Thursday, July 30, 2009

Elk Island National Park

If you've read my blog posts about our trip to Edmonton, I'm sure you've noticed that they're pretty similar to posts that I have written in previous years. I haven't bothered to include links anymore, or take pictures of every single thing because I've blogged about them before. When I come here, there are always "must-dos" like having certain foods, going to my childhood church, hanging out with certain friends, etc. To keep things interesting though, Jason and I have decided that we'd try out at least one new thing this wonderful city has to offer every year we visit. This year, our "new" thing was to visit Elk Island National Park (sorry, the actual Parks link won't work so here's the Wikipedia link). It is located about 45 minutes east of Edmonton, and is known for being a natural habitat for many species of wildlife such as bison, beavers, elk, and deer. It was created as Canada's first wildlife preserve in 1906. I first went there when I was in grade five. Our teachers took us on an overnight camping trip, and I enjoyed it so much, I still have fond memories of it. We were put into tent groups and had planning meetings during school to go over lists of things to bring, to decide who would help for big group meals, and to learn "outdoorsy" survival-type stuff. One of the memories that is engraved in my mind is when I had to wake up in the middle of the night to go use the outhouse. After I finished, I opened the outhouse door and just about had a heart attack. Right outside was a huge bison, just standing and eating grass. I quickly closed the door, panicking and wondering what I should do. Luckily, the bison didn't stick around- it started walking away... I ran back to our tent and remember how shaken I was, how long it took for my heart to stop racing!

Well, this past week's trip wasn't quite that memorable, but we still had a good time nonetheless. After we paid our admission, I began looking through the park's map and information brochures. I said to Jason, "I really hope we get to see some bison today." Just as I looked up from the map, guess who greeted us? He took his time, but eventually wandered off the road (we saw quite a few by the end of our trip!) We continued on to Astotin Lake where there is a small sandy beach to have a picnic lunch.Next, we walked over to the Living Waters trail, which is a floating boardwalk on the lake. When I was a fifth grader, we scooped some of the water out into buckets to examine the contents. We saw things like tiny fish, leeches, and water bugs. The boardwalk was surrounded by water. I was saddened to see that over the years, the boardwalk now seems to be surrounded by marsh and thick grasses. So, Grace and Jeremy weren't able to see any cool aquatic life. I was kind of glad that the boardwalk wasn't surrounded by the lake, simply because I wondered what Jeremy would've done.
There were several family friendly trails and we decided to go on a 3.5 km hike called Beaver Pond Trail.
It was an easy hike- no steep hills or anything like that. It was hard in that we were surrounded by mosquitoes. I forgot to bring the bug spray!!!! We were constantly slapping ourselves, and it was annoying to hear the constant buzzing. I will never forget the bug spray again!!! Somehow, I ended up being the only one with multiple mosquito bites!

As indicated in the hike's name, we passed a pond that had a beaver lodge. We searched for beavers, but didn't see any. Not only did Grace walk the whole thing, she talked almost the entire time, too. Man, when did she become such a talker? We kept telling her, "Grace, listen- can you hear the wind blowing in the trees?" She would pause and then keep talking. Jeremy walked half of it. Jason helped carry him a ways, and then he'd continue walking. Near the end though, Jeremy was so exhausted that he actually fell asleep in Jason's arms.

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