Sun Dogs and Giant Alaskan Zebra Spiders


sun dog

Monday, Oct 5: Another ordinary extraordinary day in the ravine. I left a little later than usual, close to 4:00, and just steps into Westbrook I spotted a sun dog in the blue sky. It’s rare to see parhelion (actually it was a parhelia…I only saw one dog) this early. I associate sun dogs with winter, but clearly there were ice crystals in the atmosphere.


That would have been enough, but shortly after entering the ravine, we saw a sign taped to a tree – ALERT! Giant Alaskan Zebra Spider on the loose in Whitemud Creek Ravine. Smirk. As we laughed about this, I casually looked further down the trail and saw the spider, hanging in the tree. Yeah, it was fake of course, and sparkly, but I still gasped, ’cause I’m an idiot.


I love that someone took the time to plan this, and execute it. Had we been walking from the other direction, or at a different time of day, we probably wouldn’t have seen it. There is ALWAYS one thing – sometimes it’s a wonderfully unexpected scene like this, or maybe just a bit of beautifully lit foliage or a perfectly posed squirrel, but whatever it is, I’m meant to see it. My role as a walker is to witness. I’m not always conscious of my role, but when I see it, whatever it is, I know.

Sun dogToday was a two-fer: a sun dog and an awesome piece of public vandalism and/or guerrilla art. Interesting that this year there have been unrelated multiple eruptions of this sort of thing in the river valley and ravines. The fairy houses in Mill Creek Ravine and Whitemud Ravine. Trees decorated in colourful woolies. Alaskan Zebra Spiders. I love it, but I wonder, what haven’t I seen?

Depending on where you are, it’s peak fall. There is an even distribution of green leaves, fully-foliated trees, completely defoliated trees (Green Ash, I’m looking at you), and a beautiful carpet of multi-coloured leaves along the trails. Now that we’ve had frost, I imagine things will speed up, but for now, it’s just stunning.

Whitemud Ravine in Autumn

6C/4:45 to 6:00 pm

Whitemud Ravine in Yellow

Tuesday, September 22: A windy but beautifully vivid walk through Whitemud Ravine. Up to the wetlands west and south of the powerline. Some ducks (mergansers), but no other activity. Surprised that no red-winged blackbirds were present. Their distinctive calls are the soundtrack of that wetland, and come to think of it, so many of the wetlands that I’ve visited. Wrong time of day, I guess, or maybe it was just too windy. The far wetland was choked with reeds, and I think we saw just one lonely duck.

Whitemud Creek1

Whitemud Creek2

Wetland south of the powerline.

Wetland south of the powerline.

Can’t remember the temperature exactly, but it was about 13C.


Near the Fort Edmonton footbridge

Near the Fort Edmonton footbridge

September is often quite nice, but we’ve had a chilly, cloudy month so far. Boo clouds. Go away. Yesterday however, was beautiful. Sunny, warmish, a reminder that summer is not yet over. I feel so uplifted by a blue sky.

Mack Male photo of Wolf Willow staircase

Mack Male photo of Wolf Willow staircase

Walked the Fort Edmonton path to the gorgeous footbridge and beyond. I think that short trail north of the bridge is called Patricia Ravine, with its hellacious stairs leading to Wolf Willow. We walked along the monkey path for awhile, which is overgrown and in spots, quite wet. At the end, there is a type of hoodoo-like hill, which we could have taken I suppose but I opted for a bike path running alongside it. That only took us so far. The path drops off dramatically, and with the muddy conditions, too precarious to attempt. Happy that Tom tested that theory. Even happier that he lived to tell the tale.

View from the north side of the footbridge

View from the north side of the footbridge

Once again the river was spotted with canoes and the trails were full of walkers and the occasional biker. One guy and his kid (on bikes) narrowly missed a falling (and very large) branch, which could have resulted in lethal accident had it bonked them on their heads, or ours. Friday it was a cougar in Glenora, Saturday a branch-flinging tree. Nature is dangerous, man.

Canoe with dog

Canoe with dog

Funny how that trail seems so much shorter now that Maggie isn’t with me. I say that with sadness, but also with the acknowledgement that dogs stop and start, and need regular dips in the water, which can make a trail seem longer than it actually is. I was always so conscious of her physical state. Sometimes she’d be into a longer walk, and other times I could feel her anxiety. Now, she’s just content to wander from one comfy spot to another, but still likes to play around in the yard. I miss her doggy presence, but it was nice to see at least as many dogs on the trail as people, and even one in a canoe. Dogs are calming. Cougars are not.



3:00(ish) to 5:30/21C

Hello Autumn?

Whitemud Ravine yellow2

A little early…but the colour changes are striking. The annual fight between green, yellow and red begins…

A 90 minute walk in Whitemud Ravine South. Wanted to walk to Blackmud Ravine via the south trail but it was impassable. Have to drive to the entrance off 23rd, I guess.

Whitemud Ravine yellow1

HOT and colourful in the ravine on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.


Wet and Red

Red woods

A cool walk in the rain-soaked woods on Sunday afternoon. Walked from the powerline to Rainbow GrasshopperValley Road, and then back through Westbrook. Very autumnal, but once the sun came out, I was happy that I wore shorts. Lovely, but uneventful. Nice to see the creek running high and fast after about 25mm of rain.

Funny how a few days of cool temperatures and rain signal autumn this time of year. We’re weeks away, but it feels as if summer is already lost, in spite of the green and (later this week), warm sun. I’m not ready to say goodbye…

Red and green

1:30 to 3:00/12C

Fairies in the Woods

Fairy house

Fairy House in Whitemud Ravine north

How dumb is it to post a week after a walk? Life, I guess. On Sunday, August 30th, Tom and I went for a walk in Whitemud Ravine. It was a long walk, from Westbrook over to the river – almost three hours there and back. It was a beautiful day (if I recall), and hot, unlike today (Saturday) which is overcast and autumnal (13C).

Whitemud Creek North

Whitemud Creek North

Whitemud green

Fairyhouse insideThe highlight was finding a fairy cottage near the north end of the Whitemud trail! I recall reading about a similar house in Mill Creek, but I haven’t seen it. This one was very charming…and full of little dollies, including Bob the Builder. Lots of sparkles in the dirt, fairies on the tree, and bedazzled pine cones hanging from the branches. I anticipate the squirrels with take over, and a few days later, Sharon did see some seeds inside the house.

I don’t know why people do this sort of thing, but I approve.

Previous to this walk (on the Wednesday) we walked the circuit from Riverdale to the top of 98th Ave. It was chilly but beautiful.

The river valley near McNally High School

The river valley near McNally High School

And on Tuesday, I visited Monica out near Sherwood Park. It’s so lovely out there!

Near Monica's house in Sherwood Park

Near Monica’s house in Sherwood Park

The other side of the road...

The other side of the road…