Cathedral Provincial Park has for most of my life been an enigma. So many times I've driven by the sign for the turn-off and wondered what lay beyond that 20 km road. This would be the year to end such mysteries, this year my mission was to explore BC's backcountry, and Cathedral was top of the list.
But reaching the park is a journey in itself. After taking the winding 20 km(paved for the first 10km) road, you have two options: A grueling 16k hike through a less than scenic, mostly dead forest, or you can pay 120 dollars and go up in style via an old Swiss army truck. The shuttle takes just about an hour, the views are not spectacular, but you can knock 7 hours off what it would take to hike in. As an added bonus besides your pack you get one more carry on item. It would be a small cooler for me, so I could have some fresh food for the first few days of camping.
After researching various blogs of people who had made the trek in, I deemed that hiking was not worth the savings to me. My main concern was photography, and I wanted to squeeze in the most out of my 5 days. I booked from July 17th to the 21st, I thought this would be optimal wildflower season, and usually it is, but this year the wetter spring and summer had delayed peak wildflower blooms in the province.
I drove to Keremeos after work the afternoon of the 16th, I figured it would be best to stay overnight at the rest stop just outside of Keremeos, giving me plenty of time to get to the shuttle in the morning and not risk being late. On the morning of the 17th, I arrived by 930, half an hour early, as advised by the lodge when I booked the shuttle. There were already several cars in front of me waiting for the gates of the private parking lot to open.
We were arranged by groups, the larger groups who were staying at the lodge got to go up in 4X4 trucks, while the smaller groups of campers got to sit in the back of an open air, military vehicle. The staff(wearing masks and glove) loaded our gear in, and gave us our seats. We began the tedious climb up the rough dirt road. The vehicle sure sounded 100 years old, backfiring along the way, jostling me like a loose sack of potatoes. I did my best to sit tight, but I started to feel car sick about 2/3 of the way up. somehow I held my stomach in tact, I haven't felt that way since being on a 7 hour Pelagic birding tour. After an hour we reached the Lodge, I was thankful to touch the ground, albeit with shaky legs.
There was no time to waste though, as the other hikers were already off to seek out campsites. From the lodge there are two camping options. the closer, but more popular and busier Quiniscoe lake campground, or the smaller, quieter Lake of the Woods campground. Lake of the Woods is around 20-30 minutes, with little elevation change. I chose Lake of the Woods, and set off to get a site.
I found a nice spot, taking the early shuttle was a good move, as the sites were filled up by the evening. I set up my tent and tied my food cooler high enough to be out of reach of the Mountain Goats. Apparently, bears are next to nonexistent here. The campground was teaming with small critters, and hungry birds. Canada Jays and Nutcrackers would swoop in on any crumb they saw, while Chipmunks and Red Squirrels were always scurrying under foot.
Lady Slipper lake would be my first excursion, it’s an uphill battle for the first few km until you hit the subalpine, there it flattens out with some terrific views of the surrounding valley.
When the lake came into view I marveled at the green blue waters surrounded by Larch trees.
I followed the trail down to the lakeshore, continuing until it revealed a hidden inlet of the lake you wouldn't notice from the view above. There were still patches of snow here and there.
The sun began to dip below the mountains so I turned back, hoping to find some wildflowers on the ridges above the lake, I noticed a dead tree that had fallen and another tree above almost watching over its fallen comrade.
The rocky outcrops above Ladyslipper lake were carpeted in these purple flowers called Penstemon.
I was really digging the color palate of the purple and white flowers against the orange-brown rocks, heightened by the soft golden hour light. There was an infinite amount of compositions to try out but I wasn't into taking that steep climb back down in the dark.
Just before the trail drops into the forest, you can take in a wonderful view of Pyramid Lake and the smaller Lake of the Woods, were I was camping.
After making the steep hike down, I spent the last dwindling moments of the evening at pyramid lake. I wasn't enthralled with the lack of dynamic clouds, but I worked with what I could. Labrador Tea shrubs were all in bloom and made a good foreground composition with the lake and mountains as a backdrop, just wish there were better clouds to make it all come together nicer.
The sky was exceptionally clear that night, which meant I could do some astro-photography including my last chance at capturing the comet NEOwise. I was unlucky in not having something interesting the comet would be appearing over, just the side of Lake of the woods, but I was happy to just see it for the first time. Everyone and their mom had already photographed the comet over every landmark both man-made and natural anyways.
My last shot of the night was of my tent lit up under the starry sky, just after this, my camera declared its battery "exhausted", I declared mine was as well, I only had 5 hours til sunrise, time to hit the sack.