Nose Hill Natural Environment Park, in northwest Calgary, consumes more than 11 square kilometers (4¼ square miles).
The park's bland appearance from a distance is deceiving but solved quickly by hiking, running, strolling or cycling the labyrinth of trail exceeding 300 KM (188 miles).
This popular Calgary recreation area attracts large volumes of people but seldom seems crowded. The grassy plains on its relatively flat top offer a substantially different environment than the slopes and coulees around the edges.
Nose Hill has rich and varied historical significance ranging from ceremonial and burial grounds in ancient times, to farm and ranch land, to industrial enterprise.
Some of Nose Hill was set aside as a park in 1980 and aspirations to consume portions of this special place with residential development were thwarted by citizens who understood the commercial vulgarity and historical compromise. Paskapoo Slopes are less fortunate.
During this summer visit on Nose Hill, hiking began from the northwest Edgemont parking area. Today, this early-Autumn bicycle tour begins on the east side, at the 14th Avenue parking area, for exploration and enjoyment of the northeast quadrant.
Autumn colors are just getting established.
Among the wide range of plant species on the hill, some have shed their leaves while others transition to fall colors in response to shortening and cooler days. Hardier trees and shrubbery remain stubbornly green.
The wide variety of fescue and wildflowers create a complex mosaic of color and texture.
The terrain's elevation undulations are significant and the ride is a good workout. Frequent placement of memorial benches at trail side provide the opportunity to remember prior visitors and are often placed in locations ideal for a few moments of retrospect and relaxation.
The complexity of the terrain is subtly realized within those important pauses. The longer you look, the more you see. The mesmerizing magnificence which triggers the state of release is in appreciation of the complex detail which eventually captures full attention.
In the northeast quadrant of Nose Hill there are many subsidiary trails across coulees to viewpoints north and east. One of these lookouts provides a sweeping view past Calgary Airport to prairie farmland many kilometers beyond.
From here the cycle proceeds across the relatively flat grassland top of Nose Hill Park from east to west for a revisit of some of the trail experienced on the summer hike.
The 20 KM (12½ mile) loop on the bicycle via main trails passes lofty views of Calgary Olympic Park, the University of Calgary campus and skyline views of downtown Calgary.
The colors of Calgary's Autumn are primarily shades of yellow, orange and brown with highlights of brighter colors. The circle route bisects the east and west peripheries of Nose Hill Park twice with an end near the communication tower.
The final descent off the hill returns to the car following a refreshing day in the sun surrounded by seasonal transition under clear blue sky.
The descent from the old communication tower on Nose Hill is via an old road. At one time it was a wide, paved road which may have serviced a long-abandoned industrial enterprise, or perhaps a road that shuttled families to picnic sites when automobiles were allowed on the hill.
Old and nearly decomposed pavement is punctured now by large trees and easy walking allows observation of plant beauty and diversity as the city's downtown skyline rises into view above the horizon.
After racking the bike on the back of my car, a stop in at the Calgary Winter Club investigates another portal to Nose Hill Park, complete with a handy biffy and two trail options. Washrooms are a rare commodity on Nose Hill so research and forward planning can make a significant difference.
Nose Hill Park is an easily-accessible, recreational resource resident within urban turmoil. There are leash and off-leash areas for responsible people with dogs to conveniently enjoy the outdoors.
There is wildlife on the hill which could be of concern to the welfare of small animals. Nose Hill Park is a wonderful place to wile away a morning or afternoon. Best photographic opportunities tend to occur early and late in the day when the sun is low in the sky. A unique experience can occur in inclement weather.
Photographs for this post in Nose Hill Park in northwest Calgary, Alberta, Canada are captured on September 21, 2014.