Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I finally had a chance to actually leave the town limits yesterday and head out on the road for a little exploration. Anyone who knows me, knows there's little I love more than to explore my surroundings. My schedule (and everyone else's actually) and fewer daylight hours mean that in the 6 weeks since I've arrived I've had no opportunity to get beyond the neighbourhoods of the town and out by the airport (which was actually work related, so no time to lolly gag). My fellow boarder, Kyle, was off at the same time as me this week, so he agreed to take me for a spin to search for wood bison. There's a herd of them north of the town on reclaimed land. However, we got to the look off point and none were in sight. It's always a gamble with these creatures anyway, but we came to find out that they are kept in an area away from the look off point for the winter. Kyle and I did a little exploring anyway and found Crane Lake which is also reclaimed land. Once the oil company had finished mining the area and cleaned up the tailings, what they left behind is a beautiful and functional wetland. We weren't familiar with the trail system there so didn't venture far, but there is a trail that circles the lake for about 4.5 kilometres. There are interpretive signs and birdhouses to encourage birds to take up residence. We did see a woodpecker in a tree on the edge of the lake, but that was the only one. The only tracks we saw at first were canid, probably coyote. And they weren't recent so little chance of running into anything. It's definitely a place to explore in the summer time, so that's one to put on my list. We ventured farther on the road to Syncrude's operations site. I'll get into that more next time, but let me just say that although I've known this industry is big, you never really get a sense until you see the coker in the distance and then closer. The sheer enormity of the machinery is one thing, but the size of the oil sands industry in general just boggles my mind. We also stopped on the way back at the Wood Bison Gateway Trail head with its ginormous bison stone carvings. I'll hike/bike the trail in the spring, but wanted to take a picture of me in my MS bike shorts next to the carving. Yes, it was closing in on -30, but I whipped off the ski pants, the sweat pants, and Kyle snapped a pic. I'll post that one next time. My legs weren't cold at all but my fingers were numb. Anything for the cause.

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