If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you are no doubt aware that hubby and I love to camp, hike, and kayak. Here in Canada, the season for enjoying those activities is short and if we’re not careful our calendar fills up with other activities such as the meetings that we’ll be attending next week as delegates for our church. Sometimes we have to be creative in order to carve out time for the things we most love doing, so that’s what we did this past week.
Hubby had a medical appointment in Vermilion, a town a little less than an hour and a half northeast of here. (You know you’re in Canada if you measure distance by how long it takes to drive somewhere!) Vermilion happens to border a provincial park with a campground, an extensive network of trails, and a reservoir suitable for kayaking. What could have been a day trip for a doctor’s appointment became a three day camping trip instead!
We quickly discovered that Vermilion Provincial Park is built on a giant gopher colony. These furry little creatures, a bane to farmers when they take up residence in their fields, were absolutely everywhere! At any given moment, we could see half a dozen or more of them grazing, standing like sentinels, or wrestling and playing on the grassy slope in front of our trailer. The young ones were particularly entertaining to watch. They were very curious about us too!
Vermilion is hometown to Beckie Scott, Canada’s most decorated cross-country skier. A three time Olympian, Beckie won gold in Salt Lake City in 2002, becoming the first Canadian (and the first North American woman) to win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing. The road leading into Vermilion Provincial Park is called Beckie Scott Trail and the Vermilion Nordic Ski Club, based out of a renovated 1905 train station in the park, maintains groomed ski trails during the winter which are used for hiking in the summer.
We did a 7.5 km hike on Thursday afternoon. While much of the hike was fairly level, as we made our way up and down some of the hills along the way, I was glad I was on foot and not skis! As a former cross-country skier, I knew that some of those uphill slopes would have been gut-busters!
As we set off on the trail, we noticed a “Bear in Area” sign. According to other campers, it was a mama with cubs. Not wanting to come face to face with her, we kept our bear bell jingling as we walked and we also had bear spray close at hand in case it was needed. Thankfully, it wasn’t. The only wildlife we spotted was these two bunnies who didn’t seem too concerned about our presence.
Much of the time, the trail followed the edge of the Vermilion River reservoir. The water was almost dead calm, unlike the previous afternoon when we contended with a fairly stiff breeze while out in the kayak.
Red-winged blackbirds are a common sight when kayaking on Alberta lakes and rivers, but I managed to get better photos of these ones with my feet solidly on the ground than I’ve ever been able to get from the boat.
After a day in the fresh air and an invigorating hike, we were ready to let the campfire die out and head for bed by 11 PM, but I had to stay up later. Earlier in the day, a couple camped near us had told us that they’d seen fireflies the night before, something we’d never seen in Alberta before. At this time of year, however, with the longest day of the year less than two weeks away, the sun doesn’t set until nearly 10 PM and it isn’t fully dark until close to midnight. I had to stay up long enough to see those fireflies! Sure enough, when I stepped back out of the trailer just before crawling into bed, little dots of light flashed all around! It was magical!