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Fall Wanderings

There's a brief, fleeting moment in Fernie when everything blooms golden; the tree canopy morphs from iridescent green to a shimmery primrose, the leaves of giant poplar flicker in the wind and illuminate the blue sky. Even the ground, most times brown with dirt and grass, is blanketed in falling leaves, yellows and reds mingling together as in the elegance and sureness of a puzzle.

Fall in Fernie is absolutely lovely.

Even if an early snowfall covers the leaf blanket momentarily, or an ominous grey settles on the valley promising rain, there are so many incredibly beautiful places to wander and wonder. In fact, hiking beneath moody and unpredictable skies brings with it a sense of intrepidness—any bone-deep chill makes the hot chocolate you packed in your bag that much warmer, fills your fluttery soul with a sense of great adventure

What do you bring on those days, when the golden leaves crunch beneath your feet and the air chills just a little more deep? So many things, my wondrous friend.

Hiking in the fall is all about layers; merino wool long underwear covered in a proper fleece, encapsulated in a lightweight puffy beneath a wind-breaking shell, and of course, the integral toque. I always make sure to grab a flannel, too.

Perhaps, if you find yourself at the trailhead to Mount Fernie, and half-a-kilometre up your face grows flush and your body heat warms from within, a layer to remove and stow saves you from an otherwise guaranteed chill at ridge top, and a potential winter wheeze. And though the warmth of the sun still exists, don't be foolhardy; your hands need protection as much as your feet. A light pair of mitts or gloves, even if only stuffed into an inside pocket of your pack, are the best remedy for summit chills when you settle in for a snack.

Put your layers back on when you rest your bum on the nearest rock or log, and finish your cocoon of comfort off with the wind-breaking shell; admittedly, we want to withstand the breeze on the Rocky Mountain summit for as long as the sun, in it's sinking hours, will let us.

When you reach the summit, or the scenic waterfall, or the hidden Old Growth Forest, it's important to have something to warm your heart—and your stomach. Personally, a mug of hot tea does the trick, or make some homemade hot chocolate—boiled milk and sugar, a dash of vanilla and cocoa—and pair it with any hiking vice of your choosing. 

I'm a traditionalist; a good mix of nuts and chocolate-covered coffee beans, a fresh Gala apple, a peppered salami and cheese bun with dijon mustard. And more chocolate, of course. Disregard any guilt you feel for eating too much; you're in the woods, outside with the smell of savoury pine and a forest in fall transition, you deserve it.

It's important to remember that we aren't the only ones in the forest or at the stream. Fall brings with it the last good search for food before hibernation, and black and grizzly bears harvesting remnants of berries and long grass might wander into your vicinity. Always, I repeat, always, pack your bear spray. But more importantly, make noise. You don't have to bring a pot and spoon along on your hike, or even a whistle, but talk with friends a little louder than you might, so no unfavourable encounters occur. If you prefer a solo hike, bring along a furry friend (but remember to keep him leashed and/or under control) and make noise of your own. And never forget to leave a trip plan with someone back in town.

It doesn't last, the golden hours of fall. Weeks slip away rather quickly, and before long the bright yellows and oranges turn brown, the floor of leaves compost into the ground, and we begin to talk of skiing and snowshoeing, Christmas tree hunting and turkey with gravy. Savour it, each golden moment, each fall wandering.

Read Part 1 of Jesse's fall adventuring - Hikes in Fall

--Jesse Bell

Jesse is a local writer and adventurer with a huge passion for Fernie, BC and the Canadian Rockies