We were a bit unsure about our time off and it seems that Brenda and Ray are too. Ray returned last night after a 6th place finish at the Red Deer show which, out of 48 and achieving 69.5 points he was quite pleased. In the back of his combined living/horse box trailer he’d also returned with 2 additional ponies who are going to be trained as pulling horses for carriages or sleighs.
We didn’t rise too early but at about 9am we went to find him to ascertain our plans (he’d already taken the Jeep out once and we’d hoped that we’d be able to use it if we were off). He greeted us with an emphatic ‘you’re not supposed to work every day’. He wants us to help him tomorrow to go and collect some hay so was happy to let us have today off and the Jeep would be available.
We turned left out the drive this time and headed back towards Hinton. Nothing grazing on the grass verges this time but it had been dawn previously. Our first stop was a walk to Muskeg Falls, about 500m from the road so just a quick hike so we didn’t even bother with the backpack, though we did take the bear spray when we observed this sign on entrance to the woods. It felt like much further than 500m and we aware of going downhill all the time which didn’t bode well for the return journey. The forest was beautiful, dissimilar to yesterday as this was predominantly pine but very narrow tops, some kind of spruce I think. This made a significant difference as it allowed the sunshine to reach the forest floor and encourage plenty of growth including these beautiful calypso orchids. After consulting a book on Alberta’s wild flowers, I think that the miniature sunflowers are arnica so we’ll be ok for our bruises.
After about 20 mins we came to a divide in the path, the left fork indicating down to the lower trail. On the assumption that this would require a greater uphill climb afterwards we opted for the higher route. This led us down to the top of the waterfall by a rocky outcrop where we were able to linger and absorb the stunning surroundings, essence of pine creeping into our noses and the almost hypnotic sound of the water tumbling over the rocks before cascading down the falls. The sun’s heat was tempered by the shower of water droplets we received intermittently when blown our way by the not inconsiderable wind from which we were mostly sheltered.
Whilst not looking forward to the return journey we decided to explore the lower path as our view of the fall was limited by the rocky outcrops so thought that looking up at it might provide a better angle. We scrambled back up the slope, grateful for the intertwining exposed root systems which provided almost consistent steps. The descent on the lower trail was steep and loose underfoot so progress was very tentative. The extent of this was illustrated by the rope which had been considerately provided at a particularly challenging section. We arrived at the bottom eventually and could see nothing except the river in front of us! The return journey proved to be somewhat easier even if it did require hands and feet to scramble up the steep slope. We joined the original path and made our way back to the Jeep having met no-one in either direction and being the only vehicle in the car park.
We continued along the main road and pulled in at Pierre Grey Lakes which, at first sight appeared to be a massive although almost deserted camp site. We found an empty boat put-in point and parked up. The picnic table was in the shade and whilst sheltered from the worst of the wind, was not exactly warm so we retreated to the car and pulled it down to the slipway to face the water. Fish were leaping out at us left, right and centre, literally, but we had no rod. Overhead a pair of rather large birds circled lazily in the thermals, they could have been ospreys but I’m not sure. We had seen a squirrel in the forest and one had been busy under the Jeep on our arrival but that seemed to be the limit of our wildlife exposure today until…. Roger gave a stage whisper to ‘look’ (the windows were wide open). There, less than 10yds to our left, was what looked like a small silver wolf. Totally unperturbed it crossed behind the Jeep trotted across the car park and meandered up the path on the other side. I think it is actually a coyote and the photos don’t do it justice, he was beautiful.
It was still mid afternoon so we cruised back to town, past the spirit houses of the Indians’ graveyard and on to the golf course where we had been recommended to go and have a coffee and a walk. We opted for the former as we felt we’d had our exercise for the day. A coffee and muffin for Roger and mars bar for me and out onto the patio. We actually managed to find some seats in the shelter of the persistent wind and commented that you couldn’t see the course. However, the alternative view of the snow-capped mountains was more than sufficient compensation. On leaving, we couldn’t help but admire the view across the putting green to the first tee as well; not a bad place for a golf course and I was even wearing my Greg Norman cap!