It always amazes me the places of sheer beauty that can be found just off the beaten path.
The morning of August 1st, my Aunt and Uncle and I were up and out early. We drove back down to Victoria and caught the 8am ferry for the mainland.
We were on our way to Kelowna to spend the weekend with my brother and his family. It was a cloudy day so the ferry ride and the drive through the mountains were less spectacular than they should have been.
My aunt had the brilliant idea of stopping for a hike somewhere along the way so we pulled off the highway at the Coquihalla summit and looked for a place to stretch our legs. We found a sign for a hike called “Falls Lake”. It sounded pretty so we decided to follow it.
The air was moist and heavy as we worked our way up the mountain. The trees towered above us and the only sound was a frolicking river bounding over rocks on its way down the mountain.
It was beautiful.
The path was pretty easy going; a slight incline which increased its grade in some places but mostly flat with beauty on all sides. Not that it wasn’t void of treacherous sections….
In the end the reward outweighed any risks taken to get there. The path opened onto a postcard-perfect lake nestled between two mountains. The water was like glass with only a lone loon disturbing the surface.
The water was absolutely crystal clear and surprisingly warm. It was the kind of lake that drew you into it; beauty and purity so enticing that you felt the urge to let it swallow you. Had I been equipped with swimming attire not even the chill air could have kept me from bathing in its serenity.
It was so hard to imagine that there was a major highway just on the other side of the mountain to the left. It felt as though we were hundreds of miles from the closest human. We sat in the silence and soaked in the beauty for as long as we could. In hushed voices we agreed to tear ourselves from this place knowing we still had a considerable drive ahead of us.
As we walked towards the car I promised myself to stop for a hike in these mountains each time I made this trip. Places like these create an addiction and I am fully hooked.
The Okanagan Valley is one of those places that comes as a bit of a shock when you first set your eyes upon it. The lush mountain ranges that surround it lull you into a state of awe. The vibrant greens and flourishing vegetation relax and sooth you. Then quite suddenly the terrain becomes harsh, brown and barren. At first it is as though you have been woken from a vibrant dream back to the reality of a world lived in sepia tones. I have experienced the initial disgust that I watched my Aunt and Uncle live out. ‘Why would anyone choose to live here?’ is the question my uncle asked as we began our descent into the valley. I smiled, remembering my first experience years prior driving from the lush mountain climate of Valemont into the semi-arid bareness of Kamloops. “This place is death”, I thought to myself as I curled my lip in disgust.
Yet, the Okanagan quickly woos its visitors and it only took a few minutes for my Uncle to begin snapping endless photos as we descended in to the wide valley surrounded by the enormous rolling mountains. The surrounding mountains are quite deceiving beasts. They are smooth-topped mountains with trees covering even the highest heights. They are vast mounds that go on for miles and so….they don’t seem to be very spectacular. They don’t inspire awe like the snow-capped, craggy peaks we just left behind. However, when you drive these mountains their size begins to reveal itself to you. You can drive downhill for 20 minutes at 120kms an hour and still not be close to the bottom. The mountains in the distance never seem to get any closer and you realize these seemingly docile mounds are just as formidable creatures as their edgy and domineering sisters.
At the end of our 500 km trip we stepped out of the car in my brother’s driveway. The moist, cool air had been traded for the dry heat that only a desert can provide. The sounds of the babbling brook replaced with excited laughter from my nephews as they skipped across the driveway to greet us.
The weekend was jam-packed full of lego, beach toys and lovely walks along the Okanangan Lake long past sunset. The air was dry and warm and we soaked in the days of summer as though they were our last.