Tag Archives: things to do in Fernie with kids

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.

Lazy lake days in Fernie

Our family has probably spent four of the past five August long weekends in Fernie. Everyone raves about this B.C. town’s epic powder, but the truth is, most folks who come for the winter end up staying for the summer. And we’re no exception — though we love to ski Fernie, we really, really, really like hanging out in this mountain town between Canada Day and Labour Day, hitting Heritage Day in between.

Surveyor's Beach as seen from the trail across the lake.

The town of Fernie is great, but nearby Surveyor’s Lake is the place to beat the heat. Warm water, a sandy beach and temps that are usually five degrees hotter!

One of our favourite places to spend a lazy summer day is Surveyor’s Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park. The small, natural lake is just a 25 minute drive west of town on Hwy. 3 (turn off just past Hwy. 93 when you see the sign for Kikomun Creek). I have written about Surveyor’s Lake and its population of endangered Western Painted turtles before, and we still like to spot them sunning on fallen logs that ring the lake’s perimeter.

It's easy to spot Western Painted turtles at Surveyor's Lake.

It’s easy to spot Western Painted turtles at Surveyor’s Lake.

But as happens when a spot becomes your “special place” — Blake and I realized that we’ve visited the lake with the kids at least once every summer since 2007, when Avery was two — we’ve fallen into a bit of a routine.

Boat

We used to rent kayaks from Turtle Haven Rentals, but now that we are spending so much summer time in Fernie we have invested in a large inflatable raft. It’s a bit of a chore for us Blake to pump up this behemoth, but it’s the first thing we he does when we arrive. Then, all aboard for a paddle around to see the turtles, lily pads and loons, and maybe some fishing off the side (catch and release). Bonus: no motorized craft allowed on the lake.

Bennett laughs last summer after Avery catches a fishing in neighbouring Engineer's Lake.

Bennett laughs when Avery lets him hold a fish she caught in neighbouring Engineer’s Lake last summer.

Dock

When we get back to the beach Bennett goes for a swim. This always includes him climbing up the ladder onto the dock, and then watching other kids jump off into the lake while he works up the courage to do the same. Meanwhile, Avery fishes off the dock, using only a hook as bait.

The dock at Surveyor's Lake is a busy place.

The dock at Surveyor’s Lake is a busy place.

Avery catches another fish off the dock at Surveyor's Lake.

Avery catches another fish off the dock at Surveyor’s Lake.

Food

I don’t have any pictures of Bennett stuffing his face with chips, bars, bananas or sandwiches, which is weird as both children seem to be constantly starving at the lake. In fact, Bennett ends each activity by sitting down in one of the beach chairs and declaring, “I’m hungry!”

Hike

Not long after lunch, just when it’s really heating up, Bennett decides it’s time for the three-kilometre hike around the lake. For some reason I am always the responsible adult that accompanies him on this adventure. He sets a slow pace and we enjoy looking for more turtles and trying to pick out our green and white umbrella from across the lake.

Bennett pauses on the bridge between Surveyor's Lake and Engineer's Lake to look for turtles swimming in the water or sunning on logs on our regular hike.

Bennett pauses on the bridge between Surveyor’s Lake and Engineer’s Lake to look for turtles swimming in the water or sunning on logs on our regular hike.

Swim/Sand

At this point, all of the must-do activities have been crossed off Bennett’s check-list and good thing because it’s now about 34C and all anyone wants to do is lounge on the raft while partially submerged (me), play Frisbee (Blake), sit in water-filled sand hollows (Bennett), or build intricate sand castles (Avery).

Tada! Avery demonstrates her sand castle-building abilities.

Tada! Avery demonstrates her sand castle-building abilities.

It’s unbelievably easy to spend an entire day here, holiday weekend or otherwise. Even though we now have an established “lake routine” I can’t imagine I’ll tire of it any time soon. See you later this month, Surveyor’s Lake!

 

 

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.

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.

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.