We had an adventure. We were dropped off at the start of the trail that we intended to walk to Vernon. We got a late afternoon start - which is typical for a weekend getaway. We started around 4:45. The first few miles were steep but easy walking anyways. We got to some icy sections in some frost hollows near streams. But as we kept climbing snow became more prevalent - nothing too bad - until we reached the top of the ridge. This was the ridgeline we'd be following the remainder of the hike. At 4,000-something feet the snow was still fairly deep. What started as a short section of postholing every once in a while turned into a good bit of postholing through deep snow. It was up to my knees most times. Trevor was breaking trail and doing a majority of the work. Regardless, it was tiring for me, too. We discussed stopping and setting up camp there (we'd pound down the snow to make level spots to set up the tent and sleep) and what we'd find in the morning if we pushed on. We discussed turning around and potentially heading off trail and back to town Saturday then driving to some hot springs. We also discussed reversing our direction, heading back to the trailhead where we started, crossing over the highway and taking the mission creek trail back to town. We took the last option.
We hiked a round trip of 6 miles on Friday night - up to the ridgeline then back down below the snow line to set up camp by 8:30 p.m. Saturday we hiked the 1.5 miles back to the road, crossed over it and descended in the lovely lovely cedar forest toward the creek. The trail for the first mile or two was mainly old roads. It was wide, well graded and scenic. We got to the river and the Trail seemed to junction. One way, across the frozen river, to the Okanagan Highlands Trail. And, one way (which wasn't super clear) along the same side of the river we had been traveling. We took the Okanagan Highlands Trail. This meant we had to cross over the (mostly) frozen river. This was my first time ever walking on top of a frozen river. I heard mommy in the back of my head the whole time about safety this and that. We were cautious, the ice was thick enough, and we made it across safely.
We traveled the Okanagan Highlands Trail - a footpath that is frequently intersected with four-wheelers. Of note, four-wheelers (quads) are not restricted from use of treadway meant for hikers. This seems like a dangerous intersection of users to me (maybe that's just my background of experience with the Appalachian Trail). There isn't any enforcement of quad riders tearing up pieces of foot trail. Isn't that a shame?
The intersecting pieces of trails created by quads also meant we had to pay closer attention to flagging on trees to stay on our intended course - whatever it was. We didn't have trail maps that extended to the portion of trail we hoped to catch to walk into town. We reached an intersection where the Okanagan Highlands Trail went "up" toward Little White and the nordic trails (and also connects with the Trans Canada Trail) or "down" toward the creek. We took the downward track, anticipating snow at higher elevations similar to what we encountered Friday night and to ease stress on my already blistered heels which were exacerbated by uphill climbs.
We walked a bit and came across a bit of flagging going down again. This was clearly a trail dominated by four-wheelers. As we stepped onto it Trevor thought out loud that it may well be a dead-end and we might have to turn around and come back. Well, it was worth a look. We took off down the trail. It was a dead-end. Luckily it wasn't a super long trail we would double-back on. The trail ended, seemingly, at the creek on a large rocky bank. The "oasis" included someone's old recliner, a good bit of chopped wood, and some shotgun shells. We sat on some wooden stools and ate a snack. Trevor explored the banks to see about a trail on the other side. Potential for a trail on the other side existed but I decided we should stick to this side. We returned the way we came.
We climbed back up to the main road and continued going down. Shortly thereafter we reached another junction. This was a junction between the forest service road marked on our map, "Grouse" was its name, and a horse trail maintained by the Backcountry Horsemen of B.C. We opted for the horse trail. It was clear, well maintained, and well marked. We had made an excellent decision! It beat walking on the road and trails shared by quads. It was a delightful mile of walking or so then T-ed with another trail.
The trail was flagged going up but not down. Regardless we took the trail to our right and traveled down hill to the creek. Trevor filtered some water for us. We walked back up to the T and continued uphill. We curved around a bit and eventually that "trail", too, ended. Some of these things I refer to as trails were not trails, they were old logging roads perhaps - faintly moving in the direction we were hoping to go - sometimes grown over - but a clear enough path to move forward at a steady pace.
With the conclusion of the last bit of "trail", we began the bushwhack. Details here get fuzzy for me. We hiked more or less down to the creek, taking the paths of least resistance (of downed trees and standing trees, and bushes, and pricklies) to get there. At the shore we looked across once again and spied the beginning of a chain link fence and something that looked like a retaining wall. We figured there was no sense crossing over only to encounter a chain link fence so we stayed on "our" side. Once along the creek shore, we walked on the ice a bit at the shore, then on the rocks a bit along the shore. The rocks were tricky though because some would be slippery (with ice?) and some would not be. You just could never tell. The further we walked along the shore the more the contents of the chain link fence became apparent - waste water treatment facility.
We clambered up and over the shore and into the woods, then encountered obstacles that sent us back to the shore, then back over to the woods, then back to the shore (get my drift?). That's it - we drifted. Through the woods, along the creek, just looking for an easy way. I wasn't feeling easy. I felt safe. Here we were nearly in the midst of town. But I was tired. I sat and took a break. I should have drank some water. I didn't think to. I thought I might be low on energy so I joined Trevor a little ways over and ate some of a granola bar.
