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!
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 forest of giant cedars.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.