For the past 2 summers I have taken Matthew for a mother and son camping trip. It is a great opportunity to spend some one on one time with him doing something we both love. We try and change it up each year, choosing different sites to camp at and different things to do. This past weekend, Matthew and I went to Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies. We did the Burgess Shale Hike to Walcott Quarry, a 22 km guided hike up through the mountains, to view the famous fossils.
A World Heritage Site, the Burgess Shale is considered the world’s most important fossil site that preserves one of the world’s first complex marine ecosystems. It has also been shown that 95% of the world’s species have evolved from these fossils; the origin of all life.
Discovered by Charles Walcott in 1909, this is the world’s most significant fossil discovery because of their age (500 million years old), diversity and the incredible detail of the preservation of the fossils. It is truly a wonder to be discovered and enjoyed.
This fascinating find attracts researchers from all over the world, as well as hikers. As a protected site, the only way to access the site is on one of the guided hikes provided through Yoho National Park or the Geoscience Foundation in Field, BC. This is to preserve and protect the site from misuse and vandalism and continue to utilize it for research.
You can choose one of 2 hikes, the Mount Stephen Fossil Bed or Walcott Quarry. Both hikes can be challenging and it is best to go to the National Park website to determine which hike is most suitable for you. Though Mount Stephen is shorter in distance it is strenuous and steep, while Walcott Quarry is longer in distance, it is less steep.
I have wanted to go on this hike for many years, every time I drove through Field I thought maybe this year I will go. One of the reasons I had not gone yet was that I did not have anyone that was interested in going with me. And though I do many things by myself, this was something I wished to share with a friend or family member.
I was very pleased and excited when I suggested to Matthew that we go. He seemed keen and interested and though the 22 km hike was more than he had hiked before (he had done up to 14 km), he was willing to do it.
We choose the Walcott hike because it was a less strenuous and difficult hike, as well as the fact that there are a variety of fossils found at this site, such as trilobites, marrella, anomlocaris; compared to Mount Stephen, which is mainly trilobites. We felt that even though the distance was longer that this hike overall would be a more satisfying and exciting experience.
After waking up at 6 am and a quick breakfast, we met at the trailhead at Takakkaw Falls at 7:15 ready to start our day. It was going to be a beautiful day, the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. We met our Parks Canada Guide Kristi and fellow hikers and after going through a few ligistics we were off!
Matthew was the youngest in the group and I could tell that some of our fellow hikers were a little shocked/ concerned that he was coming along. I admit I was a little nervous for him but I knew in my heart that he could do it. He is a strong resilient kid and we had already hiked many trails and terrains over the last year. Though he might be tired at the end of the day, I knew he would do it.
We had to wear helmets to protect ourselves from possible rock fall overhead and were literally standing on the slope of a mountain. Our guide provided us with fact sheets to help us identify what we found, as well as little eye magnifying pieces to get a better, or sharpened look at the fossils. We were also able to do fossil rubbings, with good old fashioned paper and crayon. It was awesome and so fascinating!
Matthew loved it. He loves that kind of sciency stuff and gadgets to check it all out with. And he was pretty excited and proud of himself for completing the hike as well. Yes he was very tired by the time we got back to the parking lot, but he did it, and he did it without whining or complaining. He’s an amazing kid! And once we fed him dinner and got back to the campsite, he was up running around and zooming off on his bike. Where does he find the energy?
Of course the next day I was a little sore and stiff, not my 8 year old. Bouncing around ready for another day. So I took him on another hike 🙂
The Burgess Shale is a fascinating hike and once in a lifetime experience; even if you are not a science geek, the fossils are fascinating to see and the scenery alone is worth the hike. It is also very cool to see and be a part of these fossils and to understand that we evolved from these guys. To see them preserved is something I can’t really describe, it’s one of those things that you’ve got to do to understand the awe and wonder of it.
Note: This hike is not suitable for young children, even if taken in a baby carrier. 8 years old and up is what is recommended on the website and not many 8 year olds actually do it. Please ensure that your child has hiked distance before and has the stamina, determination and interest in doing it. This is not only for their safety but for the safety of everyone on the hike as well.
Want to know more about the Burgess Shale? Check out these great websites for more information