'Phenomenal gem': Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area
'It’s why I’ve just fallen in love with our province’
The zebra-striped pattern on Landon Hildebrand's running cap matches the one on his roof top carrier.
"That's the joke. You show up anywhere, at any trail crew, and it's kind of known," says the ultra-marathoner.
But four years ago Hildebrand wouldn't have dared to call himself a long-distance runner, or a runner at all.
The Edmonton psychologist knew he was doing a lot of sitting with his day job as a counselor and needed to get out and move so he bought a pair of shoes. He started coming to Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area not far from his home.
"If you're not running, you're hiking, so there's no one there to tell you that you're walking, so you just feel good about it," he says.
Hildebrand says those outings led to a five-kilometre trail race, then longer distances and the creation of a running group now boasting more than 600 members. He also pitches in with The Chickakoo Lake Run, Hike, Bike, Fun Facebook group posting trail conditions and events for the recreation area.
He says the community and this "phenomenal gem" of a space are the secrets to his fitness success.
"This park specifically brought me to Edmonton and to the Parkland County area, and it's why I've just fallen in love with our province."
You can see more from Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area on this week's edition of Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. on Monday on CBC TV and CBC Gem. Lots of other fun winter locations to be found on this map of 50 sizzlin' sites to skate, ski, stargaze in and around Edmonton.
Nestled in the mixed-wood forest an hour west of Edmonton, Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area is a 200-hectare space dotted with lakes and home to moose, deer and beaver and a wide variety of birds.
There are washrooms, picnic areas, 11 km worth of groomed cross-country ski trails and fishing year round. Dogs must be on a leash and the equestrian trails are closed during the winter. This is a free-to-access day-use area with ample parking managed by Parkland County.
"It's got about 10 km of big wide trails, that you can get anything from strollers to sleds on, and about 11 to 14 km of single-track trail that you can run on, snowshoe on, bike on," Hildebrand says.
With the weather warming up, it's the snowshoeing Caleigh Pagnucco and her daughters came for.
"It's peaceful out here. It's lovely. It's a good, close option for people in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain to get out and do some recreation activities,'' says the mother of two.
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Pagnucco says they'll spend a few hours trekking around the lake, having snacks and building snow forts. She says during the pandemic these kinds of outings have been a must.
"Life is a little crazy right now with everything going on," she says. "Everything is in a state of flux. I guess COVID has taught us we have to be flexible."