The old fire lookout cabin at the top of Crowfoot Mountain now serves as an emergency shelter. (Jim Cooperman photo

Column: The Shuswap is a staycation paradise with plenty to discover

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

By Jim Cooperman

Contributor

As we yearn for some level of normalcy to return, the thought of travelling anywhere for a vacation seems unlikely given the pandemic concerns and the economic downturn.

Fortunately, we live in a region that is also a popular destination for thousands of summer visitors thanks to our warm lakes, magnificent scenery and fabulous recreational opportunities. Thus, this summer can be best enjoyed taking advantage of all that the Shuswap has to offer.

One way to make a staycation special would be to imagine yourself as a tourist who is visiting here for the first time and focus on exploring the area to discover all that is new and exciting. Many residents have lived here for decades and have yet to see every river, every community or every park. There are plenty of guidebooks to help, including the first chapter of Everything Shuswap that includes maps and descriptions for every part of the region.

Vacations often embrace goals, such as visiting every gallery, historical site or park in a far away city. A perfect and also challenging Shuswap staycation goal would be to experience many of the more than 100 trails in our region. These routes range greatly in length, elevation gain, level of difficulty and locale. One day you could climb a mountain and on another hike along a creek with waterfalls or on another walk along a river in the heritage city of Enderby.

A good way to achieve the goal of hiking every trail would be to explore the Shuswap one sub-region at a time as everyone is unique and has special features that deserve attention. Getting to the trails would then include visiting every community and experiencing many of the gravel roads along the way that wind up and down throughout the Shuswap backcountry.

More Shuswap residents have likely been to Disneyland than to Seymour Arm, despite the fact this remote community has so many nearby natural features that deserve greater recognition. With provincial parks next to two of the most outstanding beaches in the Shuswap, a heritage home built by a famous artist, and extraordinary beautiful trails alongside magnificent waterfalls, the tiny village is a delight to visit in the summer.

For the adventuresome, a visit to Seymour Arm could include exploring the wilderness of Anstey Hunakwa Provincial Park via hiking into Wright Lake. Heading north, one could drive up a logging road and then hike to the Grace Mountain alpine plateau where there may still be remnants of the ancient Cottonbelt trail and abandoned mining sites. Two hours north is the overgrown road leading into the Upper Seymour Provincial Park, where the massive antique Interior rainforest remains mostly unexplored.

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One does not need climbing gear to reach the summit of many Shuswap mountains, as for many there are hiking trails that go to the peaks. Most of these peaks can be accessed with a day hike and, given the stellar clear skies due to the decline in air pollution, the views will likely be outstanding. To the north there is Pukeashun, Crowfoot, Queest and Eagle Pass. To the southeast, there is Joss, Mara and English and above Falkland are Estekwalen and Tuktakamin Mountains.

If you can navigate the maze of logging roads above Deep Creek to find the trailhead parking lot, it is a just a short hike to the top of Mount Ida, where the vistas of the valley and lake are absolutely stunning and the unique geology is fascinating. There is also a longer trail through the forest along the ridge to the East peak.

Thankfully, there is an excellent free trail guidebook produced by the Shuswap Trail Alliance and Shuswap Tourism that makes the perfect companion for one’s ideal staycation. The print version is available for free at many locations or the guide can also be accessed online at shuswaptrails.ca.

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On the trail to Joss Mountain with members of the Shuswap Trail Alliance. (Jim Cooperman photo)

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