Tag Archives: Island Lake in summer

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.

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Moose on the loose at Island Lake

With nature, timing is everything. Some days you can hike 20 kilometres in the backcountry and see nary a bird; other times you hit the wildlife jackpot with minimum effort. Such was our hot July afternoon at Island Lake.

A mother moose grazes while her calf eyes us up at Island Lake near Fernie, B.C.

A mother moose grazes while her calf eyes us up at Island Lake near Fernie, B.C.

We drove from Fernie up to Island Lake Lodge to rent a canoe ($10 for one hour) and paddle around the lake. The lake is named for the small island in its centre that makes a fun target to navigate around. After situating Bennett and Avery inside the canoe, with instructions to stay as still as possible in spite of the crazy swarms of mayflies (in other words, no tipping!), Blake and I dipped our oars toward the island.

The mayflies were swarming us in the canoe. Good thing they don't bite!

The mayflies were swarming us in the canoe. Good thing they don’t bite!

I spotted movement along a shaded bank. As we glided closer I saw it was a mama moose and her baby, which appeared to be pretty darn new. The pair were busy munching on leaves along the water’s edge. Mama raised her head and stared us down (Blake stopped paddling; I was busy taking endless photos), then hunger drove her back to her afternoon snack. Baby tried unsuccessfully to nurse several times, but was repeatedly dissuaded by a guttural moan from its mother, who clearly needed sustenance after birthing and nursing her calf. We watched them in awe for 10 minutes or more, marvelling at the tiny, fuzzy baby and its skinny, gangly mama. As we paddled away the small family headed inland on the island.

Mama and baby moose pause to glance at our approaching canoe.

Mama and baby moose pause to glance at our approaching canoe.

We continued our trip around the lake, chasing ducklings (much to Bennett’s delight) and letting Avery try to catch tadpoles. A final circle of the island showed no signs of the wildlife sheltered there.

Canoeing at Island LAke is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Canoeing at Island Lake is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Later, over cocktails on the Bear Lodge patio, Island Lake Lodge marketing guy Mike McPhee told us that a mother moose swims out to the island every spring to birth a calf. She shelters it there for awhile, then they move back to the mainland for the rest of the summer. Smart mama — what a beautiful place to raise a babe.

Getaway to Island Lake Lodge

We go to Fernie a lot in the summer and have spent the past several years exploring the many hiking trails in the area. A favourite place to go has been Island Lake, a beautiful mountain lake located up a winding dirt road that travels through Mt. Fernie Provincial Park. We usually just walk around the lake with the kids — or canoe on it — but this summer we had the opportunity to leave the children in Fernie with Grammie and spend a night at Island Lake Lodge to celebrate our anniversary (16 years!). This meant we could graduate beyond the lake trail to the more difficult ascents above timberline.

Taking a rest on Spineback Trail.

Taking a rest on Spineback Trail.

The lodge is best known as a cat-skiing base during the winter, when feet of epic Fernie powder fall on the slopes that surround the lake like an amphitheatre. Come summer the area transforms into a beautiful mountain sanctuary, with old growth cedar forests giving way to sub-alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers and rocky escarpments inhabited by marmots and pikas.

We opted for Spineback Trail, a hike that climbs 530 metres over 3.5 kilometres up a ridge. The payoff? It’s a great workout and there’s a lovely wooden bench at the trail’s terminus that affords an eagle’s eye view of Island Lake and the lodge far below.

Look down, waaaay down: Island Lake and the lodge as seen from the top of Spineback Trail.

Look down, waaaay down: Island Lake and Island Lake Lodge as seen from the top of Spineback Trail near Fernie, B.C..

We boogied back in a short but insistent rain storm and headed straight for the hot tub to help us warm up and rejuvenate our over-tired muscles. Then it was time for a rich dinner of duck, lobster, creme brûlée and lots of wine, served in the main lodge. The mountain air afforded us a sleep in (kid-free, hooray!) and we emerged for a buffet breakfast and a short hike around the lake. There wasn’t a lot of time to luxuriate in our cozy room in Cedar Lodge (complete with balcony and mountain view), but the point of an escape to Island Lake is to get active in a breathtakingly beautiful place. What a great way to spend our anniversary — doing something we love, together, in the mountains. We’ll be back!

A beautiful summer morning at Island Lake.

A beautiful summer morning at Island Lake.