Hiking guide Graham Preston and hiker Barbara Koontz admire the ammonite fossil.

Hiking through Fernie’s wild nature

Guided tours through Wildsight offered for the summer.

Parked on the backside of Morrissey Ridge, hiking guide Graham Preston stands at the seemingly invisible mouth of a trail that will take the group gathered before it up to see a fossil — supposedly the largest of its kind — that remains relatively hidden in the Fernie mountains.

This is how Fernie’s Wildsight branch kicked off the first season of its Wild Nature Tours, previously known as Fernie Nature Tours under Lee-Anne Walker’s leadership, on Thursday, July 9.

Each of the five Wild Nature Tours offered this summer will be accompanied by an interpretive guide, like Preston, to educate hikers on that trek’s theme.

“Not only are we taking people hiking, but we’re teaching them about the environment, which is why each of our hikes has its own theme,” said Wildsight branch coordinator Megan Kelly.

Preston concurred.

“The goal isn’t to stand and listen to somebody spout information. The idea is to come out and make it fun, make it engaging and a little more interactive,” he said.

The hike itself followed on this promise, with frequent stops scattered along the trek’s route that took the group across the mountain’s face, down into its creekbeds and tiptoeing across trunks strewn across a path cleared by a recent mudslide.

Informational tidbits about the formation of fossils like the ammonite at the end of the hike was provided amongst sunset-hued views of Fernie’s mountain ranges and a brief geological history of the area that explained how a tropical sea creature several millions of years old came to rest in the rocky region of Fernie.

“There are so many different ecosystems just around here in such a small distance,” Kelly said. “So our goal is to educate people and tell them about all the things you can see on a hike.”

The Ammonite Hike itself took the group on a three hour-long trek to view the four foot-long and four foot-wide fossil of an ancient sea creature resembling a shelled squid partially embedded in rock.

The group included one-time Fernie resident Barbara Koontz who took the guided hike as an opportunity to become reacquainted with the

area.

Hikes that target enthusiasts whose skill ranges from beginner (the Ammonite, provincial park and Castle Mountain hikes), to intermediate (Ridge Walk at the ski hill and the Mount Fernie summit), and all the way to advanced (the legendary Heiko’s Trail) will be offered this summer.

 

“That’s the legendary hike that I think should be on everyone’s bucket list,” said Kelly of Heiko’s Trail.

An overnight hike to the Flathead is also available.

For those interested, registration via the website www.wildnaturetours.ca will be offering pre-arranged tours until September, as long as weather permits.

Custom-booked hikes for a minimum number of guests will also be offered and can be arranged via phone at 250-423-0260 or e-mail at elkvalley@wildsight.ca.Guided tours through Wildsight offered for the summer