We left the Okanagan Valley and made our way to the Kootenays on May 29th. The whole drive into the Kootenays was stunning, but for me the section along the valley travelling south toward Radium Hot Springs was incredible. The sun was setting a deep fiery red over mountains. It was reflected in the glassy water of the streams that criss-crossed through the lush valley. We arrived in Radium Hot Springs just as the sun sunk below the mountains, and made a quick but vital stop at the local beer store (complete with old-west style false storefront). It was a little late to set up camp so we made our way to Invermere to find a hotel for the night. Through a convoluted series of random events, we found ourselves, not much later, at a huge bonfire surrounded by 50 or so of our newest best friends.
The next morning we backtracked to Radium Hot Springs and went to set up camp at Redstreak Campground, which is in Kootenay Provincial Park. As we searched for the best site we drove right into a herd of Big Horn Sheep (not INTO them, but, you know, into their midst). They were grazing right in one of the campsites! We later found out that this was a daily occurrence, but every time they passed through we still stopped to watch.
Redstreak was a great campground, up on a plateau with magnificent views of the Valley. They also had heated washhouses, where we hid out on a few occasions when it began to rain. The park operator we met was a lovely older gentleman who gave us a site with full hook-ups for the price of one without. One aggravation we've found not only with this campground, but also with all of the provincial parks, is that you can't use tent pegs! Apparently we're the only people in North America who don't have an enormous RV, so the camping pads these days are all made of packed gravel-you can't get a tent peg in even with a hammer! It means that the tents aren't as waterproof because you can't tighten the fly and we couldn't set up our mosquito tent at all. Also the gravel is sharp and hurts you're knees and can't be good for the bottom of the tent. If you try to be sneaky and set up a tent off the gravel pad, you get threatening notes from parks staff left on your picnic table in the night.
Despite the lack of pegged tents, we survived the night and started work on Lake Windemere the following morning. Back in the Okanagan, we had been spoiled with a wealth of numerous experts, but we were just as spoiled in Invermere to have Peter to ourselves for the whole time. We were able to get into a routine and data collection went really well, plus Peter was lots of fun to hang out with! We had many adventures, in all types of weather (including hail), and Peter was always a great resource and always in a good mood.
During our time off we tested the hot springs of Radium. It was pretty much a typical swimming pool, but, well, hotter. It had a great view, much better than you're typical pool and I imagine swimming there in winter while snow is falling would be fantastic. We heard from locals that another spot not to be missed was Whiteswan Lake, so on the weekend we made the drive south of Invermere and up a logging road about half an hour to the lake. It was definitely worth the drive! It was a gorgeous emerald colour and obviously a favourite fishing spot with the locals. We decided to try our luck and we hiked along the shoreline for about two km to the mouth of a small stream where we set up our fishing gear. We could see the fish jumping but didn't have much luck at first. I gave up pretty quickly and started playing with the camera, but the guys kept going until Brendan caught a nice Rainbow Trout with his fly rod.
We hiked back to the truck, threw the fish in the cooler and celebrated our success with a soak in the hot spring just down the road from the lake. I liked this hot spring much better than the big one at Radium, it was more natural. The water of the spring flowed into a pool created by some boulders which had been piled up beside the river. We all jumped in the glacial water of the river and then quickly into the hot water-I think we sounded something like: 'AAAAHHH! Coldcoldcold! AAAAHHH! Hothothot!' Definitely a must do if you ever visit the Kootenays.
The next day we drove down to Cranbrook to start work on Moyie Lake and a few smaller lakes in that area. I was curious to see Cranbrook since I'd heard very mixed reviews. The main road along the highway wasn't much to see, typical gas stations, big box stores, and motels. If you got away from the highway though, the town had lots of character. There were some nice old brick buildings in the middle of town and I'm sure there would be lots to explore. We didn't have much of a chance to explore unfortunately; we spent most of our time in town at the Prestige Hotel coffee shop where we once again took over half the shop with our computers and data. Brendan went to the train museum and went on the tour of the refurbished luxury cars, which he said was really interesting. Overall I'd say that Cranbrook is definitely worth seeing if you're in the area, don't judge it only by the main highway!
The campsite where we stayed was right on Moyie Lake, just 15 min south of Cranbrook. There weren't any bighorn sheep in Moyie Park, but it was a nice spot all the same. The park operators here were some of the friendliest we've met, they were nice older men with long hair and longer beards and they brought us free firewood and even let us use two campsites for the price of one! We got lots of work done in the Cranbrook area, five lakes! We were pretty happy with ourselves, and pretty excited to move on to the next destination on our grand tour, but we had to make one stop before we left the Kootenays, at Peter's place to pick up a hard drive. After having seen (and of course judged) many houses on the shores of various lakes, I have to say Peter's place is just my style. Up on a hill on a nice big natural property, it's sort of like a large wooden cabin with a beautiful stone chimney, a lovely garden with a little stream, and a squash court in the basement (put in by the original and slightly eccentric first owner).
The next morning we set off on the 1227km drive to Fort St. John, via Jasper, of course, it was the weekend after all!