One of the first places I wanted to take a look at when I returned to town earlier this month was the trail system along the west side of the river. Not only is it the closest and best way for me to access the valley from my house but it is also an area where the forest fire raged and marks the closest point "The Beast" got to my street, which lies less than two blocks away. It had actually been a couple of years since I had been down here so I was doubly curious to check it out.
Here you can see the damage at the trail head.
This is the view if you were to look immediately to the right from the photo above. These houses lie in the Wood Buffalo neighbourhood and show just how close the fire got to some houses.
I've seen lots of burned out areas as the result of forest fires, not only here in Alberta but also in Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories as well. While it doesn't all look like this, I found the damage in this particular patch tough to look at.
This sign warns about lighting open fires in the trail system. Rather ironic.
Signs of regeneration were there however. You can see the forest floor starting to green up again even in areas of significant burn out.
The trail was teaming with magpies and woodpeckers in particular along this stretch. The only drawback for viewing was that it was a bit tricky to see dark-feathered fauna against a blackened forest.
The absence of leaves in some areas did provide some pretty good views of the valley though. Normally I'd have to do a lot of traipsing around in the bush to get even a half-decent view. With temperatures in the upper 20's I was happy that I didn't have to worry about that this time.
One of the many benches I passed that were burned. I know I've sat on this very bench a few times during past trips, resting my legs, recording a bird or just enjoying the summer air.
It wasn't all death and destruction though. I honestly have no idea what kind of flower this is but I found it standing all by itself about half way down the trail.
More signs of life returning.
I decided to turn around once the trail hit the road to the golf course. This is actually just a little upstream from where the forest fire jumped the Athabasca before threatening Thickwood and encroaching in to Wood Buffalo and Timberlea. As you can see though, there was plenty of green to be had and this happens to be among my favourite views down in to the valley.
This last photo is a shot very similar to the photo I use as the header for this blog. It's slightly to the north as I wasn't keen on cutting down and then back up a steep slope to cross the road to get to the exact spot where the header photo was taken (it was just too warm out for that) BUT it is pretty close. It looks more like a late fall photo than an early summer one, such was the damage done by the fire.
All in all though, this is a very dynamic place. It still feels very familiar even if it now looks a bit different from before. Like our town, the forest along the valley will also rejuvenate and re-build.