I hiked Nose Hill to celebrate Canada Day. At least that’s my excuse, though I never need much of a reason to go hiking.
I humped up Many Owls Valley cutting through the Aspen woods and then east along the brow of the south slope.
The springs continue to flow with some force here and there throughout the park. Amongst the Aspen of Many Owls Valley the springs have carved their own modest channel and especially in the shade Robins come there in large numbers to search the mud for worms.
On the south slope the wildflowers are blooming in full force. My favourite may be Blue Flax, whose scientific name acknowledges its discoverer Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame.
In one location I found them turning the prairie a stunning blue over most of fifty square metres.
Speaking of explorers a common but pretty purple flower on Nose Hill is Mackenzie’s Hedysarum, named of course for Alexander Mackenzie who also lends his name to the great Mackenzie River.
Finally it is said that David Thompson was the first explorer to lay eyes on Nose Hill in 1787. Then fellow explorer Peter Fidler joined Thompson on another expedition to the Bow Valley ten years later.
Obviously the aboriginals were here first, by a long way. Some camps have been found showing occupation going back over 8,000 years. Later this would be Blackfoot country, and in particular the territory of the fierce Peigan. How odd to consider that those hunting grounds below Nose Hill are now suburbs.
But on top its easy to forget that you’re in the city. As you walk through hollows the sounds of the city disappear. And Nose Hill is big-four square miles. You can especially lose your self in the old gravel pit on top, now covered by Balsam Poplar, which seems to thrive in gravel.
The gravel it seems was deposited there by the Bow River which is a bit baffling when you consider that the Bow now flows several hundred feet below Nose Hill.
According to Nose Hill, A Popular Guide prepared by the Calgary Field Naturalists’ Society the Bow Valley has eroded a titch since the end of the last ice age 15,000 years ago.
Back then it was on a plain with the top of Nose Hill on one side and Broadcast Hill on the other. But of course ice ages produce a lot of water when they melt and this swept millions of tons of gravel downstream to be deposited in all kinds of places including Nose Hill.
There are erratics (large stones deposited by glaciers) all over the hills as well, many of which were used by buffalo to rub against. Over millenia many have been rubbed smooth.
The same terrific little book told me that these stones had actually been transported to Nose Hill from Jasper, hundreds of miles to the north, by a glacier known as the Jasper tongue, a name that would probably cause some teasing from other glaciers. At any rate it seems these stones are the same as naturally occur around Jasper. The things you learn when you read books!
Anyway, a seasonal slough has formed in the gravel pit which many Mallard Ducks and some shore birds are happy about. It’s a bit of a marvel that something so temporary as that little body of water could be so full of life, but so it is.
On my way back coming back down through the Aspen a young White Tail deer and I face off 30 yards apart. He is, as they say, “in the velvet” referring to his antlers still covered in fuzz. We look at each other for a minute. Finally I move forward and he flees, his white tail fully extended.
That’s about as good a Canada Day as anyone can have.