Map of events
Joe’s Diner Logo

Home » Adventures » British Columbia » Okanagan Mountain

Monday — Okanagan Mountain Arrival

Route I Hiked This Day Night

Route I Hiked This Day Night

Leaving Ironman behind I drove to Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park, with rain drops darting around my car as darkness quickly approached. My point of departure into the wilderness was the park’s south parking lot, whose access road did not adorn most maps and was probably a little rougher than my rental car agreement allowed. With some fancy maneuvers, I successfully completed the rutted obstacle course to arrive at the trailhead.

An unoccupied, official campground lay directly adjacent to the parking lot. Instead of intelligently staying there, I instead headed into the darkness towards Gemmill Lake. Camping at the lake instead of the nearby site had no practical value either, as the trail dead ended at the water. The next morning I would just have to hike most of the trail again heading out. But hiking was what I wanted, so into the dim unknown I went — my first hike solely by headlamp.

Hiking in the Dark

I pierced the abyss, entering the blackness. The trail was mercifully well worn and very easy to follow with just my light’s scant illumination. On top of that, reflective orange blazes marked the path, glaringly obvious even at far distances as the power of my headlamp made them shine like an eagle’s eye. A three quarters waxing moon, casting an eerie light across the landscape, also assisted my travels. With these aids and some luck, my nighttime hike went smoothly. Had the trail not been as well worn, contained less markers, or if less natural light was available, my nocturnal adventure would have been much more treacherous. Especially since hiking at night was a new experience. No way better than to learn a new skill than alone at night in the middle of the woods.

Okanagan Mountain Trailhead Parking

In this dull light the many rocks and burned trees begrudgingly revealed their form. A huge forest fire swept through the park in 2003, and its remnants towered menacingly against the dark sky, backlit by the moon. This light was insufficient to decipher any details, adding to the mystery. Although the large mountain surrounded me, only the small section of trail lit before me was decipherable. The glow attached to my head highlighted my direct path and nothing more. My small, immediate world, engulfed by the immenseness of the darkness made me feel small.

Outside my diminutive existence, large, bright lightening bolts pierced the sky’s dark cover, temporarily illuminating the countryside. These flashes revealed even more skeleton’s left by the fires, as far as I could see. I was walking at night through the graveyard of a great forest. The impressive bursts flashed relentlessly, but the long pauses until the rolling thunder arrived indicated the static electricity discharged a safe distance away. Sporadic guerrilla attacks of small groups of raindrops assisted the lightening, but they were few and far between, leaving me mostly dry.

At Camp

I pulled into Gemmill Lake in less than an hour, which was still longer than anticipated. Of course hiking at night did nothing to increase my overall speed. At the lakeside I searched for the official campsite, but the abundant darkness kept its location a mystery. A makeshift fire ring accompanied by a very small clearing was nearby though, so that would be home for the night.

Before crawling into my sleeping bag, I sat calmly atop a log to enjoy the night. The darkness was remarkably peaceful. The earlier storm had vacated the area, leaving an absolute clam in its wake. The weather was immaculate to just be still in the wilderness (even for a stir crazy person like myself). Hardly any bugs interrupted this vigil, neither biting nor incessantly chirping hidden in the woods. No animals or birds stirred, and this area was far removed from any mechanical noises. A noticeable silence blanketed the area. I felt guilty to even walk around, fearing an errant step on a stick might shatter the peace. How far I had traveled from Ironman in just a couple hours. In society experiencing such stillness is impossible, and even in the woods such complete quietness is a rare encounter. My earlier night hike was its own reward, but the spot to which it led was even greater. This evening was truly unique; what a place to slumber.