McMillan Creek Park is known for its meandering forest trails and grassy viewpoint overlooking the city of Prince George. We hiked through this park once last year with a group of home learning families and enjoyed the view. This time, however, we hiked through the park with two seasoned hikers, my brother-in-law and his father and made a very exciting discovery. There are several ways of reaching this unique spot and I will share the path we took.

To begin our hike we parked at the McMillan Creek Park parking lot which is located four-hundred and fifty metres down Hofercamp Rd, off Highway 97 North in Prince George, British Columbia. From the parking lot we followed the trail which goes down to Hofercamp road and followed the road for about one-hundred and fifty metres south before resuming again in the forest. Soon after resuming on the trail we arrived at a junction, to the left is 'the viewpoint' and to the right is 'the trail', we turned left and followed along until we reached a lovely grassy spot that overlooks the city. Up to this point the trail is a one kilometer long stroll and definitely stroller friendly.

The next section of the trail we followed is located to the very right of the fenced area. It is an unmarked trail which is steep and hangs treacherously over the cutbank. If you choose this path, proceed with great caution! My eldest (seven) scrambled up without help, my daughter (five) managed well with the help of her uncle and my youngest (three) screamed the whole way up as he clung to my hands. Holding on to his hands gave me a significant disadvantage on the way up and there were a couple times I nearly lost my footing. After a decent scramble upwards we continued to follow the trail along the edge of the cutbank for a ways before veering right back into the forest. As we continued to follow the trail downhill it reached another fork, at this fork we went left, back towards the cutbanks. We hiked along the trail which returned to the edge of the cutbank and opened up to a steep slope that carved through the cutbank. What fun!

At the top of the slope is a gnarled tree with a primitive swing attached to it. We all took turns swinging over the slope and it was a thrill! As we became more daring there were several decent falls but the soft sand below makes the landing tolerable. The slope is also frequently used by local athletes for training. At the bottom of the slope a small change area is located and at the top a short rope is attached for to aid with the last stretch. Running down the slope is exciting and almost feels like flying, scaling back up however is very challenging. It is possible to access the bottom of the slope on Pulpmill Road, but it is a difficult scramble to the top for very young children. Finally, after we were satisfied with the amount of sand in our shoes, hair and clothes we hiked back along the trail and took the left turn at the fork which brought us back to the viewpoint, from there it was easy hiking back to the parking lot.

One of the best ways to discover new hikes is to tap into the knowledge of local hikers. Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve is one of my sister-in-law's favourite places to take her children adventuring and we are grateful that she suggested we go there for some exploration.

Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve is located just north of Prince George, British Columbia. Follow Highway 97 North from Prince George towards Chetwyn, and take a left turn at Kelly Road. Follow the signs for Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve, there are a couple, and turn left at Ferguson Lake road. From the highway to the nature reserve parking lot it is about five kilometers (direction map).

Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve is a perfect area for place based learning. It offers a nice three kilometer interpretive hike that loops around Ferguson lake. There are many interesting features along the way: a lake, a long dock, various bridges and boardwalks, a dilapidated homestead and trapping cabin, resident beavers and plenty of nature to observe. In the spring the lake is filled with tadpoles which is very exciting for children to see. The area also holds importance in local history. In 1919, the land surround the lake was purchased by William Ferguson for the purpose of trapping. He built a cabin there and was joined later on by fellow named Paul Kuleven, a blacksmith and homesteader. Eventually a sawmill was built near the lake. To this day several of the historical sites remain along the trail (historical sites map).

My children enjoys the diversity of the trail around the lake. With its boardwalks and bridges, muddy spots and root ridden areas it kept everyone interested and engaged. I would not recommend a standard stroller on the trail but it might be manageable for an all-terrain stroller. Also parts of the trail are in need of some repair.  At least one boardwalk was rotting in places and others have nail protruding from them. I hope that the city of Prince George is able to maintain the trail so that it continues to be safe and accessible to big and little adventurers alike.
Eskers Provincial Park is located forty kilometers northwest of Prince George, British Columbia. The park is open for day use and offers several nice hiking trails and fishing spots. We recently hiked along the small loop, a three kilometer interpretative trail that circles around Ridgeview Lake (view location map). It is a good hike for young children. My seven and five year old were able to hike the whole distance, only slowing down for the last hundred metres. Toddlers and preschoolers with short legs would probably need extra help. My three year old did not join us because he had a cold but I am sure he would have wanted to be carried part of the way.

Hiking around Ridgeview Lake is a wonderful way to appreciate the unique land forms that the park is named after, the eskers. Thousands of years ago there was a large glacier that covered the area. When the glacier began to melt, about ten thousand years ago, small streams ran through the ice depositing silt, sand and gravel along their paths. Eventually the glacier and streams disappeared but what was remained were narrow sandy ridges, eskers, which are in fact the ancient stream beds. The eskers are easy to spot on the Google satellite map but they are even more interesting to hike over. I must admit that it seems rather strange to be hiking through a thick forest on a trail of sand.

Among the eskers are several small kettle lakes which were created by large chunks of ice left behind by the glacier. These little lakes, marshes and ponds create a unique wetland that support a variety of plant and animal species. Surrounding the lakes and marshes is a mixed forest of Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, spruce, aspen and birch. My sister, a geographer, joined us on the hike and taught the children ways to identify the various trees: looking at bark, touching evergreen needles, noting the shape of branches. We all enjoyed our adventure through Eskers Provincial Park and hope to explore the longer trails in the next few years.
Today was one of those perfect autumn days. It was sunshiny, warm and full of autumnal colours. A gentle wind coaxed golden leaves from their branches and carried them through the sweet smelling air. We raked the leaves into a great big pile and then my two youngest argued about who would get to jump into them first. It did not matter that the pile could be remade after each jump. Perhaps leaf pile jumping would not be the same without a tantrum or two thrown in for good measure. Eventually we abandoned the pile of crispy leaves and ventured forth to collect leaves to make some leaf art, at my daughter's request. The leaves are such beautiful colours right now. There are deep shades of red, bright yellows and light greens. Some leaves are speckled and others are covered in small lines made by a leaf-miners some time ago. Autumn is such a lovely, fleeting season.