The Waskahegan Trail is closed until further notice

The Waskahegan Trail is a unique resource that exists only because of the generosity of landowners. Unfortunately, the need for isolation and physical distancing means that the private sections of the trail are closed.
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However, we are still encouraged to get outside as long as we follow regulations. As of May 24, we began leading scheduled Sunday hikes on public trails. We also continue to monitor the access of public trails in the region and we're collecting hiking tips.
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Devon Trails: Voyager Park to Lions Campground

Ten people came out to Devon to hike the trails from Voyager Park westward. The hike began with an easy paved path along the North Saskatchewan River. Soon, we turned up and onto the “Legs of Fire Stairs”, which sounds like quite a feat, but it’s manageable when you take it at your own pace.

Everywhere along the trail we saw high bush cranberries in full bloom.

Also blooming was dogwood, bunchberry, and columbine.

Columbine

The path took us back down to the river’s edge, along the golf course and up to the Lions Park Campground, where we had our lunch. From there, we headed away from the river and into the ravine but we soon veered right to take the slope up to the hoodoo formation.

Walking now past the back side of the campground, we walked the path through the shaded, fern-covered woodland, eventually arriving at the street. We returned by way of the edge of the town park, ending with the descent to the parking lot on a superb bike path.

The hike was a perfect loop with no backtracking. Thanks to Lee, who looks for these perfect loops, for scouting the route and for leading this hike. You can find more photos on Flickr.

High Bush Cranberry

High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. americanum)  is native throughout Alberta and much of North America. It is actually not a cranberry but a member of the Honeysuckle family, though its fruit, or “drupes” as they are known taxonomically, strongly resemble cranberries in both appearance and taste (umaine.edu).

This deciduous shrub grows up to 4 m. tall with a smooth grey bark. The leaves are opposite, with three shallow lobes and sharply toothed edges. The flowers are showy flat-topped clusters. The larger white flowers along the edges are infertile; the inner smaller yellowish ones are fertile.

According to the University of Maine website, “The flowers are hermaphrodite (having both male and female organs) and are therefore self-fertile, meaning that an individual plant’s flowers can pollinate one another, so there is no need for a second type (or even a second individual plant) to provide pollen and produce fruit. The flowers are pollinated by both wind and insects.”

The berry-like fruit with a stone inside is reddish orange, matching the shrub’s crimson fall foliage.

There can be some confusion between this and the smaller shrub Virbunum edule, sometimes called Low Bush Cranberry (to 2.5 m. tall). The main difference is in the size of the flower clusters – those of V.edule are much smaller with all flowers the same size (and all fertile?). Thus, the fruit clusters in the fall are also smaller, bearing 5-7 berries rather than upwards of 10.

Source: Johnson , Kershaw, MacKinnon, Pojar. Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland, Lone Pine Publishing, 1995.

WASKAHEGAN FIELD NOTES

High Bush Cranberry is often found in the same location as Chokecherries along the Saunders, Kopp and Coal Lake trails. The large discs of flowers in May to early June are surprising. In September – especially after the first frost – you will notice a musty-sour odour like wet socks coming from stands of High Bush Cranberry. This is when the fruit is ripe. It is edible, but quite tart, and shouldn’t be eaten raw in large quantities. Cooked, it has many uses, and combining these with Chokecherries makes a good jelly/jam (see Chokecherry).

Signs of Spring on the Devonian Trail

Ten people came out to hike the Parkland County Trail from the Devonian Trail to Prospector’s Point. We started at the end of the boardwalk south of the University of Alberta Botanic Garden on Highway 60, continued toward Bunchberry Meadows, passed Tucker’s Field, and finally walked on a wide woodland path along the North Saskatchewan River through the Imrie Property, and down to Prospector’s Point at the river.

The day was sunny and warm. The breezes kept the mosquitos away. It seems early for mosquitos, but what a treat for these birds.

Spring flowers, besides the ubiquitous dandelion on acreage side yards, included early blue violets and several blossoms—carargana, saskatoon, and chokecherry.

Lunch was on the lawn at the picnic area of Prospector’s Point.

Thanks to Lee for leading this hike. You can find more photos on Flickr.