surroundings.

The snow fell softly and intermittently as we followed the river towards Hermitage Park, up to the point where a new bridge is being constructed.

Near the turn-around point, Martha treated us to homemade cranberry cookies. This was particularly welcome as lunch was still a distance away, at our starting point, where there was a heated shelter and washrooms. In warmer weather, you would love the extensive deck that overlooks a pond, and picnic tables for a lunch alternative.

As for wildlife, we spotted a small flock of waxwings, and many tracks of rabbit, and possibly coyote. Here is the zoom-in on a pair of bald eagles that were captured in one photo taken on scouting day.

Considering the temperatures of only several days previous, we felt quite fortunate to be out in relatively warm, comfortable weather to enjoy this new (to us) piece of trail.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the hike, to Martha for the cookies, and to the City of Edmonton Parks people. You can see all the photos on Flickr.

Where we’re going next.

WTA brings refreshment and cheer to the Birkebeiner

What an auspicious start, we thought, as we watched the bald eagle flying low over the parking lot.

It was Race Day at the Blackfoot Recreation Day, and the event was the Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival. The Waskahegan Trail Association has volunteered in the festival ever since its inception.

And for us, this year’s Birkie was especially sweet.

At the volunteer orientation a few days before, the Waskahegan Trail Association, and our long-time member and volunteer Oscar Zawalsky in particular, were recognized by the Canadian Birkebeiner Society for providing 34 consecutive years of food station service. (We think it’s been 38 years, so maybe they omitted the years that the festival was cancelled.)

Anyway, no other group or individual can make that claim.

Oscar was given a framed print of a section of trail in the Blackfoot Recreation Area. The print was made by local artist Brian Lucas, who three years ago had won the award for the skier “who best represents the spirit of the Birkebeiner.”

Race day was great for our group of eight volunteers—mild weather, almost no wind, and intermittent sunshine. But for the skiers, not quite so great. The track was rather icy, but still not as much as we’ve seen in some years.

Our “Last Chance” food station saw 237 participants in the 13 km event, most of whom stopped for the snacks and beverages we provided. Our food station is at the halfway point for these skiers and it is their only option for a break. Since the skiers invariably seem to come all at once, there was a while when we were all going full tilt!

A big change for our crew this year was dealing with only the one race segment, as the course was significantly altered on the 31 km route, bypassing Meadow Shelter. Although this resulted in a much shorter day, our team will welcome resuming our usual double-duty efforts next year.

The Waskahegan volunteers typically do a great job and have an enjoyable day. This year was no exception. You can find all the photos on Flickr. Thank you, crew!