Five hours of driving from Vancouver, past Hope then Princeton brings us to Cathedral Provincial Park. Three km before Keremeos, we turn off to begin a 14km drive along the base with little elevation gain to arrive at the locked parking lot. Here we await the transport to take us and our gear the remaining 9 miles up the mountain Cathedral Lakes Lodge in the alpine.
The challenge for me is adapting en-route to large areas of no data/cellphone reception. Waiting outside the locked parking area, no ability to check my tweets and beginning to adapt to this return to those simpler, less technology burdened days of my youth! At least I have the iBlogger program on my iPhone (in airplane mode) to keep me busy.
Quite the ride to gain 4,000 feet over 9 miles. The transport vehicle was purchased from the Swiss Army and is 40 years old. Much of the trail is not much wider than the truck and there was a cliff at times on one side and large holders on the other. Although the truck can seat 14, there was just a family of four and the two of us. Both our kids are away at different camps this week so this is the first time Laura and I have a week alone since we've had kids. Two full loads of hikers and campers came down but things are quieter tonight. It is the end of a long weekend in BC and there is also a nearby forest fire which may lead to the park being close some time tomorrow. We will be aiming for an early start to get our 8 hour hike underway before a potential closure.
Today was the big hiking day. Good thing as we had a huge dinner to work off from last night and breakfast from this morning. We began our ascent to the rim on the glacier trail. Passing some alpine flowers as we climbed, it took just a half hour to be above tree line and about 1hr 20mins to the rim itself. The views were incredible all the way and even more so once we could awe over to the mountain range on the other side. There were mostly gentle changes in elevation across the rim to Devil's Woodpile (stone overhang looks like a big pile of wood), Stone City which looked like the town of Bedrock (Flintstones), and Smokey the Bear (guess what that looks like!) We were treated to a small herd of mountain goats who were strolling along the same trail. We were in search of the Giant Cleft, but after half an hour of unsure footing and more cairns to follow, we had to give up. At that point, only the second group of hikers we encountered on the entire hike showed up. They were more adventurous and scaled a rocky ridge in search of the Giant Cleft. Later we found out that the slippery section of sandy scree was the correct route but it is too slippery for any cairn to stay without sliding away so it cannot be marked. Maybe a sign would have helped?
A bit of backtracking on the rim was next to get to the top of the Ladyslipper trail downward. We had been warned about this one; rather loose scree followed by a knife edge trail. The knife edge was a breeze after inching down, mostly on my butt, to get there. We reached a more meadoway area after passing near the base of a huge area of very vertical rockfaces that looked like cathedrals - Laura and I assume that's where the 'Cathedral Lakes' namr comes from.
At every turn on the hike, the landscape changed, sometimes quite dramatically. The ground changed from earth to smooth scree, boulders, clay, very sharp scree that sounded like glass breaking underfoot (Ladyslipper upper portion.) This continued all the way back past Ladyslipper Lake where Ken was out fishing, Pyramid Lake, where the fish were jumping like crazy, then back to the lake by the lodge, Lake Quiniscoe.
The hot-tub was pre-heate for us and was a great relief after 8 hours of hiking. I had never seen a hot-tub heated by a wood burning stove that sits in one end of the tub! Another great dinner, with just 11 guests tonight as the fears of approaching wild fires led to cancellations. It was great talking with guests from all over and settling down for some reading.
Tomorrow we'll have a chance to squeeze in a few more hours of hiking before we have to take the transport down at 1pm. That should be quite the joy ride.
Not a great night of sleep:<( After having seen a mouse scurrying around behind the bar last night in the reception area of the lodge, any little noise in the night made me turn on my head lamp and scan the room in search of a mouse. When I told Richard, the owner of the lodge, this morning before breakfast his reassuring words were that if there was food in the room then it probably was a mouse that I heard.
With our 1pm planned departure, we chose a shorter hike for the morning: Diamond Trail around Scout Mountain. This 12 km trail begins below alpine with an amazing variety of sub alpine then alpine flowers as it breaks above tree-line. Though it doesn't have the big Wow factor of the Glacier-Cleft-Ladyslipper full day adventure of the prior day, it is a pretty amazing hike. You can think of it as a scaled-down version of that big rim adventure without the scary bits. It still brought is to a the rim of a mountain, through meadows, over boulder fields, across almost lunar terrain, past a small lake and down a set of switchbacks with good footing (take that Ladyslipper!) to return to the Lodge.
The transit down was in a Suburban-type 4x4 instead of the Mercede MOG for which we were very grateful to Paul for a safe return to our car at the base. Less than a km into our 21km drive on the mostly dirt Ashnole Drive to the highway, a girl in perhaps her early 20's was trying to hitch a ride. It turns out she had been trying for over an hour but nobody had come along the road at all! Monica is Check and in Canada on a one year work visa. She was supposed to start at a farm picking cherries for $2.50 per box but they had bo work for her today. She decided to hitch a ride toward Cathedral from near Keremeos, to walk a bit in the Alpine. Her whole day was spent instead hitching to then from the base but never going up. She had not expected the 12km all day hike in the woods and no option to hitch a ride to the alpine area.