Backtracking to our arrival on Day 7, Ashely gave us a tour of the property to choose our cabin from one of five – we chose Annie’s House. Each cabin was built by a team of local craftsmen who worked and lived onsite for three years during construction. Built by master carpenter Martin Frauenknecht in 2002, the gorgeous cedar log home with its enormous windows facing the mountains and lake and metal roof is built to survive at least 500 years of Chilko winters. The interior is a mix of luxurious comfort and museum quality art with custom carpentry detailing at every turn.
The Lodge is a large three-level post and beam structure that houses a bar/game room, entertainment room, restaurant quality kitchen, master’s suite, living room and other bedrooms and facilities designed in an open floor plan with expansive views of the mountain range. We gather to socialize and feast on 5 star meals crafted by Chef Jamie Hertz, former restaurant owner and contestant on Top Chef Canada.
Our hosts are Lodge owners, Phil and Annie Huston, guides Brian McCutcheon and Ashley Scalan, engineer Mikey from Czech Republic and fellow guests Ashish and Swati from California. Jamie served us a watercress, butter lettuce and mesculun greens salad with local Wild Roasted Sockeye Salmon over classic Risotto and grilled asparagus and a mousse-like white chocolate cheesecake with strawberries. After supper, we briefly dipped in the hot tub and passed out in the king-size Tempurpedic bed in the loft in the cabin.
The next morning, Jaime prepared gourmet french toast of almond and nut crusted slabs of thick bread. After breakfast we loaded up the 4-wheel drive vehicles and navigated the ‘main’ road into Ts’il?os Provincial Park. Yep, that is how you spell it. The park has very few visitors probably due in part to the heavily rutted entrance and fact that no one can pronounce its name. When we arrived, a lone fisherman was on the lake fishing for trout. We put on our packs and headed up the trail for the summit.
Beginning at around 3600 feet, we immediately started climbing a steep trail. Passing through an Aspen grove we broke out in a rocky region where the welcome breeze returned to cool us. Stopping occasionally for snacks and water, we continued to ascend as we looked for signs of animal life around us. We found fresh tracks from a mother bear and her two cubs in muddy terrain surrounding small ponds termed the bear baths. We also found racks of deer, moose, and coyote.
At around 6500 feet of elevation we began to lose the trail in banks of snow. The snow was thigh deep and melting in the June sun and left our boots, socks, and pants cold and wet as we plowed through it. As we turned into the north face in the shade of the peak, the snow pack grew in size and became impassable for us novice backwoods hikers. Brian made the call and reluctantly turned around with the peak in sight but unreachable. Coming down the steep grade, the walking poles proved invaluable in the descent providing stability while transferring impact loads from our aching legs to our arms and shoulders.
18,037 steps and 6 hours later we arrived at the shore of the crystal clear and frigidly cold lake. Sheri waded in up to her knees while I collapsed in the grass and waited for the rest of the party to come off the mountain.
Strategizing over a Okanagan draft in a frozen mug back at the bar in the lodge, we decided that we needed good old fashioned horsepower in the form of ATVs to explore the region further.
Phil briefed Sheri and I on the operation of the Honda 4-wheel drive ATVs. After a few laps in the gravel lot, we followed Phil out into the Chilcotin on backwoods trails. We passed an abandoned 5,000 foot gravel landing strip and Indian cemetery on our way to an impressive overlook of the Chilko lake. Brian warned us to not try and keep up with Phil because he moves too fast, but we tried anyway as we had a blast racing through the wilderness.
Dirty and tired, we followed Phil into the 6-bay garage and shutdown the vehicles. We had time to take a shower, sample a local red, and watch the 2nd period of the Stanley Cup finals while Jaime did his magic. Finally, after 12 hours of outdoor adventure, we gathered at the table for supper. Jaime prepared a creamed cauliflower soup with creme fraiche followed by a beef tenderloin over truffle demi mashed potatoes and carrots with his special sauce. I cut the beef with my spoon it was so tender. Desert was a creme brûlée where the creme part was made of a blend of Earl Gray tea and milk chocolate. Fantastic.
Following dinner, Mikey schooled me in two games of chess. As I quizzed him on the particulars of the power infrastructure supporting the estate, he let on that he had worked all day to stoke the wood-fire hot tub to a competition-level 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Too good to pass up, Sheri and I gently entered the lobster pot and soaked our weary limbs before collapsing for the evening.
posted by Eric today!