Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 08/18/2016

Photo taken on July 30, 2016

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Anne Elliott
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NE of Calgary
Common gaillardia
© Anne Elliott 2016
east central Alberta
near Hanna
Antelope Hill Provincial Park
not yet open to the public
Gottlob Schmidt
roughly 2 & three-quarter hours' drive
30 July 2016

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Gaillardia with little visitor

Gaillardia with little visitor
Generosity comes in all shapes and sizes. On 30 July 2016, six of us from Calgary had the honour of meeting a 92-year-old gentleman who has lived most of his long life on a huge area (380 hectares, 939 acres) of beautiful land near Hanna, Alberta. Though Gottlob Schmidt (known as Schmitty) has now moved into town (Hanna), he is not far from his beloved land and still loves to spend a lot of time there. My friends and I understand why. This untouched land is not only beautiful to the eye, with its undulating hills with small, scattered pockets of Aspen woodland, but it also hides all sorts of natural treasures, including the wildlife that enjoys this native grassland. There are so few areas of native grassland left in Alberta, so each one is very precious. Schmitty told us that he has never seen his land looking so green! Perhaps not too surprising, as we have had so much rain recently, usually accompanied by thunderstorms. In fact, the rain started on our return journey to Calgary and I was driving from our meeting place back to my house in torrential rain. I found a good scattering of small hailstones covering my lawn, too.

This is where the word 'generosity' comes in. Two years ago, Schmitty donated all his land to Alberta Parks, along with certain strict regulations (listed on a link below) on how the land was to be used, such as no hunting, no camping, no motorized vehicles. He was very warmly recognized for his extreme generosity. The Park is known as Antelope Hill Provincial Park and, when Schmitty is no longer able to visit and enjoy his old, family homestead, the Park will be opened to the public. For now, it remains his own, private property.

The highlight for us was meeting Schmitty himself. I can only hope that I might be lucky enough to be in half his shape if I ever reached that age! It was an absolute delight to spend a little time with this man with the big heart, when we first arrived and again later in the day, when it was time for us to head back to Calgary. We also got to meet Schmitty's good neighbours, Donna and Ken.

My friends (specialists in mosses, lichens and liverworts and other things) and I, were given permission to spend the day there, to list all our findings. Our time was spent climbing one main hill and walking part way around it, calling in at several of the small areas of Aspen woodland. This is where we found a number of wonderful mushrooms - Amanita muscaria / Fly agaric. These were the other highlight for me! It is quite rare that we come across one of these Amanita muscaria mushrooms, and it is so exciting and such a treat when we do! Of course, it's just a "fungi nut" talking, ha. They are so attractive, especially at the earlier stage when the cap is like a round ball, covered in white flecks, but also poisonous.

"A large conspicuous mushroom, Amanita muscaria is generally common and numerous where it grows, and is often found in groups with basidiocarps in all stages of development. Fly agaric fruiting bodies emerge from the soil looking like a white egg, covered in the white warty material of the universal veil... Amanita muscaria poisoning occurs in either young children or people ingesting it to have a hallucinogenic experience... A fatal dose has been calculated at an amount of 15 caps. Deaths from this fungus A. muscaria have been reported in historical journal articles and newspaper reports. However, with modern medical treatment a fatal outcome because of the poison of this mushroom would be extremely rare."

Various plants were good to see, too, including about four Prairie Crocuses that were still in bloom. I hadn't seen Skeletonweed for a long time, but there were quite a few small clusters of it. A new plant to me was a tall one with white flowers - White Evening Primrose (seen in this photo). The occasional gorgeous Gaillardia flower and wild Rose made a bright splash of colour, too.

Of course, for me, any visit to a ranch would not be complete without wandering by any old barn/shed/cabin. Another find was a beautiful, old, glass doorknob on one of the sheds.

On our return walk back to the cars, I suddenly spotted a huge, green caterpillar on the trail. A Tomato hornworm. It had been years since I saw any kind of huge, green larva and, though not my favourite things, I was glad to get a photo of it.

After a few hours of exploration, the only things that we were so happy and relieved to leave behind were the mosquitoes! Never had I seen so many of them - the air was filled with these tiny, blood-sucking insects that followed us every step of the way!

Thanks so much, Heide, for driving Sandy and myself all the way out there - about a two and three-quarter hour drive. Much of the distance was on the same roads that I had driven last week with my daughter, but this was the first time I had ever been as far as Hanna and just beyond. Hanna now has a Tim Horton's, opened around three months ago : ) Thanks, Heide, too, for trying to find the old railway roundhouse - unfortunate that there was too much construction in the area, so one can't get to the roundhouse. And thank you so much, Peter, for arranging and organizing this wonderful trip! Most importantly of all, our thanks to Schmitty, who so kindly allowed us to share the special land that he has called home for so many decades. Our thanks for allowing us to spend the day there and, even more importantly, thank you for your great gift to all Albertans, with your incredibly generous donation of Antelope Hill Provincial Park.


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