Sunday, September 18, 2016
Where We Were
After a week there we then headed north-east to Kelowna to stay with family as my husband and archer-son were participating in the BC Outdoor Archery Championships. An archer myself, I bowed out of the competition (note the weird word-play), as I was going to spend the time with my other son who isn’t an archer – much needed one-on-one time given our busy lives. I had planned something BIG for us to do, and although I was unfamiliar with place I had in mind, I could only hope my idea would be successful.
Big White Mountain ski resort is about an hour out of the busy city of Kelowna. The weekend we would be visiting would be the last weekend it would be open for summer visitors before closing for winter preparation, so I was keen to take advantage of the mild weather for a day trip to the resort. I had called ahead to see what summer activities, if any, would be available and was told one of the ski-lifts would be open for rides up the mountain. I figured at least it would be something neat to do; something we don’t normally do at home.
We dropped-off the archers at the tournament, with me nagging them to wear sunscreen. The temperature was predicted to get to the mid-twenties that day – sunburn weather for sure. It was already warm that morning and we were wearing shorts, but I had had the instinct to bring pants and big coats – just in case.
Good thing I did because by the time we got up there, our ears popping all the way from the elevation, we were glad we brought warm clothes. It was foggy, a bit drizzly, and everyone was in toques and winter gear – a sharp contrast to my sunscreen-wearing-nagging I had only just done an hour before. With teeth chattering we got changed, and made our way through the resort to the ski lodge to buy our passes.
The staff were lovely and helpful, although very truthful. I was told that the ski lift was only a seven minute ride up – and went only halfway up the mountain. My shoulders slumped in disappointment. I thought it would be a longer ride and not only halfway up. The fare was round trip, so we had the option to ride up AND down, or ride up and hike down. Then I was warned that it was very foggy up there, so seeing any of the view would be next to impossible. Oh – and it’s cold.
Heart heavy with disappointment I paid the fare. We were there, we were gonna do this, and we were gonna make the best of it. I was determined.
So out we trekked to the ski lift, our excitement building despite the warnings. Who cares? We thought. This was neat – this was fun – and we were doing something different!
Me in my graceful ways and of having no ski-lift-riding experience stumbled and fumbled my way onto the revolving ski-lift. My son was embarrassed, and the Aussie-accented attendant thought I was nuts, but I made it on and off we went.
Before we knew it we were high above the ground. There was some sort of marathon that had started earlier in the morning, and other than the few people we could see in the distance making their way down the hill toward the resort, there was no one around. Up and up we rode, us taking multiple photos and selfies. We were excited at our adventure, and no matter what we found – or didn’t find – and the end of the ride we knew we were still gonna have a great time.
We passed through trees, the ground below covered in big white boulders. The fog wasn’t too bad on the way up, and I had a bit of hope that we might see something grand at the end of the ride.
The fog thickened towards the end of the ride, but that didn’t matter. We decided we would explore whatever was there then head back down. No problem – the ride was fun enough!
He then took us over to a fence and pointed down. “See down there?”
“Um, I see fog,” I said. I was worried the elevation was getting to his head and wondered if I should call in another mountain rescue guy for him. Our ears DID pop on the ride up, and I was starting wonder how high we really were.
“That’s a lake,” he said with a smirk, “if you can believe it.”
Hence the sign reading ‘Rhonda Lake’ to the left of us. You could not see a lake whatsoever, the fog was THAT thick.
After we marvelled at the thickness of the fog he waved his arm toward a trail and indicated we could go for a walk, and that beyond that trail was the peak of the mountain for those who like to hike. My son and I are the adventurous types (despite my problems with ski-lifts), and we figured we would see how far we could get.
Off we started, zig-zagging our way up the side of the grassy hill. This was no mountain, I thought. It felt all so very hilly and Sound of Music, us traipsing through the stubby grass and shrubs, the forest-like trees long gone. Up and up and we went, and soon the terrain dramatically changed, the grass fading away to white rocks and boulders. We were not on hill, but a mountain indeed!
My son and I grinned at each other. This. Was. Cool.
Just then it started to snow. Like ACTUAL snow. Half of my family was an hour away getting sunburned on an archery range while we were traipsing up a mountain reminiscent of the Swiss Alps while snowflakes fluttered around us.
We kept going, our excitement driving us forward. We can’t go back now! It was hard to breathe, talking making it worse, and again our ears popped. By fluke my son had bought hiking shoes the day before. I was only in my runners, but I was determined to keep going. The terrain got rougher and the boulders got bigger, but I didn’t care.
There was no one around – just us – it was heaven on earth, and then about 45 minutes since starting our hike up, we truly DID find heaven.
Speechless, excited, amazed, enthralled, humbled, and blessed – those little words barely describe the enormity of what we felt. We had done this together, mother and son, doing something we had never been before. There were no city limits to see, and not just a bunch of rolling hills to see, either. Pure, unaffected mountain ranges and valleys surrounded us. I would later learn that at 2, 315m (7,595ft), Big White is the highest mountain of the Okanagan Highland and of the Beaverdell Range. No wonder our ears popped so many times on the way up – through the drive, the ski-lift, AND the hike. No wonder the ice on the tree branches of the few little trees up there was frozen sideways – it got windy and cold up there! The only wildlife we saw were a few little white mountain-ish birds fluttering by, as well as the biggest chipmunk we had ever seen. The sun warmed us for a moment and we reveled in the warmth, the view, and the serenity and peace that only a hike up a too-high mountain can give.
Then the fog rolled back in. Our show was over, and we knew we better start the semi-treacherous hike back down. After some water, we made an offering to the pyramid peak and each placed a rock to say WE WERE THERE.
We started our ascent following the Inukshuks. We were sad to have to go - We didn’t want to leave. Going down was much easier of course and we remarked over and again how thankful we were we had done this, and how unexpected it all had been. It snowed again, but we were too excited to notice how cold and tired we really were. We made it to the ski lift, I stumbled back on, and rode down the last half of the mountain. More people were venturing up by then, and we were (however selfish it might seem) glad we had arrived early to be able to have the experience to ourselves. They say it’s the journey and not the destination – how true that is - but the company I was in was the best part.
(Note: my archer-son and husband each won a gold medal in their respective divisions – it was a winner of a day for us all!)