We started walking again and came across an animal's trail - going straight up hill. It was a very steep trail. We decided to follow it. Up and up and up. I huffed and puffed and stopped and pouted a bit along the way. I felt tired, damn it. Trevor keenly asked if I'd had any water recently. I thought back and couldn't recall drinking but a liter already in the day. So, while I was still seated in my pouting position, I pulled out my water bottle and drank nearly another liter.
You're probably wondering what on earth I could have been pouting about. It was mainly that Trevor is a stronger hiker and wasn't tiring. I felt sluggish. My feet were hurting from blisters. I was wondering how the hell we ended up doing all this bushwhacking; didn't this happen to us a lot? And, obviously, my upset fueled my upset. So I was probably finding other things to be angry at, like the trees poking me in the face and sticks poking me in the leg, and that last prickly bush that I grabbed (ouch!) .
The water did help after it kicked in. And things started turning about a bit, too. We hiked up to the top of that animal trail until it gave out. We got to an old road and walked it a bit, but it quickly disappeared. We continued to travel along the side slope in our desired direction another half mile or so, perhaps. I think we both spied it at the same time, but neither of us said anything. It was very clear - a neat - and maintained cut in the hill. There was a road. We angled toward it. Was this Grouse Forest Service Road? Maybe. There was a former logging cut and the remaining trees and open area were a nice sunny spot for a break. We stopped for a half hour, maybe a bit more and took our shoes and socks off to air out.
When we got back on the road and started walking we hit patches of ice. Trevor, ever more adept at walking the slick stuff, stayed ahead. He got to the edge of the forest and in to an open clearing when there was a loud "boom". It was an odd sound that I couldn't place. "Was that a gun shot?" I asked. Trevor didn't think so. "Was it fireworks?" He said it might be, but he wasn't so sure. At the opposite edge of the clearing, I'd caught up to Trevor now on our side, there were two trucks and a fire burning. This was curious. There was also a horse corral. I thought the horse corral was a bit odd to have on public lands, but figured maybe it was related to the horse trails we'd seen in the section of woods we had just been through. As we walked, Trevor pointed out that we may be "inside" a fence line. This indicates we might be on private property. Uh-oh. Maybe these folks in the trucks belong here and we don't. I quietly hoped to myself that they set us straight nicely so we can continue on our way.
Maybe they didn't belong there either. With the sight of us coming and their fire still burning, someone gets in the blue truck and two people get in the red truck and they drive hastily away! This is very interesting. We walk up to the fire which isn't a fire really but a burning canister, maybe. I couldn't tell exactly but didn't want to get too close to it. The top of a nearby mullen was aflame, too. Trevor theorized they may have been testing out a homemade bomb. Interesting concept. I'm glad they decided to leave. I hope they come back to tend the fire and clean up their mess. We walk past, out the open gate, and onto a larger dirt road.
As we descend on this road, we have excellent views of Layer Cake Mountain and bits of town. From the signs and the gates on either side of the road we seem to be flanked by private property. I am tired. The water helped my energy level, but my feet still hurt and I'm fatigued from walking since 8 a.m. (my rough estimate is that we walked 11 or so miles already). We discussed the option of finding some public land to camp on to stay the night then continue our walk in the morning, but with all the private property signs that possibility seemed to be narrowing in my mind.
We saw one sign on our dirt road that said 6 kilometers. This probably meant 6 miles of this road until we get to the end. That could be very good. Trevor thought that the road might end just near Layer Cake Mountain were we could hop on the Mission Creek Greenway and into town. For that hope, I could walk 6 km. to the junction and continue on. We did just that. But our 6K road walk did not really take us closer to the creek or to the adjacent mountain. It eventually turned into a paved road after we had walked the requisite 6K. We walked the road that curved along the slope of one hill, carved into a shallow pocket, then curved back out along the side of another hill, then back in. We passed an access road to Myra Canyon Trestles.
We stopped for water at a small stream near the end of the 6 kilometers. I sat against a tree while Trevor filtered the water. Cars and trucks kept passing by quickly on this busy strip of road. The road had become increasingly busy over the last few miles.
We walked across the bridge and up to the crest of the hill. There was the entrance to Scenic Canyon Park and Trevor wanted to pop in and connect it to Mission Creek. I asked if he knew for sure they connect. He wasn't 100% sure. I knew I was reaching my limits and needed to rest my feet and my tired body. The signs at the park entrance read no camping. I threw in the towel, and Trevor called friends to see if we could grab a ride. We didn't have any luck with the friends we called, though we did learn from Trisha that the Scenic Canyon trails do not yet link to the Mission Creek Greenway (they are lacking a bridge of some sort to connect them).
We stuck our our thumbs and got a ride in the back of a pick-up with some spilled gasoline and spent bullet shells all the way downtown.We got home, enjoyed a few beers, showered, ate a light dinner and hit the sack. I was whooped. My restrained gait this morning is evidence to the tight muscles from their work of yesterday. I went to yoga at 9 to try to loosen them up and regain some of their elasticity.
It was an adventure - not at all what I had expected - but a pleasant adventure nonetheless.