I respectfully acknowledge that the land in and around Elk Island National Park 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), Michif Piyii (Métis), Cree people.
The day we went on this hike the weather was constantly changing. As we were picking up breakfast and heading to get some coffee we weren’t even sure if we wanted to go anymore… (yes, we get food at one spot and coffee at the other if both are open) The wind picked up and it started snowing. It wasn’t pleasant, but we decided to give it a go. I mean, the weather would probably change in a few minutes, and if not then we had a nice countryside drive with our breakfast.
Before heading to our hike, we first checked out the Bison Loop, a short looped road within Elk Island National Park that takes you through an open plains, and a bit of a forest where you might have the chance to spot some bison, and maybe even some elk. About eighty percent of the time that we have driven through the loop have been no animals. Maybe it is the time of day, or they got spooked by vehicles before us. However, this time driving through – there were HUNDREDS! Seeing the young bison playing, frolicking, and battling, the older bison keeping a lookout, and to identify the different personalities of the statuesque animals. It was an absolutely incredible experience to watch.
After driving around, and taking some photos of the bison, we headed to the Beaver Pond Trail. It is an easy 3.5km hike that takes about 1 to 2 hours (but all depending how fast you walk, and how much you stop to take photos.) It took us just under two hours, but I take a lot of photos, and we also walked VERY fast on the last kilometer and a half or so… (I’ll save what I know about that for later.)
Along the length of the trail as you walk past a number of ponds, up and down small hills through sedge meadows and aspen forest you will see evidence of old and new beaver activity (chewed trees, dams, lodges and trails) Beavers had inhabited the area in abundance until the fur trade completely eliminated them in the mid 1800s until they were reintroduced in the mid 1940s.
As we are in between seasons right now and with it being a less than stellar day, I knew there wouldn’t be any stand out scenery to capture so going into the hike I knew I wanted to focus on the details and WOW! it is unbelievable at all the microscopic life that we walk right past without noticing. (I wish I had a macro lens!) The tiny fungi, ivy-like plant-life, the different types of moss and lichen all easily passable if you weren’t looking closer.
Halfway through the trail, I was crouched down taking a photograph of a mossy log. At the same time as my shutter clicked, there was a strange, unfamiliar noise in the distance. I faintly heard it, but didn’t think anything of it. Josh asked if I heard it just as we heard it again. This time it was much clearer and much louder, perhaps even closer (scary) we had no idea what it was. Was it a human? (We weren’t the only ones on the trail), was it an animal? (We are in the wilderness) Was it something or someone in danger? Or something or someone ready to attack?
Josh was concentrating to listen for it again, and apparently his concentration face is the same ghostly face of fear, so I got scared. (I mean, if Josh is scared – it’s a scary situation) We started walking faster, my heart beating out of my chest. I tried to run, but my body wouldn’t let me and my legs were completely fatigued (mainly from my shin splints acting up from running for the first time in months just a few days prior, and this was the longest hike I had been on since my leg had healed.) We were probably 1.5 kilometers from the Jeep but it seemed A LOT further. The noise happened a few more times. We pulled the bear spray out just in case we were faced with danger. My imagination was running wild.
Once we FINALLY got back to the Jeep, I chilled out and then drove up the road to see if we could still hear anything (which we didn’t) so we figure that it must have been an animal, perhaps a fox? (I asked my Dad later what it could have been, he suggested an Elk as they were in rut during that time. I searched up some videos of elk, and that sounds very similar to what we heard.)
We then took another drive through the Bison Loop as some of the bison were still there! Some were migrating back from the main road to the plains and we got caught in a bison jam for long enough for me to realize I could stand on the seats and pop my head and camera out of the sunroof to capture some photos. (That was handy!)
Until next time, chase the stoke!
- You will need a Parks Canada Pass or daily admission to enter into Elk Island National Park.
- More trail and park information can be found on the Beaver Pond Trail page on the Parks Canada 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.