Back in the city for a couple of days now, I’ve finally had time to post our Cathedral Lakes photos to Flickr and gather my thoughts a little about the trip. In short? What a beautiful place, and we sure picked the right time to go there since it’s wildflower season in the sub-alpine and Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park has the most awesome meadows I have ever hiked in.
CLPP is a bit of an oddity in terms of the provincial parks, as the core area of the park is only accessible via a steep hike in, or via transportation up a private road operated by the Cathedral Lakes Lodge (grandfathered into the park, but owned privately). We elected to take the transportation in, as we had such a short time to spend up top, and so paid the $120 apiece to ride in the back of the Unimog which takes an hour to do nine miles of pretty-much vertical road. A little terrifying, but worth every penny to be able to carry in a cooler with beer and fresh food (the campsite is only a few minutes walk from the drop-off point), not to mention getting straight to the good stuff of alpine hiking.
We decided to stay at the first campsite at Quniscoe Lake, which I wouldn’t do on a weekend as it does tend to be the busiest (and the lodge across the way can be noisy) – but we were there mid-week and it was pretty quiet. Our campsite at Quiniscoe was right on the water so B. managed to get some good fishing time in on the rocks out front. Additionally, Quniscoe is the only campsite that allows fires (when they are allowed at all), and the only sites with picnic tables.
As for the hiking, CLPP is beautiful and ass-kicking terrain, with pretty much every trail involving some scrambling up and down. Ladyslipper Lake is one of the easiest hikes at only 7 km, but still involves 200 metres of elevation gain, the main trail of the park – the Rim – is only accessible by scrambling up steep, loose trail whereby one is rewarded with views for miles in every direction. If you’re thinking of doing any of these hikes, good footwear and hiking poles are pretty much a requirement. I wore through the rubber tips on both my poles last week!
When not hiking straight up and around and down, B. and I spent time beside the many lakes (Ladyslipper Lake is by far one of the most beautiful places I have every seen), and checking out the riot of alpine meadows in full bloom. Honestly, if you’re planning a trip up there in August, the Diamond Trail is not to be missed for its endless floral carpet – not to mention that it offers lots of opportunities for frolicking amongst said meadows if you are so inclined. The lodge is also open to campers for beer and meals – we went over one night for dinner which was pretty good (but pricey at $40 for the amount we eat – it’s buffet style), and had beers there on another occasion. This makes it a little less “backcountry” for sure, but it also provided a place to go one night when the wind was howling so fiercly down the lake that all we could otherwise do was hunker down in our tent. Beer by an indoor fireplace is a very welcome comfort in such circumstances.
Because of the effort required to get into the park, there were really only about 30 other people in this huge area with us at any given point during our week up there. We found that made CLPP one of the friendlier parks we’ve hiked in, as people tend to feel a bit bonded by the experience of being so remote and with so few others. Everyone has a recommendation – a favourite hike, a great spot to lunch, their particular harrowing experience coming down the wrong side of a mountain – and sharing those seems to be a big part of the CLPP trip for folks. Which was pretty neat, really, as we met all sorts of interesting folks in our footbound travels. On our last couple of nights there, our neighbours were a couple of young kids (20ish) from Kelowna who had never camped before, and who had no idea how to cook a fish that they had caught (nor any idea what to do with the bit of squash I offered them to saute with the fish – I think they had been solely raised on packaged food). It definitely made for some extra interest, and also gave me the impression that folks up there look out for each other since parks staff in the backcountry is next-to-nonexistent these days.
Because of its remoteness another feature that makes CLPP so precious is the incredible diversity and proximity of wildlife. We saw mountain goats, deer, grouse, picas, marmots, squirrels, chipmunks and whiskey jacks pretty much every day, in our camp! And because of the elevation, bears are pretty-much non-existent in the core area of the park.
Go check out the photos to see more of what we did and saw! On our way back Friday we picked up a load of fruit and spent the last two days canning it. You can check that out over on Among the Weeds where I have enumerated our great haul from Keremeos.