Hiking in the Wagner Natural Area, Central Alberta

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June 26th 2012
Published: June 26th 2012
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Its pretty fair to say that living in Edmonton you are not going to be spoiled with spectacular views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains (since they are a mere 3-hour drive to the west)but there are plenty of surreal vegitation areas, species of flora, birds, bugs and wildlife to keep any novice hiker thrilled to the gils.

You see, this is my first time living in the Central region of Alberta. This region for me is like a shiny new toy for any little kid at Christmas time. I want to spend my days hiking around, using my new compass, drinking from glacier streams while trying to avoid "beaver fever" and drawing maps to secret hidden off-the-beaten path trails. I'm an adventurer. I've always loved hiking through places I have never been. Heck... I'll even drive there first or around it then try to figure it out before, during and after.

I tend not to tell people where I am headed because honestly, I never really know? However, I always have the same objective everytime I leave my home... to find something awe-inspiring and spectacular to write about.

Every week I drive 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) to Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway and 33 kilometers home along Trans-Canada Highway 16. Ironically its the same stretch of pavement. Once I turn onto the roadway heading towards Edmonton, I pass 2-Spruce Grove exits, Westlock, Acheson and Winterburn before arriving on the outskirts of Edmonton.

Between the 2nd Spruce Grove exit and both the Westlock and Acheson exits there is an area called Wagner Natural Area. Sometime in the recent past few weekends I had researched and read about this area. Knowing it was quite close to home I decided to forgoe taking to the trail until this afternoon. Normally on Monday evenings, we play softball with our pathetic team. Currently halfway into the season we are 1 win and 8 losses. But we did sweep the Keephills Tournament beating the tar out of Division 1 & 2 teams (19-3, 22-5, 19-8) to advance into the Semi-Final round in Pool-A. This is an awesome accomplishment for a 4th Division team. Either way... our team rocks the casba and has a fantastic time on and off the diamond, no matter if we are winning or losing!

Anyways, tonights game was cancelled due to rain (sad but true). Instead of hitting up the local YMCA, I decided to check out this Wagner Natural Area because I am searching for a few places were I can jog trails after work during the warmer months.

Swinging a left across the highway and turning down the first lane, I ended up in a small parking lot where a large truck and tiny little Mazda 2, were parked. Hopping out, I grabbed my rain jacket and headed for the trail. Not thinking about the rain or potential mosquitos. Up the trail I went through the bush into an open field. Crossing the field, I came across two other trail hikers. Gingerly we passed stating hello in the misty rain as I swatted at mozzies coming at me from all directions! On the other side of the knee deep grasses in the field I dodged into the scrub brush along the well beaten pathway. Along the trail I went pausing momentarily to take in the multitudes of cob-webs hanging off tree branches. Birds chirping and singing songs made the trail a pleseant place to be. Moving down the path several stakes jutted out of the soil with numbered markers. I gathered these markers probably coexisted with the pamphlets in the black toolboxes at the beginning of the trail. I put a mental note to 1) spray mosquito repellent next time on myself and 2) download and bring a copy or pay the loonie ($1) surchrage for a pamphlet.

Jogging briefly down the trail to escape a swarm of mozzies (an Australian term for Mosquitos) I went slapping and flailing my arms and hands about my face. Slowing on the trail I realized the forest shrubs had disappeared as I entered into mainly poplar trees. Still zig zagging across the trail I began noticing several changes in both shapes and colors of the trees making another mental note to bring a camera for my next Wagner Natural Area adventure walk. Soon the poplar trees feel to the side as a boreal forest (birch and conifer trees) spread before me. Moving slower now to take in the dark shadows between the trees a squirell nut in mouth jumped across the path. Both of us pausing only to catch a glimpse of the other before proceeding on our trails. Next I came upon a boardwalk alongside the Marl Pond.

The tall thin cattails swayed gently in the breeze and rain as toads across the sleuth could be heard but not spotted. Pond skippers slide across the water avoiding splashes from the above reeds as well as my shadow. Still in a hurry to stay in front of the mozzies, I spotted a distinct layer of beige and yellow coloration within the skimming ponds. Down the path, over the boardwalks and out through the forest the trail met up with the trailhead. Stepping through the gates I promised to be back in this habitat sooner rather than later.


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