ON TOP OF THE WORLD AT CATHEDRAL LAKES PARK
Thirty kilometers from Keremeos and two thousand meters skyward, awaits Cathedral Provincial Park and some of the most heavenly hiking that you’ll find in BC. The 33,000-hectare (80,000-acre) mountain wilderness is splashed with azure lakes, cloaked with alpine meadows, and backed by some mighty majestic peaks.
“It’s like being on top of the world!” I had exclaimed, as we took our final steps onto the rim trail where our panoramic sights included distant summits of the Northern Cascades, and Coastal Range. Although the vista was indeed a rewarding grand finale, the entertainment en route had been as equally uplifting. Molting mountain goats, California Bighorn sheep and large hoary marmots graced our rubble trail. They united with cooing ptarmigans, chirping chickadees and timid whistling picas. As well as exploring the massive rock formations of ‘Stone City,’ we were in awe of the geological profile known as Smokey the Bear, and with the offering of over thirty-six bird species and five hundred kinds of plants, the adventurous ascent had been a feast for the senses.
Although you might think hoofing to such a heady elevation would be a quest considered by only serious mountaineers, thanks to the convenient location of Cathedral Lakes Lodge, at 2050m (6,800 ft), even novice trekkers are able to partake.
The journey to this divine destination actually commences at the park’s base camp where, after a twenty-two scenic kilometer drive through the Ashnola Valley, high country seekers rise up 1200m (3,900ft) via four wheel transporters to the shimmering oasis of Quiniscoe Lake.
Thick stands of spruce, fir and larch enshroud the glistening gem, and snow-tipped peaks provide a breathtaking backdrop. Campsites and varied accommodations sprawl the shoreline along with a Bavarian-style solar-heated lodge that hosts half a dozen guest rooms. Here, a soothing hot tub waits to offer therapeutic reprieve for strained and mountain-worn muscles, a fireside lounge entices game lovers and bookworms, and three times a day the clanging dining gong stimulates some serious salivation.
Inclusion of all meals can be arranged upon reservation and the chef can satisfy even the heartiest alpine appetite. Some of the buffet specialties during our stay included succulent lamb that was delicately spiced with herbs, tender strips of beef prepared with a full-bodied curry, and a lemon-garnished salmon, done to Epicurean perfection. As well as serving home-baked granola, fresh fruit and yogurt, we had the option of a full morning feast of pancakes, bacon, eggs…the works, and lunches were arranged on a dine-in or take-out-to-trek basis.
A myriad of nearby trails, well-marked by stone-piled cairns, leads to a full range of hiking options and a chain of seven-linked lakes that possess their individual allure. While Lake of the Woods snuggles in the shade of sub alpine greenery, the turquoise Ladyslipper sparkles against its rugged granite embankments. Four of the wilderness wonders were well stocked with trout in the 1930's, and today the natural spawning promises abundant angling rewards that vary from pan-sized cutthroat to trophy-sized rainbow.
Before escalating to what we coined the ‘top of the world’, we decided to build up our stamina by plodding the less arduous five kilometer Diamond Trail. The green carpeted forest floor bordered our well-trod path, and the interspersing of Indian paintbrush and sunshine yellow buttercups in the alpine meadows created a picture postcard setting. Similar caliber climbs can be explored by taking the trails that scoot off to Scout and Glacier Lake and the more advanced can be challenged by inclines like The Boxcar, Lakeview and Quiniscoe Mountain.
No matter what the route, all naturalists will be swept away by the bio diversity and splendor. The lower level terrain is lush with stands of Douglas fir that eventually thin out to outcroppings of Lodgepole pine. Englemann spruce and sub-alpine fir gather around the lodge site and the colourful alpine is abundant with Lyall's larch, heather and lupines.
The operating season runs from June to mid October and ever-changing scenery evolves in each of its three stages. Those who visit early will be smitten by snow dusted trails and the blushing from new buds. Mid-season guests will ogle over the blaze of wildflowers that sweep the alpine meadows, and late-comers will awe when the entire landscape becomes aglow in golden autumn hues. When it came time to leave, we too lingered on our treasured memories collected over our two day stay, and agreed that as well as feeling on top of the world, Cathedral Lakes Park was probably the closest place to heaven on earth.
IF YOU GO:
For more information go to: http://www.cathedral-lakes-lodge.com
By Jason Rutherford / Cathedral Lakes LodgeTravel 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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