On the ground in Canada’s west

More meanderings in the muck of western Alberta.

As I noted in other posts on Lodgepole country, the soil out here is typically deep beds of clay, topped by a thin turf of moss, needles, short grasses and (where sunlight gets through) sporadic wildflowers. Here’s a slumped bank that shows the structure.

thin turf layer on slumping bank

Going offroad, one has to pay significant attention to each step. On higher rises, the ground is relatively firm underfoot. In gullies, flats and low areas, though, the grasses camoflage an upredictable muskeg. Firm here, wet and sloppy there.

What has been here recently? A truck, obviously.

truck track through slick mud

truck track through slick mud

Slightly less obviously, deer.

more delicate tracks

more delicate tracks

The spongy peat layers are forgiving underfoot.

the mixed yellow-green hues of moss

the mixed yellow-green hues of moss

Here’s where that cushion gets its springyness (is that a word?) – each tuft is an airy tangle.


airy tangled clumps of moss

What brings us out to this country? The Peigan people came through for generations, following seasonal movements of buffalo herds. The women gathered moss to line their papooses for the comfort of babes. Skinny, light lodgepole pine trees were trimmed and turned into true lodge poles.

During the heyday of felt top hats in the British Empire, we came to this land to skin beavers for their coats. Not far from here is the (now unmarked) site of a small North West Company trading post, Boggy Hall.

In the 1960s, we came out here to build Alberta’s largest hydroelectric facility, damming the Brazeau River and stringing power lines across the bush to far away Calgary.

And for the past 50 or so years, we have pushed aside the mosses and bushes, drilled through the clay, down through the deep Devonian rock, to produce oil and gas.

Here’s what that looks like. This new site probably earns ‘green’ points on some industry checklist for its solar power panels.

oil industry installations dot and cross the west country

oil industry installations dot and cross the west country

That’s what things look like on the ground in western Canada’s bush country.

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