Thursday, September 20, 2012

Top of the World!

I don't even remember when I first heard about Cathedral Provincial park. All I remember is that I've wanted to go there! And finally this weekend we made it! And what a weekend to have picked! The weather was truly perfect hiking weather - not too hot, not too cold, with stunning wide open wall-to-wall blue skies.
The Main Lodge and the Unimog transport parked in front! Quiniscoe Mountain in the background!

We booked to stay in the Cathedral Lakes Lodge. Chances are, you're encounter the lodge some way or other as the trek into this wilderness area is long, arduous and incredibly uphill. The lodge offers a campers shuttle service in their 1960's Unimog, along the 9 mile rough and ready access road track glorified goat trail. Or you can stay and the transport is included. We opted for a lodge room - and I'm sure we had the best room in the house - on the upstairs corner with windows on 2 sides of the room giving us panoramic views of the lake and Quiniscoe Mountain. It was pretty spectacular and not somewhere where you shut the curtains - we could gaze at the early morning sun lighting up the mountain across from us from the cosy confines of our rustic wood bed!
Our lovely little room. Bathrooms are just down the hallway - and my photography skills
to be able to capture the inside AND the view are somewhere else altogether - Mars perhaps?!

So just to make sure you all know how fab my accommodation was - here's the photo of the view
from our window!! - Sucks eh?!
Lodging at Cathedral Lakes is a full board affair - and I was blown away by how good a deal this was. They have a resident pastry chef I need to go on?! First thing they laid out a 'lunch' table where you could choose from bread, cold cuts, cheeses, eggs, cookies and yummy condiments like feta spread, hummus, and herby creamed cheese - we loaded up and had the most fantastic packed lunch for our all-day hike! For breakfast....there was a full selection of cold stuff - cereal, granola, yogurt, fresh fruits, and the most delicious fresh baked, still-warm-from-the-oven breakfast muffins or biscuits. Then was a small hot buffet with bacon, eggs, potatoes and pancakes. Lunch (if you happened to be in the vicinity of the lodge) and dinner both started out with soup, bread and salads, followed by delicious entree and finished off with cakes at lunch and a gorgeous dessert at dinner - I was disappointed that Chris enjoyed the apple tart served on our second night - since I didn't get chance to have seconds like I normally do!! Leftover cakes from lunch are then put out on the table to help yourself to during the afternoon - which was perfect after getting back from a day's hiking.

(L) Walking through the Larch (R) Big Ass views! - and I did actually mean the views - of, like,
mountains and stuff - but DOES my bum look big in this???
We got the first transport run up to the lodge at 10am on Friday - it took a little more than an hour from base camp to finally pull out of the woods and into the clearing along the shores of Lake Quiniscoe. And we only had a 1/2 hour wait before lunch - what a welcome!! After our first sampling of the food we realised we'd be needing to head straight off on a hike to work it off! We took a beautiful 6.5km round trip hike to Ladyslipper Lake. The first part of the trail was along Lake of the Woods and then Pyramid Lake before we started climbing upward through the woods towards Ladyslipper. Once we cleared the trees we got our first glimpse of the huge expansive views. And endless woods, completely untouched. A little further on we caught sight of Ladyslipper Lake - and how blue it was! I enjoyed a brief paddle to freshen those hike weary tootsies before we headed back down the way we'd come.
My favourite! - Ladyslipper Lake

Our second day we picked the trail out to the Giant Cleft via Glacier Lake. Almost immediately leaving the shores of Lake Quiniscoe we had a hard uphill climb through the woods up to Glacier Lake. We followed the trail alongside it on a bit of a plateau before heading uphill again. The trail was sketchy since we were climbing up the side of the mountain but it was marked well enough by cairns - and really - it was pretty obviously which way 'uphill' was! Finally as we reached the rim the whole of the Cascade mountains welcomed us. It was jagged mountains as far as the eye could see - and not a speck of human existence apparent - it's times like this when you realise just how tiny we are in this big, beautiful world! We followed the rim trail along past Devil's Woodpile to Stone City where we took an 'out and back' detour to visit Smokey the Bear and the Giant Cleft. The cliff drops from these parts were dramatic and I'm reminded how little I like heights - I had quite the queasy tummy! The Giant Cleft is just that - a huge 'gap' in the rock, dropping hundreds of feet below. From here we headed on our homeward stretch - downhill to Ladyslipper lake. Except first up with had to traverse a horrible shale slope. Once down it was open trail across a plateau before heading down below the tree line and into the woods of larch trees. Contrary to our trail guide we reckoned this hike to be 14 km with around 2000ft of elevation.

But then this wasn't exactly shabby either...On the rim looking down to Glacier Lake.
You can see the trail we followed to the left side of the lake - it then disappeared
over that ridge and waaay down to the lodge.

(L) Views from the rim (R) Chris and Smokey the Bear (that profile in the cliff in the top right of
the photo in case you were struggling!)
Our final morning we got up and at it with a 'quick' out and back to Goat Lake. We were under pressure to beat the clock since we'd failed to pack a lunch bag we didn't want to miss out on lunch served at the lodge at Noon! The trail guide reckoned on a 4 hour hike - we made it back with minutes to spare in 2 hrs 45! Since we'd not really studied the map we were surprised to find this trail head downhill! And then follow Lakeview creek through the alpine valley to the end where a rather small, mud pond that was Goat Lake sat - a somewhat unimpressive lake compared to the offerings of the previous 2 days! The valley had not yet been graced with the sun that morning so the foliage was covered in a lovely crispy, glittery frost.  But what was spectacular was the mountains and peaks surrounding us - they soared above us just catching the first sunlight of the morning.

This was a truly magical getaway. I really did feel like I was a million miles away, and yet I'm here in my own backyard!! How lucky we are to be in beautiful British Columbia?!


  1. Larch heaven! Aah, that looks amazing.

    1. It really was amazing - and not THAT far from your neck of the woods! - You should definately go sometime. We'd love to go back and probably camp in the very nice lakeside campground there (and the bonus is you can still pay to dine in the lodge which would be WELL worth it!)


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