I had an hour long drive ahead of me to the 100 Acre Wood old growth forest trail and it was the perfect opportunity to listen to the reading of a recent New York Times story The Social Life of Forests by Ferris Jabr. This fascinating story speaks to the connectivity of all plant life in a forest via underground fungal root networks, or mycelium. I touched on this briefly in another trail story but as I was listening to this story, I began to truly appreciate the significance of these networks and the necessity of protecting old forests with big trees. I was looking forward to stepping into the woods today. 

By the time I arrived at the parking lot to the trailhead, I was buzzing with the feeling I was about to venture into a living, sentient being able to sense my presence and send messages through underground living pathways beneath my feet. My coworker who was joining me had also just listened to the story and felt the same way. We agreed it was about time Western science caught up to Indigenous knowledge in its understanding that everything is connected. 

The parking lot to the 100 Acre Wood trail is well marked by a highway camera post topped with solar panels close to the road and a large wood sign farther to the back of the parking lot. We were approximately 14 kilometres from Nancy Greene Lake and 15 kilometres from Rossland along Highway 3B. This area is used year round for hiking and mountain biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and logging. We were prepared to snowshoe but the trail had seen a lot of use and the snow was packed nicely for us to walk just in our boots. 

The trail is a meandering 1.5 kilometre stroll which loops through forest, wetland, and big trees. There are interpretive signs along the path which help interpret the many parts of an old growth forest ecosystem. We stopped at the bench along the edge of a cutblock to enjoy some hot cocoa and marshmallows, and looked across to the nearby mountains hugged in a blanket of low hanging clouds. I reflected on the notion that our forests here in the Kootenays, part of the Inland Temperate Rainforest, are better described as snow forests. 

The accumulation of snow throughout the colder months influences how these forests mature. These forests manage snow and snow melt as the seasons change and warm. They stabilize the ground and filter the water runoff to protect us from landslides and provide us with clean drinking water. The fungal networks I mentioned earlier are how old forests are one of the best natural mechanisms of storing some of the highest amounts of carbon in the world. These “services” are essential to the health and safety of our communities. 

We packed up our thermoses and continued on, talking and enjoying the fresh air and peace only snow covered woods can create. A short while later we came to the same bench, we had missed our turn back to the parking lot! We happily continued on, paying more attention to our direction and realizing how disorienting the snow can be. I thought back to the New York Times story and viewed the 300-400 year old trees we walked by in a new light. These are Mother Trees. They are the trees with the most mycelium connections, connected to other trees around them – even different species. If one of these surrounding trees is sick or dying the Mother can sense it and will send its own nutrients to help. I felt a new sense of warmth and protectiveness towards these ancient, caring beings.  

I’d like to leave you with this quote from The Social Life of Forests: “The razing of an old-growth forest is not just the destruction of magnificent individual trees – it’s the collapse of an ancient republic whose interspecies covenant of reciprocation and compromise is essential for the survival of Earth as we’ve known it.”


I hope the end of this year is finding you healthy and hopeful for the new year to come. Happy holidays! 

Kendra Norwood is EcoSociety’s Conservation Program Coordinator.