Cathedral Park was one of those places we always knew that one day we would go to. We passed the sign on the highway on all of our trips to the Okanagan and even camped once or twice in one of the recreational sites on the logging road leading to the trail head. But we also knew that the access was either long and boring or short and expensive. Since for a long time we didn’t want to do either, it was left at the bottom of the bucket list. Now, after having Neil, we had the ultimate excuse to finally catch the ride and to explore this magnificent place we had heard only good things about.
Of course, things couldn’t go completely smoothly. We booked the ride a week before and I was very proud of ourselves that a week before the long weekend we already had a ‘plan’. So on Friday morning all we had to do was to make it on time for our 2pm shuttle, it didn’t seem so difficult. We left early enough and it seemed like we were making good time.
Once on the highway we started feeling that the car was vibrating. Weird, we thought. So we stopped at the nearest gas station and Gili checked all the wheels. Everything seemed intact, so we carried on, making our next stop at a favourite park in Hope where we had breakfast, Neil played in the playground and there were even Canada Day activities for some holiday spirit.
However, somewhere between Hope and Princeton we heard a big explosion and the car was suddenly vibrating badly. Gili managed to drive to a nearby pullout only to discover that one of our rear tires was completely torn and flat.
I was impressed by how quickly Gili changed to the spare tire while Neil tried to ‘help’, and soon enough we were back on the road. But with the spare we could only drive about 70 km/h which really slowed us down. It being Canada Day we didn’t find anywhere open in Princeton to buy a new tire, and anyway we didn’t really have any time to spare. So we hoped for the best and without any other breaks continued to the trail head arriving a mere half hour before our shuttle. Neil was a star and despite being awake most of the drive, he didn’t complain and was very cooperative when we had to get ready.
The jeep ride up to the park takes about one hour and saves 16 km of logging road and over 1,100 meters elevation gain. With the ordeal with our car Neil hardly slept on the drive, so he managed to fall asleep in the jeep despite (or because of) the rough road.
Confused, disoriented, tired and hungry we finally found ourselves at Cathedral park. We found a spot to pitch our tent, but other than that we didn’t do much for the rest of the day nor did we have the energy to. We needed some time to ‘arrive’ and to get over some of the events of the day and the week which was quite challenging for both of us – Gili was away presenting at a conference in the US, while I was busy taking care of Neil in Vancouver, and we got very little sleep the night before the trip.
Our first night wasn’t so pleasant either. Neil had a rough night and woke up constantly. He managed to sleep through the fireworks (yes, there were fireworks), but from around 1am he kept on waking up every hour or two. So after all of that, things could only get better, and they sure did.
While we were having breakfast a few mountain goats came to visit the campground. I heard it’s pretty common to see mountain goats in Cathedral but I didn’t think it would be that easy. Then we were off on our first hike up the Diamond Trail. Neil was asleep in no time and we passed by Scout Lake and into the alpine. Since the park is so high, the access to the alpine is really short. We were soon surrounded with rounded mountains, a few ponds, some colourful flowers and endless wild backcountry.
By the time Neil had woken up it was already time for lunch and we took a long break which also included naps on our part. We were both somewhat sleep deprived. Then Gili decided that we had walked too fast so we should extend the hike by going up Red Mountain. So we scrambled up to the peak, enjoying magnificent views and another well deserved nap and snacks on the top. The hike down included some steep scree and snow, but once we were on the trail it was easy going. Our first day in the park did not disappoint us, and despite it being the long weekend, and the lodge and campground being almost at capacity, we hardly saw anyone else on the trail.
Neil slept much better the next night, and we were happy to correct the impression from the previous night. Not too far from us there was a couple with a woman who was six months pregnant and we wanted them to get the impression that camping and hiking with kids is a lot of fun (which it is, most of the time).
We headed to Goat Lake on that day and then up to the Lakeview-Boxar Col. Goat lake seemed like it was taken from a fairy tale, surrounded by pointy trees and mountains and Neil playing freely by the side of the lake. Then when we headed up to the col, we got different views of the same mountains and Neil got to explore lots of rock formations. Just like the previous day, we hardly saw anyone else on the trail, which left all the great terrain just for us.
On the next morning we woke up to rain. That was not expected! Before we left there wasn’t any rain in the forecast so we didn’t even bring our tarp. I am not sure why actually, since we were driven into the park and wouldn’t have had to carry it anyway. Luckily there was a friendly ranger at the campground who took a special liking to Neil (of course…). So Gili and Neil asked if perhaps he had a tarp to spare and came back with a big blue tarp that saved the day.
The campground started to empty out so we took over another site overlooking the lake to set up the tarp. Protected from the rain, we could pleasurably enjoy our breakfast. Then Neil started being impatient and turned out he was very tired as he miraculously fell asleep for three hours in the tent. We finally had some time to relax, catch up on our reading and sleep, while it was pouring rain outside
When we finally emerged from the tent to have lunch, it had stopped raining, so it was time for a little hike. Since it was already past 2pm we decided on a relatively short hike to Ladyslipper Lake. It was a great hike with good views, but when we stopped at the lake Neil was cold and we had to spend some time warming him. For some reason he refused to wear his mittens so his hands were freezing. After he warmed up he was happy to play and just when it seemed that it might start raining again we started hiking back down.
We managed to stay dry the whole trip down, but Neil took another late nap, so after that Gili was on a mission to tire him out. Not only did he walk with Gili to the lake on every water filling run, he also hiked to the lodge and back a couple of times, a total distance of probably over a kilometer, and on challenging terrain for him that included ups and downs and some roots and rocks.
On Tuesday morning it was time to pack up and say goodbye to the fairy tale landscape, to the mountain goats and to the friendly ranger. We did not get to see everything that there was to see in Cathedral. In fact because it was raining we didn’t hike most of the Rim Trail or go to Stone City, which is supposedly the highlight of the park. We figure it’s for the best, since now we have a reason to come back. What’s good about the mountains is that they will wait, even if it will take us ten more years.
An hour later we were back at the parking lot. No more fairy tales, now back in the real world we had to take care of our car situation. We drove to Keremeos only to find out that we would need to drive all the way back to Princeton to replace the tires. It was raining in Keremeos which was strange – we thought it is always hot and sunny in the Okanangan in summer. We bought 60 lbs of cherries (we skipped the u-pick this time), ate some Indian food that was overpriced and not so good and then started driving slowly back.
We got delayed for about two hours in Princeton while four new tires were being installed on our car. In the meantime Neil made friends with two older kids and two grandmas in a nearby motel. The kids entertained and played with him, and the grandmas fed him watermelon and blueberries. In return we gave them some cherries. Once we got our car back we started the long drive back, and Neil fell asleep instantl. He slept for over 2.5 hours which was very pleasant and we made it back home without making any more stops.
It was an eventful weekend – other than the blown-out tire, Gili’s glasses broke, as well as one of the windshield wipers (and it rained hard on the drive back). It was also colder and rainier than we expected and even snowed a bit. Despite all of this it was a great weekend. It was an opportunity to relax, spend time in nature, with each other and with Neil. Yes, hiking with a baby offers a few extra challenges, but it also has so many advantages, like an excuse to catch the jeep to save a long and boring walk, and the pleasure of seeing our son feeling right at home in the great outdoors in our backyard.