We discovered a short interpretive hiking trail just 16 kilometres southeast of Fernie, that boasts the oldest black cottonwood forest on the planet. Eager to see these behemoths up close, we drove from Fernie and turned off on Morrissey Road to hike the Ancient Cottonwood Trail.
Bennett and Avery pose at the trailhead for the Ancient Cottonwood Trail near Fernie, B.C.
The 1.5 km loop trail winds through a riparian habitat dense with ferns, cedars, spruce and the towering cottonwoods, some of which have grown to heights of eight storeys (88 feet/27 metres). The thirsty giants suck up hundreds of litres of water a day and grow up to two metres a year. The most ancient in this grove are about 400 years old! Avery measured it with her arm span and estimated its circumference to be about nine metres.
The gang poses in front of the grove’s oldest tree, estimated to be about 400. Bennett is so small compared to the tree — he fits comfortably in a trunk nook.
We learned you can tell a cottonwood apart from other trees by its nubby, “groovy” trunk. What’s also interesting is these trees are all trunk — there’s just the smallest canopy at the top.
This cottonwood tree is so old moss is growing inside the trunk’s grooves.
Look up, waaaay up! These black cottonwoods grow to heights of 88 feet (27 metres), as tall as an eight-storey building.
In all it was a nice, if short, hike. We liked the trees, the ferns and throwing rocks into the Elk River afterward. Fernie, you continue to surprise us, and that’s a good thing!
We have been coming to Fernie for a week or two every summer since Avery was two. She’s now 10 and the small B.C. mountain town has earned a special place in her heart. Here’s what she wrote about Fernie for a grade four school project earlier this year.
I sit on a rock and watch as a female moose slowly lifts her head from a bog. The sun is high on a hot summer day and I can hear the sweet sound of a robin chirping. I’m in Fernie, a small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains.
A drawing of Piper in a field in Fernie, B.C.
I see high mountain peaks and below them horses run free in wide open fields. A bald eagle soars across the murky blue river in search of a silver trout. As I look at the Saskatoon berry bushes I see magpies playing a game of chase.
I hear the sound of the train on the rusty railway tracks not far from where I am. My friends are running around in the field chasing after my barking dog. In the distance an elk call comes from the river.
The sweet smell of wildflowers floods my nose into my heart and gives me a feeling of happiness. I smell the mixed scent of dew drops on fresh lime green grass.
I feel the sandstone rock I’m sitting on; part of the old rock crumbles as I push my body off of it. My bare feet walk across the sharp green grass and it gives my body a tingly feeling.
I love being in Fernie where the wild animals run free. This is my special place!
— Avery Ford, grade four, age 10
It’s true I’ve been on a bit of a scotch run since returning from Scotland with no less than 1.9 litres of whisky. The customs agent happily waved me through, proud (I surmised) that a woman was bringing so much single malt into the country.
Of course, the whisky was for my husband, who also happens to be a great dad to our two children. With Father’s Day looming, I wish I could say the scotch was his Dad Gift, but it’s been six weeks since I got back and the bottle of Bruichladdich Islay Barley is almost gone.
While it seems a shame to mix this whisky with anything, to make it last longer I’ll be making this drink for Blake on Sunday. The Big Poppa for Dad. Happy Father’s Day!
A Father’s Day cocktail that combines scotch with orange liqueur. Photo courtesy Cornelia Guest Events.
The Big Poppa
- 1-1/2 oz scotch (I used Bruichladdich)
- 1/2 tsp orange liqueur (I used Cointreau)
- 1 twist orange peel
Method: Combine scotch and orange liqueur in a stem-less martini glass. Add a twist of orange peel and serve to Dad on Father’s Day.
— Recipe courtesy Cornelia Guest, founder of Cornelia Guest Events