My husband and I love hiking with our kids and we usually strike out on the trails solo as a family of four. But on Saturday we bumped into Fernie nature guide Bob Livsey — a.k.a. “Nature Bob” — at the top of the Timber Chair at Fernie Alpine Resort. With no hikes booked for the afternoon he asked if he could tag along as a guide while we hiked the Lost Boys loop, a 1.7-kilometre trail that descends to the Mammoth Droppings (giant boulders below Mammoth Peak) before climbing 100 metres to the Lost Boys Pass lookout. We said, “Sure!”
The best way to access alpine hikes at Fernie is to ride the Timber Chair. Sadly, summer operations ended this weekend.
Friends of ours and their two boys had come along for the fun, so our party of eight, plus Nature Bob, began the hike, curious what a hiking guide could add to the experience. A lot, it turns out.
Walking through dense forest before we reached the impressive Mammoth Droppings boulders, Bob pointed out ripe huckleberries that the kids immediately gobbled down. He also showed us the delicious-looking yet poisonous twisted stalk red berries, and explained that purple elderberries are only edible when cooked. Good to know.
Nature Bob points to the top of Mammoth Peak, from which large boulders have fallen to form the “Mammoth Droppings” in the background.
Nature Bob has been leading hikes at Fernie Alpine Resort for 12 years, and he teaches skiing there in the winter, so he knows the mountain extremely well. He explained the rock formations and helped us find crinoid fossils in slabs of limestone. We also spotted a distant critter that looked like either a coyote or a fox; Bob used his binoculars to determine it was a coyote.
One in our party holds up two limestone slabs to show off the crinoid fossils.
Bob loved that our kids and our friend’s boys delighted in finding caterpillars, catching grasshoppers, watching chipmunks and jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings. He also liked that we asked lots of questions and seemed prepared for the unpredictable late-summer weather (it was 20C at the bottom of Timber Chair and probably 10C at the top, some 700 metres higher). “Some people show up for alpine hikes wearing flip-flops,” he lamented. “And some folks just go, go, go, without taking in what they’re seeing. It’s like they’re running a race.” Yep, with four kids aged four to 11 in tow, that was not us. We were all about sloooow hiking.
The children loved jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings, the hike highlight.
We never made it to the Lost Boys Pass lookout (the downside of slow hiking) but that’s OK. It was fun to explore part of the mountain with someone in the know. And that way, contrary to the name of the trail, it ensured we didn’t get lost.
Nature Bob runs guided hikes throughout the summer at Fernie Alpine Resort. The season is now over, but you can e-mail him next summer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the resort’s guest services at 250-423-2435 to enquire about guided hikes.