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!

Bunchberry Meadows Hike

The weather for the Bunchberry Meadows hike was pleasantly warm for early February. Nine people came out to this unique property, which is just north of Devon.

The trail conditions were very good. The 8 kms or so of pathways we hiked in the Bunchberry Meadows and Tucker’s Field were well packed, owing to the heavy traffic the day before.


A highlight of the day was hand-feeding the fearless chickadees. We were grateful to Stella for bringing birdseed and sharing it with us. It was an amazing moment, especially for those who had never experienced the ability to get this close to nature.

Forest of larches at Bunchberry Meadows

The terrain was virtually flat, which made the pace of the hike relaxed and comfortable. It didn’t even tax those of us who aren’t getting out as much as we’d like.

Thanks to Lee for help with scouting, suggesting route alternates, and clearing the picnic tables. You can find all the photos on Flickr.

Where we’re hiking next.