This was one of the most surprisingly amazing days I’ve experienced this summer. (And I just got back from hiking the Fryatt Valley in Jasper National Park!) As I sit here on a bench overlooking Astotin Lake, I reflect on the day I’ve had. The lake is situated at the north end of Elk Island National Park.
A Jewel Hiding in Plain Sight
Residing in Fort Saskatchewan, I have lived only about a half hour drive from the Park for over 2 years. Having driven out here only once last spring and not exploring much at all, I realize now I never gave it the chance it deserved. Arriving here today (I almost didn’t come) simply as another spot to catch up on some work, I begin by walking to the small beach and around the many picnic grounds in this National Park. With numerous picnic tables, fire pits, cook houses, washrooms, and a campground, the facilities are so very obviously at the caliber of a Canadian National Park!
Parks Canada has placed red adirondack chairs in various spots throughout the National Parks system. Along one of the many trails throughout the Park, they overlook the lake: this spot to be my office for the afternoon.
Paddling My Way
After working for about two hours I decide to rent a kayak for a mere $15 for the hour. Paddling across this lake on such a warm, calm summer day is truly a privilege.
The Bison are Here!
Arriving back on shore I decide to check out some of the festivities. Today is the day of the Bison Festival. Elk Island National Park holds more bison within its borders than all of North America in 1890 (a simultaneously inspiring and depressing fact considering the decimation of the herds of millions upon the arrival of western Europeans to North America). As children and adults alike “pet” the stuffed specimen on display, I can hardly wait to explore the park further to find the herd. But that will have to wait as there is much more yet to see here at the festival.
Native American dancers are always among my favourite spectacles: the colour, the culture, the music, the dance!
A Chance Meeting
Wanting to check out some of the other lakes and see a live bison in the park, I drive to the south end. “Bison Drive” doesn’t reveal to me any of North America’s largest land mammal; but on the way back, on the main road, coming upon a specimen of impressive size and dark brown hue I stop with some trepidation to snap a quick photo from my car window. This massive animal dwarfs my little car. THIS is Elk Island National Park.
Twilight Comes to Elk Island
Coming back to my spot overlooking the lake, and finishing my work (for today), I am watching the colours of this amazing sunset get deeper and richer. Birds chirp, and now, just now, the coyotes are howling to each other across the lake.
The moon has appeared to the left of me. The sun is disappearing to the right. As I think once again about this day I feel two things: First, I’m going to come back often to this special place, so close to my little apartment; Second, I should have been out here so many more times these past two years to have such days, and find such a twilight as this.