Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hayburger Trail, Elk Island National Park, Canada


This was a 10km loop trail. You start at a parking lot right off the main road and hike 1km to the loop. We did the loop in a clockwise direction and we found that the first half of the trail was more open than the second half - it was prairie viewing with some forest that was easily seem through to spot wildlife. The soap pots or quicksand holes mark the approximate halfway point. You will find this in a open area about 50 years past the trail as the trail veers to the right. As we were admiring the quicksand area, we were graced by a bull Bison that walked by us about another 50 yards away in this big open area. He stopped and we watched him rolled around in one of the many rub spots that you will see throughout the park, then proceeded into the nearby forest opposite our direction and out of sight. We then started the second half of this hike where the trail went through much denser forest with some open pasture views, which made it visually harder to see past the trail. We walked about another mile and then encountered another Bison on the trail walking towards us. He was about 20-30 feet from where we stopped. We calmly talk to him in normal voices and within a few minutes he trotted through the forest out of our way. That was pretty exciting to say the least. About ½ mile from the end of the hike, we encountered another Bison sitting in rub hole very close to the trail. His head was only visible at first sight. Once we stopped and started talking to him, he got up to try and figure out who we were. We continued to calmly talk to him and after a few minutes he walked up the same trail ( the way we were going ) and joined 4 more Bison coming down the trail. They all stopped watching us and eventually decided to move into the forest to our right. We cautiously move forward continually talking to them until we were safely past. The encounters plus the more open views made this our favorite hike of the park.

Tip: When you go to Elk Island, ask the attendants which hike offer the most open views, as the hikes can change dramatically from year to year.

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