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SUN PEAKS SUMMER A Wildflower Wonderland By Chris Millikan
For Travel Writers' Tales

A getaway to B.C.'s interior introduces us to Sun Peaks in summer where comfortable lodgings in the heart of the village make a perfect ‘base camp' for alpine hiking.

Nestling amid three mountains, the charming town center conjures thoughts of fairytale villages in Austria's Alps. Pastel three-story buildings embrace a winding, brick-paved mall. Decorative trimmings, window boxes filled with red geraniums and simple signage embellishes facades. Like our inn, many boast balconies. Arcades open onto specialty shops, boutiques, galleries and cafés with al fresco seating. Luscious ham and tomato crepes for breakfast on one such patio kick off our first morning.

Ready for high adventure, we pick up lift tickets from guest services. Over at Sunburst Chairlift, we meet Mayor Al Raine and Olympian, (and now Senator), Nancy Greene Raine, residents here since 1995. Today, they are our hospitable trail guides.

1 A thrill in itself, the Sunburst chairlift makes the over1800-meter elevation gain much easier for most hikers and visitors to the alpine at Sun Peaks.

Hardy hikers often start out from the village. However, a thrill in itself, the chairlift makes the over1800-meter elevation gain much easier for most. It launches us over forested hillsides and into the Shuswap Highlands. Below us, mountain bikers snake downward through purple fireweed. Green valleys stretch far beyond the tree line.

2 Hiking along #8, one of 16 trails covering 35 kilometers of interconnecting hiking possibilities at Sun Peaks.

Deposited at Mid Mountain station, Nancy smiles, "Now we're right on wildflower doorsteps!" From here, hikers of most abilities can continue along trails ranging from simple strolls to challenging climbs. Colour-coded pocket maps outline sixteen interconnecting possibilities, looping through thirty-five kilometers.

3 Admiring abundant summer wildflowers along the trail at Sun Peaks.

"We'll start out along Vista Trail, a moderate route that'll take us to Top of the World and back in about 4-hours," Nancy explains. Al points out, "Like many of our trails, this one follows former cattle and deer paths." He adds, "Armies of volunteers re-establish and maintain them constantly."

4 At Sun Peaks, hiking steadily upward amid meadows drenched with wildflower colour.

We sight brilliant Indian paintbrush, tiger lilies, fireweed and lupines. "Just you wait...the best is yet to come," Nancy grins. "From mid-July to mid-August, wildflowers carpet summer meadows. This year's bumper crop bloomed early due to June's rains and high temperatures." During B.C.'s August long weekend, the Alpine Blossom Festival celebrates this annual phenomenon with music, activities and special events.

4a; 4b; 4c Filled with wildflowers and colour, Juniper Ridge makes an inspiring destination for viewing the village far below

A storyboard overlooking the valley tells us that Sun Peaks' was originally developed in 1961 as Tod Mountain - named for John Tod, Hudson's Bay Company's chief fur trader in the 1840's. Its chairlift was then North America's longest, though few other amenities existed. Harry Burfield ran the first ski shop.

Breathing hard in unaccustomed altitude, we make our way steadily toward Whyte Bowl. Our efforts are rewarded as the trail opens onto colour-splashed slopes. In the distance, a majestic antlered stag materializes, surveys his surroundings and nonchalantly saunters into lower flower-filled meadows.

5 Hike amid alpine wildflowers at Sun peaks in the summer months. Wildflower Festival every August long weekend offers

Further on, Nancy points out some tall perennials, "That's mountain helleborus." We look at wildflower photos and descriptions in her well-thumbed guidebook and find these toxic pale green flowers keep cattle herds from grazing in the alpine until the blooms die off. "Thanks to these hellebore heroes, our wildflowers are safe all season."

Ablaze with colour, the mountainside ahead features thousands of columbine, larkspur, lupines, Columbia lilies and Indian paintbrush, drenching sloped meadows in purple, red, yellow and pink. Juniper Ridge becomes the high point of our amazing hike. Sitting amid the bedazzling wildflowers, time seems suspended.

Gazing downward toward the village, Al comments on the practical nature of its appearance, "Like big sister Whistler, those stucco exteriors look appealing...and also save on maintenance." And Nancy describes how easy it is for holidaymakers to fly directly into Kamloops, just an hour away.

Back in the village, we thank the Raines for introducing us to Sun Peak's breathtaking wildflowers. Scrumptious patio dinners cap a day filled with extraordinary natural beauty.

Inspired to hike to Tod Lake the next day, we hop the chairlift back to Mid Mountain. Alert for markers as we follow the map, our self-guided expedition starts along a service road. Soon switch backing up Gil's Trail, we pause often for the panoramic views. Here along the mountain's northeast slope, scenic spectacles envelope us at every turn.

6 Beautiful Tod Lake lies at 1995 meters up trail #9, challenging at times

Walking poles steady our upward tramp; at times, the steep inclines challenge our resolve. Rest stops allow close-up studies of fuzzy white pussy toes, orange hawkweed and sub-alpine daisies.

Eventually leveling off, the narrow footpath takes us through flower-filled meadows and restful glades. Located at 1995 meters, Tod Lake fills us with wonder and accomplishment. We made it! Filled up with picture postcard scenery, we head on back.

6a Happy hikers at Sun Peaks' Tod Lake, located at 1995 meters

Already widely known as a winter wonderland, hiking at Sun Peaks in summer reveals equally stunning vistas of wildflowers in all their seasonal glory. Go!

IF YOU GO

• Tourism Sun Peaks: www.sunpeaksresort.com/hiking Local guides are available to orient visitors on the mountain trail system.
• Hearthstone Lodge: www.hearthstoneresorthotel.com/
• Plant guide: "Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia" by Parish; Coupe; Lloyd
• Powder Hounds www.restaurantssunpeaks.com/about/about-powder-hounds /
• Tod Mountain Cafe http://todmountaincafe.ca/ Specializing in crepes

PHOTOS by Chris & Rick Millikan

1 A thrill in itself, the Sunburst chairlift makes the over1800-meter elevation gain much easier for most hikers and visitors to the alpine at Sun Peaks.
2 Hiking along #8, one of 16 trails covering 35 kilometers of interconnecting hiking possibilities at Sun Peaks.
3 Admiring abundant summer wildflowers along the trail at Sun Peaks.
4 At Sun Peaks, hiking steadily upward amid meadows drenched with wildflower colour.
4a; 4b; 4c Filled with wildflowers and colour, Juniper Ridge makes an inspiring destination for viewing the village far below.
5 Hike amid alpine wildflowers at Sun peaks in the summer months. Wildflower Festival every August long weekend offers
6 Beautiful Tod Lake lies at 1995 meters up trail #9, challenging at times
6a Happy hikers at Sun Peaks' Tod Lake, located at 1995 meters

Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.TravelWritersTales.com

 


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