Tag Archives: family hikes in Fernie

Hiking Fernie’s Old Growth Trail

Avery stretched her arms wide to measure the girth of a massive cedar tree along Fernie’s Old Growth Trail. By her estimate the behemoth was “eight arm spans,” which measures roughly 10 metres around. Wow!

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Avery and Blake hiking the Old Growth Trail in Fernie, B.C.

We certainly felt Lilliputian earlier this month while hiking through this forest of ancient Western Red Cedar trees, some that are estimated to be 800 years old. It’s a great hike for a hot day — the forest floor stays cool thanks to the shade provided by these giants.

Tiny humans in a giant forest.

Tiny humans in a forest of giant cedars.

Bennett hikes up the shady Old Growth Trail to Island Lake Lodge.

Bennett hikes up the shady Old Growth Trail to Island Lake Lodge.

The trailhead is located at the 4-kilometre mark on the road that leads up to Island Lake Lodge. The path is well-marked and a gentle ascent, gaining just 250 metres as it climbs four kilometres to Island Lake.

Balancing on a fallen tree… with a little help from Daddy.

Balancing on a fallen tree… with a little help from Daddy.

I was worried the kids would get bored or start complaining after the three-km mark, but there were enough bridges to cross, fallen logs to balance on, and old growth trees to hug that it never lost their interest. It took us about 90 minutes one way, including a snack break. (Blake jogged back down the trail to get the car and come pick us up at the lodge after the hike.) It’s a definite do-again — perfect for kids!

Peeking out from behind a very old Western Red Cedar.

Peeking out from behind a very old Western Red Cedar.

Ancient Cottonwood Trail in Fernie

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.

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.

Blake, Bennett and Avery pose in front of the grove's oldest tree, estimated to be about 400 years old. Bennett is so small compared to the tree -- he fits comfortably in a trunk nook.

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 on it.

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.

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!

Ferns in Fernie, B.C.

 

Hidden Lake: a new Fernie discovery

One of our favourite things to do near Fernie, B.C. is to spend a hot summer’s day at Surveyor’s Lake swimming, kayaking and looking for turtles and crayfish. We often hike around the lake from our HQ on Saunder’s Beach, and enjoy views into secluded Engineer’s Lake from the bridge that bisects the two mountain lakes. This visit, however, we learned of a new hike to a new lake: Hidden Lake.

Avery surveys the scene looking for Western Painted turtles at Hidden Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Avery surveys the scene looking for Western Painted turtles at Hidden Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

The lake isn’t “hidden” so much as out of the way of the majority of day-tripping beach-goers. You can access it via the loop road at Surveyor’s Lake campground in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park, a 30-minute drive southwest of Fernie on Hwy. 3. Hidden Lake has the same Western Painted turtles as the other two lakes, without the crowds to scare them from their log perches into the cool water.

See the water glimmering beyond the turtle sign? That's Hidden Lake.

See the water glimmering beyond the turtle sign? That’s Hidden Lake.

There’s a narrow trail around the lake — lined with Saskatoon berry bushes, I might add — that lets you get close to the shore in many spots where the deadfall has washed up and the turtles are out atop it sunning themselves.

Five Western Painted turtles sun themselves atop a log at Hidden Lake near Fernie, B.C.

Five Western Painted turtles atop a log at Hidden Lake near Fernie, B.C.

Our group of 16 managed to get quite close to a “turn” of turtles (I had to look that up!). Honestly, they’re not very interesting to watch, but these reptiles are considered a vulnerable species and it’s neat to see them in their natural habitat. Plus, the kids love spotting them — and eating copious amounts of Saskatoons along the way!

Avery shows off her bucket-o-berries along the Hidden Lake Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Avery shows off her bucket-o-berries along the Hidden Lake Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Hiking Fernie’s Coal Creek Heritage Trail

Fernie, B.C. is the kind of place that people come to for the powderful winters but end up staying long-term for the amazing summers. Even though Day 2 of our B.C. road trip was cooler and rainier than our first day, we had just the kind of July adventure that you’d expect in this outdoorsy mountain town.

Blake helps Bennett with some rock hopping on part of the the Coal Creek Heritage Trail in Fernie, B.C.

Blake helps Bennett with some rock hopping on part of the the Coal Creek Heritage Trail in Fernie, B.C.

We hiked part of the Coal Creek Heritage Trail, stopping to pick plump Saskatoon berries, ripe raspberries and tart thimble berries. Blake and the kids did some rock hopping, then we got down to the serious business of ascending through a pine forest to walk along the trail toward town. An approaching thunderstorm sent me jogging ahead to get our car from the trailhead and pick up the family just before the rain hit.

High: Dangling feet into a freezing mountain stream beneath a small waterfall.

Low: Realizing we’d gone hiking without dog poop bags (faux pas!), which meant I had to skewer Piper’s poop on a stick and toss it into the bushes. Ewww! (And also, bad pet owner!)

