May 30th saw the sun shining, no threat of rain and a rambunctious group of teens from the Gwynne School, along with teachers and one overconfident reporter, head out from the school to a beautiful area some healthy kilometers away to the
‘door’ so to speak of Chickadee Trail, or as I’d first heard it, Chickadee Lane.
A secluded area deep in the heart of the Gwynne Valley where it is said birds of every colour and species will visit with you and eat seeds or breadcrumbs out of one’s hand. Unfortunately, this particular day the birds were scarce, possibly due to the lilt and laughter of many students, discovering for the first time inexplicable wonder and beauty in everything surrounding
them. These are kids of a new generation, where IPods and video games rule, but just to observe them I knew I had hit gold.
These were kids who, despite peer pressure, were obviously raised in homes with parental guidance, and knew how to balance the scales between new-age technology and still retain the sense and reality of their past inheritance, a sense of just being real. For myself, this made the whole trip unquestionably worthwhile!
As we finally reached the entrance to this historical trail, a sign bearing the names of the joint property owners depicted also the original name as it began some thirty-five years ago, as the CPR Canyon Hiking Trail. Many years ago this was a horse
and buggy trail which went from the Gwynne area all the way to the Wetaskiwin district in the early 1900’s.
On this particular day energy levels ran high, curiosity and a sense of ‘c’est la vie’ reigned and as we began the ankle twisting, uphill, downhill trek, watch-your-head-for-lowbranches, if you stepped in deer droppings ‘look-forthe- deer –and-forget-your-$100.00-Reeboks,’ I felt almost equal to any challenge as we boldly marched on.
I must say the distance of the hike “in” on this beautifully raw, untamed colourful virgin land was dotted with many unexpected
yet appreciated surprises along the way. A number in our group began by insisting on scaling high up an old fallen tree to
pose, take in the sun and later declare it was easy and fun!
There were beaver dams observed, undistinguished gorgeous and unnamed (to me at least) greenery, virgin foliage which I was informed (when I begged to know what that little green plant was) would be a 50’ pine tree in years to come.
Every so often some originally designed bird feeder could be found, where bird enthusiasts could not deny the urge to leave
seeds/bread crumbs for their fine feathered friends.
At one point in that brief 4 km hike, our group stopped to admire the beauty of ‘the old and the new’ as we gazed at a CPR Train in the distance seemingly suspended above a small creek at our feet as it gave off it’s distant but lonely call, either
proclaiming the newness of diesel technology or insisting that the last of quiet prairie expanse was no longer.
A brief but exciting moment came to me, as I, along with three fellow hikers realized we had wandered off the beaten track and were unquestionably lost! As for myself, being raised by the father who was a game warden in WBNP I prided myself on knowing north, east , south and west. It happened in this case, with towering trees, gaping holes,and underground tree trunks, also praying I didn’t step into a wasp nest, that I suddenly lost all sense of direction!
But with the help of a wonderful young student and two other adventurers (and a little help from one’s cellphone) we found ourselves reunited with the rest of the clan.
As the hikers took time for a group picture, while picking mosquitoes out of noses and mouths, my ‘rescue-angel’ and friends reminded me of what we had seen shortly before becoming ‘lost.’ We declared it epitomized, surely, ‘Nessie’ or at least a sibling of the famed Loch Ness Monster. At that moment I promised myself to return, find that exact spot and verify what we had seen. If I did get lost, so be it. It wasn’t one of the worst ways I could imagine on leaving this world. This particular hiking experience I was NOT done with yet!
I applaud the Gwynne School for upholding this worthy clause within their curriculum, to reconnect their students with a part of their former or latter history in the beautiful area of the Gwynne Valley.
I wish to thank all my sources in causing what I feel was a most inspirational, informative and eventually revealing story of the beginning of this presently beautiful and eye-opening hiking trail, which is worth every mosquito bite; every wrecked hairdo and every wrecked knee cap or foot blister later on!
The return, or the end of the adventure was just as enjoyable; the easy camaraderie one feels amongst recent strangers, as one does in any chaotic or suddenly dramatic situation. Only this lone adventurer was kilometers behind her new friends, feeling guilty as all get-out, especially following in the tracks of a lovely lady hiker in her final trimester at least!
Those interested in the CPR Canyon Hiking Trail can get online to find more information for directions as well as hiking and