Alberta Hiking Association Newsletter

October 2022


        ·     Breaking News!!

·     Search and Rescue (SAR) Alberta

·      Book: Things I learned from Failing by Claire Nelson

·      AHA Hikeathon

·      Snowshoeing in Central Alberta:  Check out Alberta Conservation Sites

Late Breaking News!!

The AHA was approached recently by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) who have offered us the opportunity to submit a project proposal for trail use and condition reporting in the Bighorn area (west of Rocky Mountain House along Hwy 11).  This would be the first step in what we hope will evolve into a province-wide partnership.  The AHA board is working with AEP staff to finalize what the Bighorn study will focus on over the next 2 years.  This represents a new opportunity for us to assist AEP trail work and also work with and encourage local trail volunteers in this area to become more actively engaged with trail care.  We hope to continue to build this kind of active volunteer involvement by interested citizens that will result in more and better trail opportunities in parks and public lands throughout Alberta.  Stay tuned in future newsletters as this exciting new initiative takes shape!  

Send any questions or comments to the board through the contact form of our AHA website.

Search and Rescue (SAR) Alberta

If you are lost or become injured on a hike, who is coming to search for and rescue you?

Search and Rescue (SAR) Alberta is the provincial association for volunteer search and rescue within the province. Its mission is to assist search and rescue teams in their efforts to provide a superior and dedicated level of service to the people of Alberta. SAR Alberta responders support the hiking community by serving those who are lost, missing, and in distress, free of charge.With safety on the trails as their number one focus, SAR Alberta also promotes preventative education for those going outdoors and partners with Adventure Smart so hikers can enjoy their adventure knowing they are prepared for anything! SAR Alberta responders are ready at a moment’s call out when you need it.Over its 30-year history organized volunteer ground search and rescue in Alberta has grown and adapted as need dictated. Operating as a 100% volunteer organization, SAR Alberta has 33 individual teams across the province and consists of 1400+ volunteers.In the last several years, Alberta has experienced a number of unprecedented events including major floods and devastating urban-interface-wildfires. COVID-19 has added further challenges, including a significant increase in search and rescue events in Summer 2020, as tens of thousands of people flocked to Alberta’s wilderness areas to “staycation.”

However, search and rescue in Alberta is changing.  As result, it was identified that there is a need to formalize and professionalize the Alberta search and rescue portfolio. There is inadequate awareness, funding, and support from the province to support the highly trained professionals with the training and equipment needed to be ready and available to deploy when Albertan’s need it the most.

SAR Alberta is leading the province through this period of transformation. The project is funded by the Public Safety Canada New Initiatives Fund (NIF) and we are looking for support from our stakeholders and members as we move forward.

Your expertise outdoors is being called upon. SAR Alberta teams are located in various areas of the province and are always looking for members! If you are interested in joining one of these amazing team or learning more about the project, please refer to for more information.

Submitted by Lexie Busby, Project Leader, SAR Alberta Revitalization to Enhance All Hazards Response.

For more information contact Monica Ahlstrom, President of SAR Alberta, at # 780 721 6123.

Things I learned from Failing

Editors Note: I recently read this book and thought it related to local Search and Rescue. The lessons on preventing casualties are relevant to us all. You will find similar safety tips on the AdventureSmart website.

Things I Learned from Failing, a Memoir by Claire Nelson (HarperCollins Publishers, 2021)

She was a young, independent hiker and had an opportunity to house sit for friends who lived just outside Joshua Tree National Park, California. So, she decided to hike as many trails in the park as she could. She was going to be sensible; she knew the risks of hiking in the desert. For one, she resolved to stick to established trails that would be easy to follow. Then, one fateful day in May 2018, she drove to an in/out 8-mile trail called Lost Palms Oasis. She had a hat, an extra layer, sunscreen, first aid kit, map, cell phone, camera, lunch, and plenty of water. She checked in at the Visitor Center to be sure she had the right trailhead and asked about trail conditions. She was prepared for what she expected!

Claire Nelson wrote a memoir, Things I Learned from Falling, describing how she survived the fall that shattered her pelvis that day, leaving her fighting for survival in a desert canyon, for four days. She had missed a trail sign and was a mile or so off the trail when she slipped, climbing over boulders, and fell 25 feet. She was out of cell phone range. And, as she reflected again and again in her book, she had not told anyone where she was going. Fortunately, friends became concerned when they noticed her absence on social media and notified local search and rescue authorities. Miraculously, she was found alive. 

Claire’s book is a sobering read for hikers. She wasn’t inexperienced. And anyone may miss a trail sign or make a wrong step? At the end of her book, Claire outlines her “Safety Tips for Hikers”, hoping others will learn from her mistakes. As she wrote, “you’re only over-prepared until something goes wrong”.

Some of Claire’s Safety Tips:

* Tell someone where you are going, when you plan to return, and what time you will contact them when you are back. 

* Don’t rely on your cell phone. Consider taking a GPS-based personal locator.

* Be aware of the risks in your location.

* Don’t leave the path.

* Every hour or so turn around and look for landmarks, even take a picture.

* Scrambling up rocks is much easier than coming down.

* Take more water than you think you will need.

* Take a whistle and mirror for signaling.

* Pack a warm layer regardless of climate

Alberta Hiking Association Hikeathon

The Alberta Hiking Association annual hike-a-thon was a great success, with more people participating and joining in than ever before. Over a hundred people participated, sharing many incredible photos of their hikes and adventures. 

The AHA would like to thank all of its participants, especially those who chose to donate as we were able to raise over $100 which will go towards supporting our operational costs and help us be more effective as an organization. 

We’d also like to thank our sponsors, Banff Adventures and Aurum Lodge for providing some amazing prizes. The winners of the random draws have been contacted. 

Keep up to date with the AHA to find out when our next hike-a-thon will be. We’re also always looking for volunteers who are willing to help out and make us a more effective organization, so if you’re interested, please reach out by contacting us through our website or social media!

Snowshoeing in Central Alberta: Check out Alberta Conservation Sites

I have been asked to comment on my experience visiting conservation sites in Central Alberta.  I’ve visited many sites as destinations for the snowshoe group I started 7 years ago.

For the most part I used sites published on the Alberta Conservation Association website. Users should download their app Alberta Discover Guide. The app is fairly intuitive and easy to navigate. I found enough sites for my purposes by limiting my search to conservation sites within 100 km radius of Red Deer. There are over 90 sites in this area. Some are very small but there are many that make the trip and the time required worthwhile. The Guide gives a description and directions. As well more sites can be found on the Nature Conservancy website and grazing lease sites.

Users should note that most of these sites are also open for hunting in the fall so hikers should consider this when choosing a location.  Also, signage is variable but the sites are easily found using the directions. Some sites may have cattle on them during the summer so users should be aware of closing gates and unfriendly cows. Trails to follow are usually not formalized but travel usually is straightforward on game trails, tracks, etc. Usually there are no washrooms but there is plenty of bush.

The sites are very lightly used even in hunting season so they are a great option for hiking, bird watching, snowshoeing, etc. The fun is exploring new areas and a nice option to the crowds at the popular recreation destinations.

A few of my favorite sites to consider in Central Alberta include:

* Bigelow Reservoir: go northwest and look for the Blue Heron rookery with over 20 nests.
* Lockerby: This is a very large site with many wildlife spotting opportunities. A GPS or
compass is a good idea as there are many options and it’s easy to wander off the site.

Well, that’s it.  Get the app and explore the sites in your area. There are lots. Kinda fun.

Submitted by Bob Diewold, Red Deer, Alberta.


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We look forward to meeting you along the trail!