Hiking town to town Iron Horse Trail, Smoky Lake-Edwand, Bellis-Vilna

The train-crossing sign still stands at the former station in Edwand.

The train-crossing sign still stands at the former station in Edwand.

I have already posted several times about hiking on the Iron Horse Trail. Last weekend was my 4th trip, to try to hike some more of it. I booked a campsite at Long Lake Provincial Park, north of Wasketenau, for Friday and Saturday night. When I woke up on Friday morning, the rain had been falling very heavily overnight, and it was still pouring down. I met my cycling friends for coffee outside at 8 am, and I was soaking wet when I got home. I already had 2 text messages from my friend, who said that she was going back to bed, since the weather wasn’t suitable for hiking. I was all ready to leave for camping and hiking, but I spent the day doing houssework instead. We left Edmonton early on Saturday and went straight to Long Lake, to set up our tents. The parks staaff said that there was a 17K trail (Wild Earth Valley) from the campground, but we couldn’t find much information. The campground is really lovely, with a beautiful lake a few steps away from our campsite. Many families appeared to have spent the week at the campground, doing a lot of boating. There was a concession, and a clean bathroom, with flush toilets and sinks, a short distance from our campsite. The only thing that the campground didn’t have was phone service and internet.

Since we couldn’t find out much about the Wild Earth Trail, we continued with our plan of completing the Iron Horse Trail. We hiked between Smoky Lake and Edwand, a former town, with a beautiful church, but no commercial buildings. This stretch of trail was one of our favourites, since most of it went through very peaceful rural areas, forest, and wetland (another section of Wild Earth Creek). The town of Smoky Lake is fairly large, and there are quite a few services available in town, including groceries, gas, a hotel and bakery. The former train station is a very nice information centre and museum. Our hike was about 15 kilometres, and it seemed easy to hike in just under 3 hours, with good trail, and weather in the low 20s for most of the day. The scenery was really fantastic.

In the evening, we checked out the lake and beach, and we enjoyed a relaxing supper at the campground. Fortunately, I set up a tarp to cover my tent, because it rained heavily in the evening, and the wind blew very hard. The tarp protected everything from the rain and wind, and we both slept very well. We cooked and ate a big breakfast before packing up our campsite and getting back on the road. The Garner Lake Campground is closest to the central part of the trail, but it’s very popular, and I haven’t been able to book a spot there. We had to drive for a while to drop off a car in Vilna, and then we returned to Bellis to set out on our next section of trail. The first section of trail was through forest, and there was a nice campsite that was pretty close to Bellis. Most of the trail had well-packed gravel, which was pretty easy to hike. However, there was about a mile of the trail where livestock had been walking. That section was really difficult to walk since the gravel was so loosely-packed. There were many birds, butterflies, and berries along the trail. Quite a bit of this section of trail was very close to the highway (28). This made it a little noisier and less scenic, but it was still pleasant hiking. Both towns had a lot of restored older buildings, and Vilna has a big sculpture of mushrooms as a tourist attraction. The towns no longer have a lot of businesses that are open, but they’re both very pretty. This stretch of trail was 17 kilometres long, and look us 3 1/2 hours to hike.

Our next plan is to hike the NE section of the trail, closest to Cold Lake, Alberta, over the August long weekend. Hopefully the Beaver River Trestle Bridge has been reopened, since it burned in a fire. Cold Lake is a beautiful small city, with good services and a huge lake to enjoy, so we’ll have more than just hiking to do while we’re there.

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