Map of events
Joe’s Diner Logo

Home » Adventures » British Columbia » Okanagan Mountain » Summit & Baker Lake

Tuesday — The Summit

Route I Hiked This Day

Route I Hiked This Day

With my hike through the darkness the prior night, I took a lazy morning, waking up late and lethargically breaking camp. I took a stroll to the edge of Gemmill Lake, seeing if the daylight would reveal the official campsite that eluded me the previous evening. That goal remained unaccomplished, but at the shoreline I spotted an elk stomping through the mud for a morning drink.

Since the trail ended at the lake, I hiked back out the path I had just traversed about twelve hours previous. The daylight experience vastly differed than at night. The mountainside, path, and everything else was so much clearer. I could actually see the surrounding area, rather than just the illuminated section immediately around me. This lit region was barely even recognizable as the same trail.

Okanagan Mountain Summit

Okanagan Mountain Charred Landscape

Okanagan Mountain Charred Landscape

My backtrack quickly concluded as I turned onto Mountain Goat Trail for the climb to Okanagan Mountain’s summit. The trail continued mostly though burned forests, which had recovered little in the short time since the inferno. Unfortunately these charred tree trucks were not very picturesque, but nonetheless, the hiking was still favorable. The tread underneath my feet consisted of almost entirely smooth dirt or rocks. It became steep in a few sections, but these were mountains after all. The path was also very simple to follow. Although the park did not appear to receive abundant visitors, an obvious worn trail, orange blazes, and even occasional cairns prevented me from losing the trail (at least for the time being).

My laid back morning at Gemmill Lake was a nice hiatus, but the sun took no such break, getting a jump on me and warming the afternoon sky. I sweated profusely tromping through the backcountry and up the side of the mountain. At least a cool breeze from the States mitigated the heat and kept the weather tolerable.

The final approach to the top became considerably easier as the trail merged with a wide gravel road. The last push also detoured less from my planned route to Baker Lake than the map indicated, consisting of maybe a hundred yard meter jaunt. Unfortunately the park’s peak was unimpressive because the aforementioned road was built only for access to communication towers which shared this high point. Spires, buildings, and antennas all crowded the area and ruined any possible views. Even without the unnatural visual obstructions though, the mountaintop would still not have been a great vista. Although technically the highest point, this peak grew only slightly higher than the surrounding landscape, which dropped away slowly. These features filled in any large expanses in which to relish. In fact, if not for the destroyed trees, it would have been difficult to determine this spot was the peak. Once the trees regrow, only the underside of their foliage will be visible from atop Okanagan Mountain.

In Another Year You Will Be Happy

Baker Lake nestled on the mountainside

Baker Lake nestled on the mountainside

After a relaxing break for lunch and idly enjoying the afternoon, I hiked down the mountain to my campsite at Baker Lake. The descent to the lake was extremely steep, despite the many switchbacks. I had to place many steps very carefully to stay upright.

The knee pounding trek led to an exquisite lake hidden among the mountains. A blue body of water surrounded by rock outcropping and trees (although these had burned as well) nestled itself on the mountainside. This reclusive spot was a beautiful and peaceful place to pitch a tent.

With the afternoon still young and a warm sun overhead, I somehow convinced myself that a dip in Baker Lake would be a good idea. Of course, swimming alone anytime is a bad idea, but at a lake in the middle of the woods was ripe with danger. But hey, I am an Ironman and can do anything. Hopefully that phrase will not appear on my tombstone someday.

Any reports of my death at Baker Lake were greatly exaggerated though, and I took what can only be described as an invigorating swim. A bare rock provided a suitable beach from which to plunge into the pure water and feel the frigid liquid grasp my skin. Having left my wetsuit in the car, I did not last long in the cold lake and quickly crawled back onto shore after getting in slightly less than 2.4 miles. Still, the dip was refreshing and cooled me off after a sweaty hike. Besides, the opportunity for a mountain swim (even in my non ideal situation) is rare.

The rest of my day was spent relaxing at the lake and moseying in the sounding brush, which failed to uncover anything extraordinary. Storm clouds accompanied by a thunderous fanfare approached my mountain hideout as the afternoon grew more mature, but swirling winds kept them at a safe distance. As darkness arrived the clouds finally broke through the perimeter, and I fell asleep to the pitter-patter of rain against my tent.