A window of opportunity was seized for this micro-adventure into BC’s fantastic alpine.
Let me set the scene here… the area fires were reduced to a few smouldering patches, with smoke rising calmly like from the chimney of a woodstove. There was a weather window of cool night temps and clear skies. The constant news of Covid 19 and politics was droning on everywhere in civilization. All of this meant one thing – it was time to sneak out for a 24-hour micro adventure!
I casually exchanged messages online about my plan with a wheeling buddy who lived nearby. Lee, and his triple-locked LX450 on 35″ tires, had been out on a few group trips with Expedition BC over the past few years. He is an accomplished off-roader who often volunteers his time to head out onto the trails around Kelowna to recover many stuck rigs, especially during winter! Naturally, he is a good wheeling partner to join up on any sort of impromptu adventure to a new destination. He promptly advised he would meet me out on the trail after work, and we could head up the mountain in the dark.
As promised, Lee caught up with me near the start of the FSR (Forest Service Rd) just before dark. Knowing the rocky climb ahead, we promptly aired down and started the climb around 7pm.
The relatively smooth mainline gravel road soon gave way to a much steeper route, however, we made great time on the empty roads and didn’t see any other vehicles. Many litres of gas were guzzled as we shifted into low range at the last turnoff and really began to climb. The road immediately shifted attitude into a steep and boulder-strewn trail. The climb required careful tire placement to avoid losing a bead on the rim due to some fairly sharp boulders embedded in the dirt. Doing it after dark and for the first time made things even more interesting, but that is all part of the fun.
After about two hours and more than a vertical mile of altitude, the forest gave way to alpine meadows and we found a suitable place to camp at 7,000 feet. It was a level spot in a meadow beside an alpine lake, and as an added bonus, there was an existing fire pit begging to be utilized. We got the campfire roaring just as the full moon came over the ridge, lighting up the meadow enough not to walk around without being aided by lights. We stood around the fire chatting as people do, mostly discussing past and future adventures, and having a laugh or two. Eventually, we turned in for the night, and enjoyed a peaceful sleep in the meadow. It was extremely still and quiet all night, and just about the perfect sleeping temperature, hovering around the freezing mark.
The morning brought us blue skies and the true beauty of the area was revealed. It’s always a treat when you pull into camp after dark only to be surprised by the full view in the morning!
We skipped the morning fire as we were eager to reach our final destination up above – the Mara Mountain Fire Lookout (technically on Morton Peak proper, but the area is better known as Mara Mountain). The undulating trail meandered through the scenic meadows, however the boulders on the road demanded one’s attention! Even on 33″ tires and a significant suspension lift, I was careful navigating the ol’ grocery getter Sequoia through the puzzle of rocks, dips and ledges (did I mention she rolled over 400,000 kms this trip)!
The last part of the trail involved even more steep and loose stretches, as well as tight switchbacks, similar to those of the infamous Black Bear Pass in Colorado. I had to make multi-point turns, often with tires on the edge, for most of the switchbacks (some opt to park and walk the rest of the way, and others may even reverse up portions of the zig-zagging road to avoid the tight turns.
Finally, we crested the last hill and parked at the front steps of the tower. This was the highest point in the Hunter’s Range at an altitude of 7365 ft / 2245 m, and afforded 360 degree views on a clear day such as this.
After spending some time taking in the views, we sheltered inside the tower out of the wind. One can never take enough photos from vantage points such as these, however we found ourselves also just staring at the horizon and silently taking it all in.
Since this was a micro adventure, and the responsibilities of adult life were calling, we loaded back up and descended the same way we came. The long and bumpy ride down was not so bad considering the scenic views around every corner. Mini obstacles along the way also kept things interesting… Although not a difficult trail overall, I would recommend a vehicle with low-range gearing and decent clearance.
At the bottom, we aired back up and parted ways for our separate drives home. This is an area I definitely would like to re-visit, especially with more time on hand. If you choose to head up here, remember to stay on the existing trails, and aim for going during July-September, otherwise the top is likely to be covered in deep snow! Also, thanks to Lee for joining in on this 24-hour mini adventure!