It’s 36 degrees outside and clear skies. My mom is visiting from Vancouver Island. She’s only here for a couple of days and I want to show her the beautiful Kootenay outdoors. But it’s 36 degrees. 

I look at the EcoSociety’s Old Growth Trail map. I know forests stay cool on hot days, and old growth forests are especially known for being perfect to explore when the sun is beating down. We decide on the Ymir trail. A trail that stays close to the cool river, is easy to walk, and easy to find. 

Treed hillsides and glimpses of the Salmo river, low flowing this time of year, lead us to Ymir – a mining town during the gold rush now known for its eclectic old buildings and similarly eclectic annual music festival. After parking on the main street we make our way towards the walking path and head north parallel to the river. 

Once we reach the edge of the old growth forest, our eyes adjust to the shaded woods and we feel the temperature go down. The heated pines and cedars give off a fresh but baked scent that mingles with the soft ground. The trail meanders along the river bank. On the other side of the forest there is a road. 

I wasn’t expecting the forest to be so narrow. I later learned this old growth forest was probably only saved from logging because it is within the riparian area, a buffer zone along a river set aside from logging to help protect the river ecosystem. There is evidence of past logging within the forest. Old stumps covered in moss stand as tall as me and a couple of metres wide. Many stumps have springboard marks chopped into their sides from when loggers had to hand saw these giants. Many trees were left, some have fallen and become nurse trees, decomposing and hosting new growth. Twisted cedar trunks tower, their tops hidden in the canopy. 

The old growth trail in Ymir is about one kilometre of an eight kilometre trail (part of the Great Northern Rail Trail) that visits a waterfall, historic cemetery, and scenic swimming holes as it loops back to town. One day, when it’s not 36 degrees, I’ll do the rest of the trail. But on this day, I am thankful to have access to these refreshing old growth forests.

Take a hike, take photos! Share your photos with #kootenayoldgrowth to Instagram and Facebook to help spread the word about our beautiful old growth forests in the Kootenays. 

Check out this list of short and long, easy to difficult hikes of rare old forests in the Kootenays. Learn more about old growth forests and what plants and animals call these forests home.

Kendra Norwood is EcoSociety’s Conservation Program Coordinator