Mount Boucherie

Once belching fire and lava from a cone rising 2,000 metres above the pre-historic valley, 50 or 60 million years have reduced the angry volcano to the benign stump familiar to Westside commuters and wine trail travellers. The mountain became known as Boucherie in the 1880s when Isadore Boucherie, who had settled early in both Rutland and the west side of Okanagan Lake, established a ranch on the adjoining land.

I’ve lived in the shadow of Mount Boucherie for eight years, but hiking to the summit always remained somewhere below the top of my To Do list. This spring, bad health news for my favourite hiking buddy prompted me to remember that we need to seize the moment.

I left organization to the guy who readers of my book Grandma Wears Hiking Boots know as the Octogenarian Mountain Goat. Jim showed up at my door with Jordie Bowen, Jordie’s daughter Catherine and her friend Emilie, then navigated the Bizantine approach to the trailhead at Eian Lamont Park.

It was the kind of May morning that gives tourism officials goosebumps. Blue sky banded by streamers of gauzy cloud, Oregon grape and balsamroot flaunting their yellow finery in exuberant crowds. We set off on the deceptively easy first stretch of trail heading north.

Jim chose this route (knowing my pathetic fitness level) so that I’d still be fresh enough to fully appreciate the cathedral wall of organ pipes soaring far overhead. Littered on the ground around us, like marbles cast in a child’s game, house-sized boulders showed the same wierd configuration of six-sided extrusions. I thought the term for this was columnar basalt, but Jim the geologist corrected me—crystalline dacite. Got it.

But soon I had no breath for talking as Jim lived up to his nickname and led us up the near-vertical northeast face. The girls sprinting easily in his wake, and Jordie, whose Selah Outdoor Explorations involves canoe expeditions in summer and snowshoe hikes in winter, were soon far above me as I laboured up the rocky “path.” But no pain, no gain, and I like to think my appreciation of the stupendous view from the east summit was hightened by my triumph over flacid muscles (or maybe that was just oxygen-starved euphoria).

Either way, we all got a charge out of the massive turkey vultures circling above the cliffs and I for one appreciated the easy hike across the saddle ridge. Spring green regrowth pushed up among the raser stubble of the 1992 fire that charred 60 hectares of the mountain slopes. The girls and I stopped and added our own personal messages to those marked on rocks around the trunk or hanging like Christmas ornaments from a cinged survivor known as the wish tree. We all gathered for a group photo on the western summit (758 metres) with the lake stretching away to Peachland  in the background.

Thank heaven Jim saved the relative ease of jagged tallus slopes and flowery pine groves for the spagetti-legged descent. If I’d had to face that northeast face on the way down, I’d still be standing on Mount Boucherie.

Published in Okanagan Life, September 2013.