SITES AND SUMMITS IN BC AND BANFF (PART 1 OF 5)
Spring is almost here and my hiking boots are getting antsy. It's time to re-stock the RV, check out a few campsites and climb a few summits. During the next five stories (one/month) you can follow our tire and boot treads as we scoot along one highway that links together two provinces, four national parks and tons of trails. Mammoth mountains, unspoiled beauty, epic terrain -it's a trip that's steeped with splendor, adventure and awe. And from the comfort of your armchair you'll be able to sit back and enjoy it all, while barely moving a muscle.
Mount Revelstoke National Park - "The last time we were here, people were shoveling out tunnels of white stuff to get into their homes," my husband, Brent, comments as we cruise into Revelstoke. It was January 2011, a winter of record snowfall and champagne powder for Revelstoke Mountain Resort. And a ski trip we'll never forget.
Today, in contrast, sunshine spills over this city centre, a four square block radius of shops, boutiques and restaurants -and onto embracing peaks, one which is our hiking destination, Mount Revelstoke National Park. Hugging up to its base is the Trans Canada Highway, the fast track that has linked us here from the lower mainland in just six hours.
At Camping and RVing British Columbia Coalition www.campingrvbc.com we were able to scout out some campgrounds ahead of time. With our home-in-tow, we book into the KOA, a nearby two hundred-siter cocooned by shady trees. Hook ups, cable, pool-and cutesy cottages for those without a portable abode-hardly roughing it!
Minutes away is Meadows In the Sky Parkway. The 26 km road climbs 1,600 meters skyward and while zigzagging around swerves, curves and sixteen hairpins, we stop at viewpoints to zoom in on panoramas. The shrinking city below gives way to a milieu of summits. Rising to the west, beyond Columbia River's shorelines, are the Monashees. To the northwest are the Cariboos, east are the Purcells and where we stand are the Selkirks. Collectively they make up the Columbia Range -steeper slopes, warmer and wetter, and sixty to ninety million years older than the Rockies. Mount Tilly and Macpherson are both impressive distant peaks, but Begbie is the granddaddy that takes the prize. Since 1914, when the park was declared, this snow-buffed beacon has been admired by the outdoorsy -even by Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught who became Canada's tenth Governor General.
As well as being treated to pristine vistas, our byway cleaves through varied geographical zones: a rainforest of old growth cedars, stubby firs that dot the sub alpine and flowery meadows that colour the meadows every August. Although a few trailheads are accessible en route, we hold out for the ones on top, via the complimentary shuttle ride from the upper parking lot. Even our hiking hound, Kalli, gets to hop on board.
"I'm liking these trails already," I say to Brent during our drive to the high country. Starting at the top definitely has its advantages, especially for my newbie hiking legs that have yet to be broken in. Well-worn paths fan out from this pinnacle like an intricate web and cater to all abilities -from easier rambles like Fire Tower and Sky Trail to the more tedious 18 km round tripper to Jade Lake. And each finale, whether it's a tranquil lakeshore or picturesque perch, promises to satiate any trekking crave. We decide on a middle-of-the-roader, a 12 km return trip to Miller and Eva Lakes. Most of this route is a breeze -a descent through wooded groves and flowery meadows, leveling out to a traversing hillside. "This falling grade may seem easy now," Brent warns, "but wait till the return trip -what goes down must come up."
Our downward route bridges gurgling brooks, bisects blooming slopes and weaves around rock slides that are strewn with Jurassic-sized boulders. Distant snowy summits frame the horizon and wild critters provide front row entertainment. Hoary marmots whistle louder than our camp kettle, protesting pikas squeal with furry and well camouflaged grouse give us a hoot from their hidden homesteads. It's a symphony of nature to us and one that perks up our pup's ears!
Although the last couple of kilometers shifts into uphill gear, we're well rewarded in the end -first by Eva Lake's embracing valley then from Miller's island jetty where we soak up the sun. The junction to Jade Lakes is a mere 50 meters away, but the elevation is too steep for my weak knees. "I guess we should head back," I say to Brent, recalling that the park gates close at 5pm. "There's a lot uphill on the return trip."
Knowing the itinerary for this holiday by heart, Brent grins and responds, "Fear not, my dear, this is just a warm up of what's to come."
To keep following us on this hiking holiday, check out next month's article, Glacier Gazing at Glacier National Park
Images by Jane and Brent Cassie
#1 Victorian shops, boutiques and restaurants flank Revelstoke's streets
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