Photo’s and Story by Gerry George
The forest opened as we came into the clearing on Fernie Mountain and we could again see the town of Fernie, nestled peacefully along the Elk River below us. The main valley seemed to be yawning as the mountain sides gently arced towards the sky. Cloud shadows danced along the valley floor as we slowed to a stop and dismounted our bikes. We had only been riding for about 30 minutes but we seemed to be light years away from home.
Riding in Fernie will do that to you. It will take you to those special places that make you feel alive, places that are just a blur outside the window of a speeding car on the highway. Places that can alter your perspective and make everyday feel like a holiday.
“A gentle breeze cooled our skin as we started back down the trail. It twisted and squeezed through the stands of Douglas fir and old, burned out cedar snags. The nattering of squirrels and singing of birds was joined by the whoops and hollers of our group. Like a self controlled roller coaster ride, we descended down the mountainside trail, braking only for the occasional log or sharp corner. We passed through another small opening in the forest, this one littered with the bleached white bones of animals hanging in the surrounding trees. Dem Bones. What a great name for an awesome trail.”
You don’t have to go far in Fernie before you are off the pavement and exploring. A large network of well maintained forestry roads extend from Fernie up all the major valley systems. These roads, with their easy grades and gently meandering paths are great for families and cyclists just starting out into the world of mountain biking. These roads also access most of the singletrack trails found in the area. Trails such as the Nature Trail and the Dike Trail offer singletrack fun right in town for those whose skills are on the rise. Another wonderful beginner to intermediate ride is the Coal Creek Heritage Trail. This trail follows the old road grade from Fernie to the abandoned town site of Coal Creek and provides some spectacular views of the valley.
“The log across the creek wasn’t slippery, but the fast moving water below made keeping our balance tricky. We crossed gingerly, grasping at branches for support. Nobody got wet this time, but I remember desperately grabbing friends and their bicycles as they floated down Lizard Creek. Having all crossed safely we began the climb up into the Gorbie Bowl. The Sherwoody Forest and Old Goats trails fell off to the left as we ascended through the old growth stand of cedar and we were fortunate enough to see the moose that usually hangs out at the salt lick along the side of the trail.”
If it is animal life you want to see there is no better ride than Wigwam Flats. This old fire road situated along the Elk River at Elko, 20 minutes west of Fernie, is a springtime favourite for local riders when Fernie is still buried in the white stuff or being rained on. Closed to vehicular traffic, Wigwam Flats parallels the Elk River and Wigwam River canyons and provides breathtaking views of the China Wall on Mt. Broadwood and the Purple Canyon that drops into the Wigwam River. On any given day you will see herds of big horn sheep, mule deer, white tail deer and elk. It is as close to an African safari as you will get in Canada and if you complete the 50 kilometre loop around Mt. Broadwood you can expect to see moose and black bear as well.
“The darkness of the cedar forest began to lighten as we entered the natural amphitheatre known as the Gorbie Bowl. The vibrant greens of the alder that cover the bowl contrasted sharply against the stark gray limestone of Grizzly Peak that pierced the clear blue sky above us. The uphill was almost over. Soon we would be going down.”
What goes up must come down, and whether you choose to ride up under your own power or take a ride on a lift at Fernie Alpine Resort, you will not be disappointed. New trails are cut annually and range from beginner to gonzo abusive. Downhillers at the annual Mud ‘n Madness mountain bike race continue to rave about the trails in Fernie and riding the lifts is a great way to spend a lazy day in the sun or to hone your downhill skills.
“The fast, smooth, ski hill access roads wound along the hillside and we sped along until we found the singletrack that dropped off into the trees. Once again we were negotiating through mazes of roots and trees. The trail meandered and twisted, climbed and fell away, crossed streams and went under logs. We rode silently, concentrating on the ground in front of us, focusing on the present task at hand. Finally the trail spit us out onto the pavement and we rested along the side of the road. Mud speckled our faces but couldn’t hide the wide grins beneath. We rode casually back into town, and had been gone for a few hours but it might well have been days.”
The mountain bike is more than a mode of transportation. It is a tool for your mind and it will take you farther away than you ever imagined. You can do it right here in Fernie, five minutes from where you are sitting. Get out of the car and go for a ride. You will discover what I am talking about.
For more trail information get your Fernie Trail Guide.