Map of events
Joe’s Diner Logo

Home » Adventures » British Columbia » Cathedral Provincial Park » Ewart Creek

Sunday — Exodus

Route I Hiked This Day

Route I Hiked This Day

I awoke to frost on my tent and was genuinely glad to have not lodged any higher in the mountains. Shortly after leaving camp though, the rising sun liberated most of the frozen ground and made for a pleasant day. My exodus from Cathedral Provincial Park continued a short while longer along Mountain Goat Creek and its well maintained trails. The only difficult footing was where cattle and horses had completely destroyed muddy areas. The path followed the creek, as expected, although usually snaking through the forest high above the water. For the entire length from Twin Buttes to Ewart Creek trailhead, only a couple spots provided good access to water.

I made the turn north along Ewart Creek, half expecting to rock hop across the river in this remote section of the park. To my delight though a large bridge provided safe, dry passage. The trail continued descending gently along the creek. Ending this excellent adventure with a pleasant and unremarkable hike out of Cathedral Provincial Park was much nicer than a horror story, although there was perhaps still time for one of those.

The easy stroll brought me to Ewart Creek trailhead, but unfortunately my car resided at Lakeview trailhead. My original drive along Ashnola Road taught me about seven miles eleven kilometers of road separated the two trailheads, a little further than my pre-trip estimates. A long, boring hike along a gravel road was not the preferred way to end my backcountry time in Canada. Minimizing this exposure though, the “as the crow flies” distance was much less, with an unbridged river being the only obstacle. In my infinite wisdom, I realized fording the Ashnola River would be four miles six kilometers shorter than the route using an established bridge. Both routes eventually traveled only about 100 yards meters across the canyon, so why not attempt the ostensibly shorter version through the water?

I crashed through the brush to the nearby river, not knowing if it would be crossable. Few rapids occupied this stretch, but crossing the river would still be stupidly dangerous (although that has not stopped me before). In spite of this knowledge, I carefully waded into moving water, using a sturdy branch for a third leg and support.

Backcountry River Crossing PSA

I must again caution anyone reading this (which no one anyone actually does), that crossing a mountain river in this manner is extremely dangerous and should not be undertaken. Attempting such a feat with an experienced group has its risks, so a schmuck doing it solo is beyond words.

And all this to avoid four miles six kilometers of easy hiking.

Even with my low intelligence, if this had not been my last leg of backpacking, I would not have attempted this crossing. Soaked gear was a high probability, with a 100% chance of a wet me. A drenched backpacker and supplies on a cold mountain night would be disastrous. The current could also sweep me downstream, and even had I somehow extracted myself from the swift moving water, the ride would have left me dripping wet from head to toe. Even under the best circumstance of remaining upright, experience taught me that when the inside of my boots become wet, they dry very slowly and become exceedingly uncomfortable while they do. While that transformation is very troublesome hiking long distances over rough terrain, I could endure the three mile five kilometer road walk to my car.

Back to the Action

Having already cheated destiny once this trip by avoiding being squashed by trees, I tempted fate again and crept along the rocky river bed. The water was not as frigid as anticipated but still chilly enough to ensure I was awake. Not that I needed extra alertness, as adrenaline and fear kept me completely focused on the task at hand. The river kept inching deeper and deeper through my slow walk across. From shore the water looked like it would only reach my thighs, but in the middle of the stream it instead continued creeping towards my waist. The current was not very strong, but with the river pushing against half my body, the water’s cumulative force was something with which to contend.

This deepest section of the crossing was only about ten feet three meters, but it was a very long ten feet three meters. While trying to find a workable path through the worst part, I stumbled slightly on the uneven riverbed but remained upright. This slight trip unnerved me though, and I lost my calm. Like a shell shocked solider running into no man’s land, I dashed across the river, rapidly bumbling through the underwater treachery. For the second time on this trip God watched over me despite my idiocy, allowing me to reach the other bank unscathed. The bottom of my backpack kissed the water and my pants and shoes were completely soaked, but otherwise I was okay. Very stupid, but okay.

How much time this river crossing saved was debatable as well. By the time I scoped out a route, got my nerves to actually cross, and dried myself afterwards, this “shortcut” saved very little time. Especially given the consequences had something gone astray.

Back on Solid Ground

Forest covered mountainsides

With that last obstacle out of the way and back on dry soil, I continued hiking towards my car. Dropping my pack in the weeds, to be retrieved on my drive out, could have made these last miles kilometers slightly less taxing. Since my backpack was not very heavy though (once again out of food), I just trucked it for the easy, boring stroll down the road.

Hitching a ride would have reduced the walk even more, but little traffic entered the park on a Sunday afternoon, and my thumb was powerless against the few cars that passed. With no outside assistance I made it all the way back to my car at Lakeview trailhead and changed into clean, dry clothes, which felt great against my rugged skin.

Having explored almost every established trail in Cathedral Provincial Park in less than four days, I drove back to the States and could finally stop multiplying by 0.6 to interpret every road sign. Back in the USA, I grabbed a large helping of Mexican food, which tasted exquisite compared to the bland, dry food consumed in the backcountry.

(Ironic side note about Mexican food: While in Penticton, Canada, a Mexican restaurant advertised “South of the Border” entries. In Canada this phrase should imply American food, such as hamburgers or high fructose corn syrup. Nope, even there it still meant Mexican food. Someone needs to give those silly Canadians a geography lesson. (Although similar advertising appeared in New Zealand as well, so I guess the United States is just that awesome.))

My itinerary for that evening was empty, as the exact time I might vacate the backcountry was nebulous. Entertainment options on Sunday evenings in small towns were limited. I eventually discovered a place to absorb the local culture by silently watching the nationwide movie District 9, which was an enjoyable Sci-Fi flick.