At first, we thought it was just very light rain hitting the fly of our tent. And then JR took a look out and reported “snow!” Yep, it was snowing in August. Well, at 2000m elevation anything can happen and indeed it did during our four day trip to Cathedral Provincial Park. Often cited as one of the most underrated parks in the country, Cathedral offers a great British Columbia backcountry experience with little to no effort required.
To get to our 2060m base camp, we drove an hour and a half from home and then took 4×4 truck ride up the side of a mountain. Arriving at Quiniscoe Lake in about sixty minutes, we had just skipped a gruelling eight-hour hike. I know, it doesn’t really sound like us – we often choose ‘the hard way’ just to save a few pennies. But these days we are more time poor; we wanted to get to the good stuff sooner.
And I can assure you that there is a lot of good stuff in Cathedral Park. So much so that this is the first part of two posts – the second is all about the best one day hike we have done in BC, perhaps in all of Canada, the Rim Trail.
lake of the woods
Cathedral has two campgrounds open in the core area of the park – Lake of the Woods and Quiniscoe. The latter is in the same area of the privately owned Cathedral Lakes Lodge. The main difference between the campsites is the ability to have campfires at Quiniscoe Lake. Tempting, especially as I knew the temperatures would drop a far amount at night. The decision for us however was easy since campfires were banned…so we were off to Lake of the Woods, the quieter and more spread out campground around 1km away from Quiniscoe Lake.
Setting up our tent on a site with a view of the lake, we said hello to our new neighbours (two deer and four fawns) and started relaxing. Yes, we came to Cathedral to hike but it was so nice and warm it would have been rude not to! I’d heard that the fishing in Cathedral’s alpine lakes were pretty good so we had brought three fishing rods (including JR’s brand new fly fishing one) with us. JR ended up catching a little cutthroat trout on the first throw. It was to be the first of many…
snow in august
As much as it would have been tempting to keep fishing and sunbathing for the rest of our time in Cathedral, we couldn’t waste the local hiking opportunities. We did three hikes in all – one around the local lakes including Quiniscoe Lake, a longer trip on the Diamond Trail (in the rain) and the main event, the full day Rim Trail.
The Diamond Trail was our warm-up hike on our second day in the mountains. And boy, did we need a warm-up. Once the sun had set the night before, everything had turned a little chilly. Well, freezing really. We dived into bed at 7pm and awoke to the aforementioned snow the next morning. Brrrr. Rain had been forecast but the freezing level wasn’t predicted to be so low.
the diamond trail
We hid in the tent for the morning before venturing out for our little 8km hike. Needless to say, it was wet and we didn’t see much for the first hour or so. We almost turned around a few times. But then we had a flash of blue sky and sun. Wow! There were mountains upon mountains peeking through the mist. It was worth being soaked through.
The only trouble with reaching the mountain ridge was being able to see the next rainstorm heading towards us. And at the higher elevation, it wasn’t rain this time. More snow, followed by hailstones. And the views closed up again. But that’s OK. The Rim Trail was our priority. Though I have to admit we were more than a little concerned about the weather possibilities the next day.
It was another quiet (and early) evening at camp, with temperatures dropping even lower overnight. Lucky then that the bus ride up had enabled us to bring some luxuries. Such as wine. That definitely helped.
the details: Cathedral provincial park
Cathedral is a 33,272 hectares Provincial Park near Keremeos, about three hours drive from Vancouver, BC. There are three hiking routes in (around 8 hours) OR a $100 return truck/bus trip provided by Cathedral Lakes Lodge. Camping is provided by BC Parks and is $10 per adult per night.