Fernie has a great network of trails, some for biking, some for hiking. We have great community-minded people, who have spent a lot of time, energy and money making this fantastic trail network. We should thank them, profusely. We should volunteer to help, or at least donate to the Fernie Trails Alliance. However, these trails were all built by people. Not unlike - though perhaps on a more rustic scale - our roads, bridges and rail lines. So as part of our annual green issue, I think we can go back to nature in a purer way.
Fernie has a lot of another thing, besides trails. It has a lot of game, and by that, I mean game animals. Much like the folks at the Fernie Trails Alliance, deer and elk make their own trails. They are good, too. And they are everywhere.
If you have never followed a game trail you should. You come across one, you start walking and you just follow it. You see where it goes. Their trails are different than the trails that we build. They don’t necessarily go anywhere -not anywhere we choose to go anyway. The grades are not steady, you will walk along flat and then all of a sudden you may need to use your hands to get up a very steep pitch. There is something ethereal or almost spiritual about walking down a game trail. I looked for another word than ethereal, as it seems odd to describe the most basic back to earth experience as otherworldly. However, the more I reflect on it, the more it fits. It is another world from the one we inhabit. The trail will not be built to accommodate humans. There will be fallen trees across it, it may even cross a stream. There will be no bridge. And you are unlikely to encounter another person -especially if you go before the first of September.
Deer need to drink water, and anyone who has driven locally knows that they are going to cross roads. You can seek your trail by driving a forestry road or walking the edge of a stream. It will not take long to come across one. Pick your trail and head down. Take your time. Hear the rustle of the leaves and birds. Smell the dirt and the moss. See the world as it is, not as a park ranger or Walt Disney would show it to you.
A quick note on safety, as there will not be a trail map, so you cannot tell someone where you going. So, tell them where your car is. We are blessed with the mountains, creeks, and streams. It is very easy to navigate in the woods here. Going downhill leads to water. Water leads to more water. A small drainage leads to a stream, which leads to a creek, which - if you head out near Fernie and don’t cross any ridges - will lead to the Elk River. That may be a fail-safe way to get home, but it may not be quick, nor easy. Just like on any adventure you take, make sure that you have warm clothes, extra food, and extra water, and give yourself lots of daylight to spare.
Please do not mistake me, I love the trails we have in Fernie and you definitely cannot go biking on a game trail. If you are anything like me you do need to go biking. That said the real environment is not a park, nor -however lovely - a trail with berms and bridges with safety rails, it is the wilderness that surrounds us. So make a plan, gather some stuff, head out and have your own ethereal experience.