E rrol met Pat while deep in the backcountry of Alberta’s snow-capped mountains. She was buckling in her cross-country ski boots on one of their ski club’s trips.
Carved deep within Alberta's Badlands, the Nodwell property offers a trip back in history
“We still ski to this day,” says Errol, now retired. “And so do our kids,” adds Pat.
Pat and Errol Smith’s relationship grew out of their first love: the outdoors.
“Spending time outdoors has always been a major part of our lives,” says Pat. “Being outdoors has always been our solace, and a major bond that pulls us together.”
Like walking through the past
One of the Smiths’ favourite places to explore in nature has always been the Nodwell property in Horseshoe Canyon, in the heart of Alberta’s Badlands.
In Errol and Pat’s opinion, the unique geological layers embedded into the walls of the canyon more than 70 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, set this area apart from others across Canada.
“Hiking through the canyon takes us back millions of years. It’s like walking through the past,” says Errol. “There are very old, exposed rocks that remain in an area that once was lush and humid.”
“You can get up close and personal with the otherworldly rock formations when walking through the canyon,” adds Pat. “The path really showcases the land and its incredible vistas.”
The couple also notes they enjoy seeing the occasional cacti and other flora that grow throughout the canyon.
“We are so blessed to have such natural beauty [so close to] where we live,” says Pat.
Alive with species
There are many species to look out for when at Nodwell, including two of Pat’s favourites: the prickly-pear and pincushion cactus. Mountain bluebirds are known to fly over the canyon, while on the ground, Great Plains garter snakes slither past blooming prairie crocus; a sign of spring approaching.
“In nature, you never know what you’ll see,” says Pat. “While I don’t know what a lot of what we discover actually is, I feel like a kid again, with my nose down to the ground looking at what’s there!”
“You can get up close and personal with the otherworldly rock formations when walking through the canyon.”
“In nature you never know what you’ll see,” says Pat. “While I don’t know what a lot of what we discover actually is, I feel like a kid again, with my nose down to the ground looking at what’s there!”
Lending a hand for nature
Pat and Errol both began volunteering with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in 2011. Since that time, they have become integral members of the Conservation Volunteers (CV) team in Alberta. Based on their tireless efforts, Pat and Errol won the coveted CV Golden Glove award in 2014, with Errol taking home the prize again the year after, narrowly beating Pat by attending one event without her (the award is given to the volunteer who attends the greatest number of CV events in one year).
“Volunteering is a way I can help a small piece of our environment to flourish,” says Pat.
“There’s a social aspect of it too,” adds Errol. “We get to work with and meet new people at each event and get to see and catch up with the old guard too.”
Get up close with nature
Exploring areas such as Horseshoe Canyon through hiking and by volunteering at CV events across Alberta has not only strengthened the bond between the Smiths; it’s helped connect them with nature.
“Errol loves to check out new areas and venture off the beaten path,” says Pat of her husband for the last 33 years. “It’s his tonic.”
“Nature is very important to Pat,” adds Errol. “She loves to get out and experience the beauty and sounds of the outdoors.”
Horseshoe Canyon is just one of Canada’s special places where they get to do just that.
Photo Credits (Top to bottom): Robert Berdan; Robert Berdan; Robert Berdan; iStock; Robert Berdan; Robert Berdan.