Weeks seem to roll into one another lately.
At the end of a long and cold winter everyone was begging for some sunshine, warm weather and summer vibes. Fast-forward and it is now the middle of summer and life is busy! There are trails to ride, fish to catch and barbeques to be had. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it?
As exciting as a Fernie summer is, sometimes an escape is needed to put the feet up and relax. Our quick 24-hour Island Lake getaway was a perfect way to break the routine and wind down.
Island Lake Lodge is located high up in the Cedar Valley. Sitting between the Lizard Range, Mount Baldy and Mount Fernie the 7000 private acres are a mountain paradise.
During summer once the snow has melted and skis have been packed away, the lodge and acreage opens to the public for everyone to enjoy. From high alpine bowls, beautiful old growth cedar forests and the picturesque Island Lake, it is a truly unique destination.
Snaking our way up the Tamarack Trail on a warm summer day we travel through diverse mountain landscapes. The old growth cedar forests provide some respite from the summer heat and a good excuse to stop and put our feet in a cool mountain stream. Climbing steadily up towards the ridge we cross limestone scree slopes that tell their own story of this historically rich landscape.
Fernie’s geological history is complex, resulting in an inverted timeline with the older limestone peaks overlying younger, organic-rich shale and coal sequences. Glaciation came later and sculpted the mountains as we see them today, providing spectacular Rocky Mountain views.
When this area was, in fact, a shallow marine environment, accumulation of marine sediments and invertebrates over millions of years created the limestone that caps the peaks around Island Lake and Fernie. It isn’t every day you can find marine fossils on a peak of the highest mountains, something that still gives me a kick no matter how many times we hike in these mountains.
Breaking out into one of the large, heavily vegetated winter avalanche paths you get a perspective of the elevation gained over the last few kilometers. The summer haze hangs down in the Elk Valley, Fernie sitting quietly in the foreground.
The last climb up to the top of the hike marks the start of the Mountain Lakes Trail, commonly known as Heiko’s Trail. Cresting the ridge you get amazing views of Island Lake and the Lizard Range. Looking north over the grassy high alpine traverse it is inviting to keep hiking, however, a Fernie Brewing Company beer and mountain lodge comforts are calling us back to Island Lake so we vow to come back again before summer is done.
I can’t think of a better way to finish a day hiking than on the Bear Lodge patio. Looking over the lake and up to the alpine bowls, this is a perfect place to enjoy a well-deserved refreshment and take in all the Island Lake surroundings.
It feels like we are on holiday and we are just a short drive from our front door. A relaxed evening followed with some quality dining in the Tamarack Lodge. If you don’t have 24 hours to throw at it, an evening trip up here for dinner is a must!
Their “real food” ethos shines through in the food. Everything possible is sourced locally, organically grown, unprocessed, unrefined and tastes great! The menu isn’t overly complicated or overdone and is carefully crafted by Executive Chef Keith Farkas.
For us, the free-range chicken breast served on coconut and lime risotto with a mint and cashew pesto and the Grilled NY Striploin served with a bone marrow waffle with tomato confit, market vegetables and maple stout veal jus was a perfect way to cure those hungry stomach grumbles.
The rest of the evening was spent on our deck, overlooking the lake and Lizard Range. The accommodation is a perfect mix of simplicity and luxury, allowing you to escape your day-to-day routine and disconnect.
As our 24-hour escape drew closer to an end we both commented on how relaxing it had been to spend some time at Island Lake. With coffee and a tasty breakfast feast under our belts we drove back to Fernie to start another day of work, refreshed and ready for the week ahead.
Island Lake Lodge is perfect for that special getaway! Escape the city, leave you work life at home and head to Island Lake to recharge the batteries. If hiking isn’t your thing, take a look at their mountain spa and massage options for the ultimate relaxation retreat.
Jack Viney – Tourism Fernie