Pipestone to Bigstone Hike: Better than the Nature channel

The Pipestone Creek trail is a favourite of moderate fitness enthusiasts, but at the height of midsummer it’s an absolute BONANZA for those of us who like flowering plants.

Pipestone CreekTwenty people from Edmonton, Beaumont, Hay Lakes, Wetaskiwin, and Camrose met on a quiet road at the bridge over Pipestone Creek. Immediately we entered the dark and mossy forest of towering old spruce that edged along the right bank. Soon we came out to open and flowered meadows that overlooked farms to the south.

We went up and down the slopes, in and out of gulleys, and stepped over many strange fungi, not to mention numerous stiles.


Plant lovers

The weather was humid and mostly overcast but the frequent breezes kept back the mosquitoes. We were concerned that the dirt slopes would be sticky after the rain we had, in the city anyway, almost every day this week. We were relieved to find the slopes dry.



Lunch was long and leisurely on the bank of the Pipestone where it meets the Bigstone Creek. The cows on the other side watched us and we watched them. “Better than the Nature channel,” said Kirsten.


On the way back, a violent splashing got our attention. We stopped to watch a juvenile duck beating the water with its wings, propelling itself along the surface, as it tried and tried to lift itself off into flight.

Hairy Golden Aster?
Hairy Golden Aster?
Brown-eyed Susan
Brown-eyed Susan
Large mushroom
Large mushroom
Coral mushroom
Coral mushroom


We are deeply grateful to the Trail Maintenance crew for the fine work of mowing back the lush growth, the clearing of fallen trees, and the excellent trail signing that made this such an enjoyable hike today.

IMG_2047 (800x508)

See more photos at the Waskahegan Trail Flickr account.


Birkebeiner Trails in the Summer: Wanisan Hike

Western Peewee
Copyright  allaboutbirds.org

It was longer than some WTA hikes, with a total distance of 12 km, but our team was seriously svelte and eager to take on a million mosquitoes. Sprayed with a plethora of chemical repellents (claiming only to be disagreeable to bugs), and further armed with mosquito nets, we began our adventure. It wasn’t long before Jerry found some flowers that he did not know, so he picked them for later identification.

As we walked along we were pleased to learn that our new recruit, Robert Scriba, was a bit of a birder. When we rested at the Wanisan Stopover, he alerted us to the proprietor of the cabin, a Western Peewee.

Ruddy Duck
Copyright Paul Higgins


Farther on we stopped at the Wanisan Lake Lookout, where he called our attention to a Ruddy Duck.


And as we elegantly navigated the boardwalks alongside a beaver pond, he pointed out an adorable family of Blue-winged Teals. It’s always a treat to have someone in the group who can teach some of us more about our natural world.

Teal ducks
Copyright Myrna Bradshaw


We were fortunate to time our lunch exactly when the rain came. We were sheltered in the very cabin where Darlene and David are stationed every winter while volunteering at the WTA Aid Station during the Birkebeiner.

By the time lunch was over and Jerry identified his flowers as Fringed Loosestrife, Agrimony and Yellow Rattle, the rain had relented.

Fringed Loosestrife
Fringed Loosestrife Copyright minnesotaseasons.com
Agrimony Copyright Ray Hamblett


Yellow Rattle
Yellow Rattle Copyright Wild Flowers Kingdom


The hike back seemed fast, as it usually does. But we did have time for an impromptu boot camp featuring the classic quackgrass-between-your-thumbs whistle. Vivian was the champion and intends to keep practicing. Her son Marco was very proud! She thanks all her professional coaches. We’ll assess her progress on another hike.

Jerry later commented: The vegetation had grown rapidly. But the clearing done by the trail maintenance crew made walking much easier.

In the long stretches of trail the sunlit interludes revealed bright red sprigs of fireweed. The pretty, fragrant dogbane shrubs around the high lip of a beaver pond were amazing.

Elsewhere along the trail we found other plants in yellow flower but had to check our books to identify them.  Coots, blue-winged teal and ruddy ducks and other waterfowl were on the ponds. A few harmless garter snakes escaped the trail as we passed by. There were signs of recent beaver work along the trail and deer tracks in the muddy spots.

As you can see in the photo (below) we had to protect ourselves from mosquitoes—Nature’s indicator that we still have a somewhat pristine environment.

Wanisan Hikers


Lush, green and extraordinary: the North Hastings Hike

Early in the morning, the rain was pounding hard on the roads. For about two seconds we wondered would anyone show up? Well of course they will! Rainy days can have the best hiking conditions: not too hot, always refreshing, and you never know what you’re going to see.Into the woods...

We started on the trail with eight hikers, and were soon joined by a ninth, and after lunch, a tenth. The trail was lush and green, and the path was easy to walk, having been cleared and mown just three days ago.

While we were still in the woods, our guest, Anita, was quick to spot a white tailed deer–just meters away from us, on the other side of the fence.Around the slough

We came out and rounded the slough. Suddenly a chorus of sharp yipping, bright and sassy, rose up in the near distance. Birds? “A coyote family,” said Anita. “Babies greeting their mother.”

A few minutes later, I was leading us through the mown path of reeds. Suddenly I jumped. “A snake!” cried Anita, who was immediately behind me. “You almost stepped on a snake.” Sure enough, a garter snake was lying in the middle of path, absolutely still. We all agreed it was the longest snake we had ever seen in the wild.

Common garter snake

I told Anita she gets the award for being the day’s best animal spotter.

Our hike continued through the Allen Nature Trail. We ate our lunch in the yard of St. Margaret’s church. As we nibbled on our sandwiches, we looked up and watched as majestic white pelicans flew overhead.

After lunch we walked down to North Hastings Lake to investigate. No pelicans here, just plenty of ducks and an unusual flock of waterfowl we couldn’t identify.

Not a long walk by Waskahegan standards (only 8 km), but a day full of surprises.North Hastings hikers