Lisa had a bit of a headache this morning and the kids seemed a little more rambunctious than usual so in order to give Lisa a break and prevent the kids from killing each other I decided to take them along with the dog out for a walk and explore the Birchwood Trail. The Birchwood Trail is actually a whole series of smaller trails lying between the Thickwood and Timberlea areas of town. I'm not sure how many kilometres of trail there are but it is used quite extensively by the local ski and running clubs and anyone else, like ourselves, out looking for a touch of nature. The trails are all named after different animals - Raven Trail, Bear Trail, Moose Trail, Squirrel Trail and so on. Maps are posted at various points along the way and while I did pick a map earlier in the week I had left it back at the house.
Due to last night's snowfall I wasn't really sure what kind of condition the trails would be in but decided perhaps to just head down one a little ways before turning around and heading back.
Tamara and Nicholas at the head of the trail system. Hot chocolate provides some good insulation.
We had a choice between 3 different trails so we picked the middle of the three and headed down into the valley. Once out of the wind the going was much easier. The trail was a little slushy in spots but overall much easier to navigate than expected. And our sense of adventure kicked in. What began as a quick look-see turned into a 3+ hour nature hike.
The Raven Bridge, the first of 3 three bridges we crossed.
Here the kids have conquered Fuzzy Hill, the first big hill we attempted. The trail winds back on itself several times as it rises so you don't really get a good idea of just how long and steep it was. My knees could certainly tell you though.
We saw quite a lot of bird life and Tamara is getting quite adept of picking movement out of the thick boreal forest. Along the way we spotted the ubiquitous raven, two downy woodpeckers, a black-capped chickadee and a couple robins. With the exception of the raven and the chickadee, Tamara saw them all before I did and proudly pointed them out to me. The robins were the first ones I've ever seen here in Alberta. Funny how I've spent a good chunk of my career living in boreal forest and have never saw robins like I did growing up back in Ontario. When Tamara pointed them out, I mistakenly corrected her thinking they weren't to be found this far west. She seemed convinced though that she had indeed seen a robin. A few seconds later the matter was cleared up as some movement caught my eye and I saw a pair of robins quite distinctly not too far into the bush. She was tickled to prove me wrong and I was grateful to have an extra pair of eyes to help me out.
The trails cross back and forth over 3 branches of a creek which winds its way through the valley. Erosion and dead fall had done a number on parts of the trail and washed out at least one bridge, or at least the ground on the other side of it.
A partial view of the valley looking back the way we came. The picture just doesn't do it justice.
Kids being kids. I think Nicholas was pretending to be some sort of reindeer. Since he was more interested in looking for bigger wildlife and we didn't come across any along the way, he took it upon himself to invent his own.
In the end we came out of the trail system at a totally different spot from where we had entered. What can I say. A few years on the Nunavut tundra have apparently dulled my bush navigation skills (though in my defense I didn't have my map with me as I mentioned). In the end though it wasn't too far of a walk to get home.
It was a great little outing and the kids are itching to head back since was covered only a small portion of the trail system. Now that I know what kind of scenic views and bird life are to be found there I can't wait to head back with binoculars in tow. We are very lucky indeed to have such a nice rural get away so close by.