It’s 30C and smoky today. Environment Canada advises the air quality is poor and to lock ourselves into our homes with doors and windows closed. We could do that. But today is Michael’s birthday and burning eyes and scratchy throat be damned, we are going out into the environment and celebrating.
With some help from Facebook friends, came up with a simple picnic and headed 30 minutes east of Edmonton on Highway 16 to the beautiful Elk Island National Park. I made a pathetic attempt at researching Elk Island National Park’s history to dazzle you with information, but their website buries it in a dark corner, I couldn’t find it in less than 5 seconds. So I moved on. I will let you know what I know about this place.
What I know About Elk Island National Park
1) It’s a National Park. Buy a pass. It’s worth it. Sing O Canada.
2) There’s an island.
3) Bison are visible. Elk are not.
4) It’s beautiful. Those of you who have thrown out your: Paper coffee cups, Coke cans, cigarette butts….. I sit here and silently scold you. Yes, my hand is on my hip and I’m wagging my finger at you.
We arrived and stopped in at the interpretive centre at the entrance. It’s always nice to speak with an interpreter and learn something new. What did we learn today? A bison’s head ALONE can weigh 600 lbs. In total, they can weigh over a ton!! Thankfully they are docile creatures and won’t eat us. But we sure like eating them!!! Nothing like a bison burger! Hm. Maybe not appropriate to discuss here while describing a National Park dedicated to educating and protecting these beautiful beasts, so let’s move on.
After leaving the interpretive centre we, and about six other vehicles headed north. We lost one or two on the Bison Loop, a side road which affords excellent bison spotting opportunities. It is a thing of wonder to see were these creatures roam, but no deer or antelope play.
Further along, we lost the remainder of our fellow travellers at the turn for Astotin Lake. Michael and I originally planned to join the multitudes here. Astotin Lake is beautiful. Meandering pathways, lots of picnic tables and shelters, nice washrooms, a beach, a playground… it has everything for the active family. Instead though, we headed further north to the Amisk Wuche Trail 5 picnic/hiking trail site.
We had this part of the park to ourselves. One clean washroom, one picnic table, and one 2.9 km pathway through beautiful trees, shrubs, wetlands, meadows, floating walkways, tricky walkways that made us feel tough and rugged, all surrounded by beautiful yarrow, young raspberries, cattails, purple vetch, the sweetest song of the White Throated Sparrow singing Oh Canada Canada Canada to us, while baby frogs jumped out of our way and little orange butterflies led us through the pathway taking our mind off the constant buzz of mosquitos and busy bees buzzing near our ears.
At the end of our hike, we still had the place to ourselves. The heat and the mosquitoes prevented us from doing anything naughty that might bare a bum (not us! never! we’re old now!), so we unpacked our little picnic and had a feast of cheese, salami, crackers, olives, iced tea, sparkly water, and sweets. The idea of packing a bottle of an icy cold white was attractive, but per the previous sentence, we’ve gained some common-sense in old age and didn’t want to risk a ticket for open alcohol or bare bums in a National Park.
Michael was delighted with the walk and the picnic, and particularly tickled with the many birthday wishes he received through Facebook via my page (he’s steadfast in his Luddite ways, and Facebook is something he continues to ignore).
He’s now settled in front of the TV watching Fawlty Towers, eating his birthday cupcake, whilst I sit here and drink the wine meant for the picnic and write this post, listening to iTunes radio marvelling at music I’ve never heard before.
Happy birthday Michael Declan. Thank you Margaret and Stanley Walsh for creating this beautiful man.