I respectfully acknowledge that the land in and around Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary is located within the Treaty 6 Territory, the ancestral and traditional territories of the Niitsítpiis-stahkoii ᖹᐟᒧᐧᐨᑯᐧ ᓴᐦᖾᐟ (Blackfoot / Niitsítapi ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ), ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ ᐊᐢᑭᕀ Nêhiyaw-Askiy (Plains Cree), Tsuu T’ina, Michif Piyii (Métis), Cree people.
It was the first week of the new year, the temperature was a rather chilly -20 degrees Celsius plus whatever it was with the wind chill, but that didn’t stop us from going out for a hike at Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary. We had never been there yet, and it sounded like an interesting place to explore regardless of season. (There are just under 5km of trails and boardwalks through marshland, aspen parkland, open meadow and pine forest to explore.) However, I think the only way that I could convince Josh to come with me was the promise of homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner when we got back. (I don’t think he was thawed out from our other chilly hike a few days prior!)
Immediately upon entering the Sanctuary, we were welcomed by a friendly squirrel who loved posing for my camera as it went on it’s day eating sunflower seeds out of the feeder. I took a few photos of him and we started our hike down a snowy boardwalk over frozen marshland. It was silent, the air was crisp, the snow sparkled with the sunlight, it was magical. At that moment, and all throughout our hike on the Boardwalk Loop I knew that I needed to come back with each changing season to experience this place throughout the year. (I recommend you do the same!)
I love discovering places for the first time, there is so much wonder, curiosity and excitement. And this place did not disappoint! Even in the dead of winter, it was still very full of life, and hiking here for the second, third, and fourth time we went was still full of that excitement as the first time as we’d take a new trail, or go the opposite way as the last time.
We almost arrived at the perfect time for three out of the four seasons. But I think we were about a week or two too soon for a great spring experience (It was +25 that day so it felt more like summer, minus most signs of spring) However, we did see some birds and waterfowl along the Boardwalk Loop and a few budding trees along the Pine Knoll and Woodland Trail.
Summer was so full of life and colour! It was hard to believe this was the same place we were at before! We hadn’t been through the Aspen Ridge Trail yet, so we decided to give it a try, and then continue on the Boardwalk Loop after the meadow – and boy was this trail ever GORGEOUS with all the aspen trees! (fair warning: wear bug spray if you are planning on taking a quick walk through this trail as the mosquitoes were THICK when we went through)
The meadow, which is the furthest point from the parking lot is another one of my favourite spots along the hike. There is so much variety of life, the insects thrive on the wildflowers. This particular hike, there was the most beautiful dragonfly I have ever seen. It was a stunning golden color, I took a couple photos as it tried to stay sitting on the wild oat in the blustery wind.
I am SO happy we caught the leaves before they got blown away! Because I fell in love with the Aspen Ridge Trail so much in summer, I knew it would be amazing in the autumn! So we did the same trail as the summer. I spent the most of my time in there among the trees photographing and soaking up as much autumn as I could. Closer to the end of the trail, you could see some storm damage (trees were bent or snapped over) that happened sometime after the last time we were there.
It would be difficult to pick just one favourite season at Clifford E. Lee, as each time we had went out we had a completely different experience. (Season changes, hiked other trails, etc) However, I am a little bit bias towards the winter and autumn seasons as there were no bugs out, but I do love that no matter what season, day or time you are at the nature sanctuary, it isn’t all that busy of a place, and even if the parking lot is full there are enough trails and corners that it doesn’t seem crowded. It is a perfect quick escape out of the bustling city.
Until next time, chase the stoke!
- More information about Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary can be found on their website.
- When photographing wildlife, please keep your distance. Parks Canada recommends 30 meters from large animals and 100 meters from bears. Never bait, call, crowd, chase, or capture an animal to take a photo.