Outcome: We only hiked maybe four kilometres of the 9.3 km trail (and I never did see any of the 12 interpretive signs, or the old ghost town or even the old coal mine, though we were walking sloooowly), but we enjoyed taking the time to eat berries, look under rocks for salamanders and dip hot heads into a mountain waterfall.

Hooray for hiking season!

We have been cooped up indoors for too long. But not anymore. This weekend we embarked on our first hike of the season — and our first hike ever with a dog — in Fernie. What’s more, we managed to complete the four-kilometre, two-hour hike without carrying the puppy, or either child, and before it started raining (a small miracle).

Posing with Piper in front of Fairy Creek Falls.

Posing with Piper in front of Fairy Creek Falls.

Our destination: Fairy Creek Falls, a thundering (well, this time of year, anyway) waterfall that mists you on a warm spring day. Serious hikers might pooh-pooh this trail, but except for the hills, it is kid-friendly — we saw a garter snake and a bunch of snails. It also appeals to dogs: streams for drinking water, sticks to carry. And I have to say, with its 120 metre elevation gain, it’s a good hiking reintroduction for  adults.

Fairy Creek Tral is one of Fernie's many family-friendly hikes.

Fairy Creek Trail is one of Fernie’s many family-friendly hikes.

Four clicks doesn’t sound like a great distance, but for two children and a 12-week-old puppy it is an epic journey. Piper spent the first kilometre pulling at her leash and panting maniacally; I thought she was going to keel over until we came across a small stream. Avery grumbled at the first sight of a hill (Memo: “I like hiking downhill and on flats best.”), while Bennett ambled along in the rear singing to himself and completely unfocused on the task at hand (e.g. reaching the waterfall sometime before dark).

Me: “One of us should stay back there with Bennett.”

Blake: “He’s fine.”

Me: “But what if a cougar snatches him?”

Blake: “A single older woman can have him if she wants him.”

Unlike a regular adult hike, where you settle into a nice pace and enjoy the scenery, Blake and I vied to pawn off the dog on each other, and whoever didn’t have the puppy had to make sure Bennett didn’t fall into Fairy Creek. I shouldn’t grumble, really. The fact that both kids walked the whole way themselves (and that Bennett didn’t want to hold my hand the entire time) bodes well for an active summer. And Piper will have more stamina come July and August. So, thinking positively, I look forward to sharing more hiking adventures as the season unfolds.

Extreme parenting: mud-hiking edition

Not ones to let a little rain put a damper on our Canada Day celebrations, my husband and I invented a new family-friendly activity in Fernie this past weekend: mud hiking. When the sky cleared late in the afternoon on July 1, we packed the children and Grammy into the car and drove five minutes into Mt. Fernie Provincial Park. Our intent was not to subject the youngest and eldest among us to a Burmese March; we merely wished to enjoy the mountain scenery on Canada Day. Besides, our kids had been pestering us to go on a hike.

The bridge: a portal into mud.

When it comes to kids and hiking, we try to keep it simple. Short, flat trails. Lots of rest stops. Snacks. Really, it’s hiking-lite. This trek, however, annointed Avery, Bennett and Grammy into the ranks of the hard-core.

Bennett and Blake pause in a mud puddle to take in the scenery.

Look Ma! Muddy hands!

The trail was beyond muddy. Mountain bikers had churned the wet path into a soupy, slippery, almost treacherous, mess. Rather than fret about the kids’ and Grammy’s safety, however, I worried about my shoes! I immediately knew I had worn the wrong pair (my fashion runners, not the sensible hiking boots). At that point I should have turned back to spare them (still talking about the shoes), but there was little to no elevation gain along the path, plus it was supposed to be a two-kilometre loop, and ultimately I guess we all thought the trail would become miraculously mud-free if we kept hiking. So we plodded on. I resolved to walk along the edges of the trail, where possible. Even so, my shoes couldn’t compete with the mud’s slippery suction.

The moment I knew my shoes were a lost cause.

Unaware of the imminent peril of slipping, falling and becoming filthy, the kids walked in giant, splashy strides down the middle of the trail, laughing and saying things like, “Look how muddy my shoes are! Look how muddy my legs are! Haha! We’re so dirty! Hahaha!!” On occasion, Blake had to portage Bennett to spare him a mud bath.

Blake portages a non-compliant Bennett while Avery scrambles up a muddy slope.

My mom, a.k.a. Grammy, relied on a hiking pole for balance while she tried to sidestep the peanut butter-like consistency of the trails and thus salvage her new $85 tennis shoes (yeah, we’re all about the shoes in my family). It was a losing battle. “But Mom,” I said, “That’s nothing compared with the memories you’ll have from mud-hiking with the grandkids: Priceless!”

And it was. Once I cleaned my shoes, and the kids, we had a great laugh about the hike. Family bonding is easy when there’s mud.