First hike of the year

Here in Canada, tomorrow is a federal holiday known as Victoria Day. Initially, the holiday always fell on Queen Victoria’s birthday (May 24), but since 1952 it’s been celebrated on the Monday preceding May 25. The connection to royalty has been gradually lost over the years and now most people simply refer to it as the May long weekend. It’s the unofficial start of the summer season and the first weekend of the camping season for many. Rather than camping, since the nights are still very cold, we’re visiting my younger brother and his wife in the small village of Irvine in the southeast corner of Alberta. This afternoon, while our sister-in-law was working, the other three of us set out for our first hike of the season.

The 464-acre Chinook conservation site, a native grassland area, lies just 8 kilometres south of Irvine. Very different from the hiking that we do closer to home, there are no trails, just wide open expanses begging to be explored.

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Leaving the vehicle, we set off across the grassy plain toward the hills some distance away.  Of course, once we reached the top of the first bluff, we had to carry on up the next one, and then the third.

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Here’s the view from the top of the third hill with the second one in the foreground and the first, much lower one below it. Can you spot our vehicle in the distance? How about the little bit of cactus at the bottom of the photo?

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Here’s a closer look at some of the ground cover. This is snake country, but fortunately, we didn’t see any of those!

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After returning to the vehicle, we crossed the road and made our way across more rough grassland and through the bush to Ross Creek where we saw lots of evidence of beaver activity.

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In the final photo, you can see one of the peaks that we climbed way in the background.

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Along the way, we also saw clear signs of the deer and pronghorn antelope that inhabit the area and were reminded of the old western song, Home on the Range. “Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play!”

If the weather cooperates, tomorrow will be another adventure.

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