Mt Tuktakamen

Lynda was out of town one weekend in August, so I decided to drive to Armstrong, BC on Saturday, stay with friend Suzi, and next day, to hike Mt. Tuktakamen and drive back to Vancouver. It meant about 1,000Km of driving but it was a great trip.

Fairly whizzed up on Saturday in about four and some hours: easy drive with surprisingly little of the camper traffic that can clog the highways at this time of year. That evening, Suzi and I hiked Mt. Rose/Mt Swanson for a warm-up before dinner. The only taxing aspect of this little jaunt was the shroud of mozzies that followed us along most of the trail. But the final views of the Okanagan valley (through the mozzies) were splendid.

On Sunday, we joined the lively and only mildly geriatric (myself mostly) Vernon hiking group for a delightful outing to Mt Tuktakamen. We met in Falkland, right below the peak we were to hike on except that to get to it required driving out of town for 10Km heading up, and then driving back along the top of the ridge. Those of us with the more effete vehicles piled into one of the half dozen or so 4x4ís needed to take us up to the start of the hike. Because of the wet conditions we had to take the long route--about 10Km down the main road, up to the ridge, and then 8Km back along the ridge in the direction of Falkland, bumping along logging roads.

After about an hour, and a couple of wrong turns, we found the trailhead, parked, and began hiking upwards through the trees. It was a steady climb but we were quickly out on a surprisingly open hillside, with plenty of flowers and interesting rock formations. The speed of the group overall was impressive...even allowing for a constant stream of side-trips into the bushes! (None of this discrete disappearance business: people seemed to enjoy announcing both their destination and purpose).

It wasnít a long hike. By the time we reached the ridge, the destination was visible about a kilometre further along. Although there were a few up and down scrambles, with views down steep gulleys to Falkland right below, we were sitting under the somewhat incongruous microwave tower on Tuktakamin by lunchtime. After this quick break, we headed over a nearby bump with more great views, before streaming down through flowery meadows into the woods, to arrive on the opposite side of the road from where we started.

Enderby Cliffs

Tuktakamen was so enjoyable that a month or so later I took our homestay student, Alex (from Mexico City, studying English here in Vancouver for 2 months), for a revisit. (Lyn stayed in Vancouver to look after our other, non-hiking homestay in return for a later payoff). Alex and I left Vancouver at about 10am on Saturday morning in miserable weather. We climbed out of the Coastal mountains behind Hope, and were soon driving the Coquihalla highway across rolling high country towards Kamloops. Fortunately, we had only watery sunshine, because on a completely clear day at this time of the year, this trip can be like driving through a toaster oven. Thanks to an overhasty exit out of Merritt (missed a turn to the proper on-ramp after a pit-stop) we actually took highway 5A which detours to Kamloops through the Eden-like Nicola Valley. Got to Armstrong around 2pm, went for a wander about town, phoned the group leader for details about the next day's hike. The intended destination, Enderby Cliffs, can be seen from Armstrong, which is only 13 kilometers from Enderby.

That's where we were (right above my head)

Preparation on Sunday morning (sandwiches, bug spray, pack up our gear) took longer than expected, so had to rocket along the highway to Enderby. Turned right at Enderby's only traffic light as instructed, crossed the Shuswap River and found only a few of the group milling around right after the bridge. The main group arrived from Vernon a few minutes later; we headed across Hampshire-like fields and deposited the bulk of the group at the trailhead. A select few then drove the cars to the intended end of the hike and left them there, and were ferried back by two vans to rejoin the main group.

The Shuswap River forms oxbow loops along a broad, flat valley, formed between two roughly parallel ridges of rounded peaks running along either side. The valley floor is covered by a crosshatch of dairy and other farmland that you might find anywhere in rural England, while the peaks are treed by a thick coat of pine and deciduous. At Enderby, someone has thoughtfully removed half of the ridge forming the eastern rim of the valley, for about a kilometer, as though to examine a cross-section of it. The resulting reddish cliff, representing a vertical wall of about 2,500 feet, rises straight out of the trees at the edge of a stretch of farmland. (For the numbers fans, the top of the cliff is 4,000 ft above sea level and Enderby is at 1,200ft above sea level; allow about 300 ft for the slight rise between Enderby and the start/finish of the hike).

It was interesting from the bottom but even more interesting at the top. We hiked up the side of one of the peaks to one edge of the cliffs--from behind, as it were. We made our way through relatively open trees, with patches of grass awash in Spring flowers. This is a welcome change for us coast hikers, for on coastal trails, the trees are so tall and dense that views on the way up are infrequent. You also have to stick to the trail since the brush and deadwood is so dense on either side that bushwacking is too tiresome to attempt for long.

I was surprised that it took almost three hours to reach the top of the cliff as it didn't look that far off. True there were a few delays to allow some slower members of the group to get their wind but this gang were really motoring along. There was a spry little old lady hiking in front of me for some of the time who must have been about 70. If you saw her on a bus, you'd leap to offer her your seat...unless, in running for the bus, you had noticed that she was one of the people who had passed you!

Looking down on Enderby, back towards Armstrong and the Okanagan Valley

When we got to what looked like the peak, it was really the rim of the cliff! The hike rambles along the top of the cliff for about kilometer, and the trail, in places runs about a meter from the cliff edge. There are trees right up to the edge, so it isn't quite as bad as it might seem. It is a bit deceptive of course, as when you're hiking there are many places where there's a drop-off and you can't see anything but the view beyond. But in this case, the drop off was 2,500 feet! A few of the braver souls lay down on the grass at one point and looked over, but there were enough places where you could get enough of the general idea for me! It did mean that we were hiking for a couple of hours with spectacular views over, and up and down the valley.

The flowers were abundant. In addition to the regulars, like saxifrage, larkspur, and indian paintbrush, there were also large numbers of wild roses, tiger lilies, a few orchids. There was a prolific purplish flower that nobody in the group could identify. We heard quite a few woodpeckers, and I saw the jazzily hued American kestrel feeding a youngster in the top branches of a nearby pine.

We returned via a steep drop down a feature in the middle of the cliff, that is actually the regular hike up. Bit of a scramble down there, but an hour or so later, we rambled out into the middle of the fields, said goodbyes, and headed home. We were back in Vancouver about five yours later.

Ü Iíve been flying to Calgary quite a bit lately, and can make out Enderby Cliffs from the plane on a clear day!

* Acknowledgements:Thanks to the Vernon Hiking group for a two great trips, and especially to Colin Baxter for the two middle photos of the group.