May 29, 2009
|Friday, May 29th (day 19): Selkrik Loop into Canada!
It was GREAT day, but EXHAUSTING! We left Bonners Ferry about 8:30 (our time, early for us) and drove north to the border (about 25 miles), passing through beautiful fields in a valley bordered by pine-covered forests and, yes, snow on the peaks. Apparently, they had a late, wet spring, and now it’s 80 degrees and everything’s melting like crazy. All the creeks and rivers we saw were swollen and muddy.
In addition, the Kootenay river is controlled by a dam upstream and the water is set high right now so the sturgeon who are swimming upstream to spawn can reach their birth/spawning spots. Diane’s specialty area is fish, specifically sturgeon, and Wayne’s is larger game, specifically caribou and grizzles (they both work for Idaho Fish and Game). Wayne is my brother and Diane my sister-in-law. My nephew, John, is graduating from high school, as will be his brother, Hayden, in another three years.
The Kootenay valley includes a number of tree farms, most notable of which were fruit trees in blossom in rows–white, pink, and dark pink. There is also a Mennonite community and a wolf education facility. My brother disagrees with them keeping wolves in captivity, and I agree with him. There are lots of hybrids which can no longer be kept as pets who could serve the same purpose.
After successfully entering Canada by showing my passport and Bill’s birth certificate and driver’s license (passports only after June 1st), we continued north to Creston, where we promptly got lost (it was not marked well). When we stopped at a gas station to ask for help, a local getting gas asked, “Lost, ehy?” and proceeded to point us on our way. Nice little town with beautiful magenta flowers of some kind.
We followed the east side of the Kootenay Lake all the way to the ferry. Some of the road was high above the lake, but most was right next to it. There were LOTS of campgrounds, mostly private, but some provincial, which included Lockhart Beach
, where we spent some lovely time.
A worker there asked if we were lost. I replied, “Not right now, but we were lost in Creston earlier.” He replied, “Ehy, there’s a lot of that going on in Creston.” Everyone we met, locals and tourists, were very nice. The weather was nice as well; perfect, actually.
We stopped at a harbor/rest area (read pit toilet, but were happy to have them available) and enjoyed the view. Every direction we looked were high mountains with snow; one even had a glacier. Our next stop was the Glass House, an incredible place made entirely of embalming bottles! It helps that they are square. I took some photos both for the BRG and a collector friend of ours who is also a funeral home director.
On to Crawford Bay, a community of artists with studios open to the public. We visited a glassblower and a weaver, spending about an hour and a half at the glassblower’s. He created a beautiful vase while we watched and took photos–MOST interesting!
Back a little ways to a community park where we had lunch. North again to the ferry dock.
We waited some time for the ferry to return (the longest free ferry in North America), and rode it five miles across the lake to the western shore (35 minutes).
It was a treat to ride on the “Osprey,” just commissioned in 2000 and decorated with osprey bench ends
and wood carvings on the walls. After driving on board, we walked around to different parts of the boat, although you can just stay in your car. Bill bought a t-shirt and we sat in viewing areas on both sides, plus outside in the front, top and bottom, for the arrival. It’s amazing how the captain can guide such a huge vessel into a small area to connect to the pier. We simple drove off and headed north.
Following the west side of the lake, we snaked between the lake and a steep cliff, covered with screen and warning signs for falling rocks. Arriving at Ainsworth Hot Springs, an outdoor poor and indoor cave, we checked in ($17 total) and hopped in. Although there are two hotels connected to the hot springs (many in the area), you can drop in for a soak and also park there overnight. The pool was perfect, 98 degrees, but the cave was too hot (114). However, it was so neat that we had to walk through it. Apparently, it was blasted out in a horseshoe-shaped cave at some time in the past, and then the minerals in the dripping water had formed flowstone over the walls and small stalactites on the ceiling. Including three small alcoves, it was about 35 feet long. Besides the water being too hot, it was very steamy and dripping water. The first go round I wore glasses and took the camera–not a good plan. There was also a cold plunge (47 F), no, thanks.
The outdoor pool was wonderful–long enough to swim laps but also lined with benches for sitting.
We both wore our sunglasses, and Bill wore his hat. Before we left, I decided to swim through the cave and did so, only banging my shin once on the formations on the cave wall (switched from frog kick to flutter at that point). The shade was just moving down to the pool, but time to go.
We drove pretty directly back, stopping only at a rest area and for photos. The area still on the lake, from Balfour to Nelson, was packed with cars, motor homes, people pulling boats, bicyclers, and backpackers! There were many, small rushing streams (all white froth) tumbling down from above under the road and into the lake. Nelson looked interesting, lots of old, brick buildings, but we were bushed and like horses heading back to the barn. We continued south, having dinner en route, then east again over Kootenay Pass, which was quite beautiful.
We followed a raging dark brown river up the west side, seeing a wild turkey (female) and two young deer. The cliffs were incredible, and looked vainly for bighorn sheep. Most of the road cuts had water gushing down them, and the very dirty snow was within reach. Still, the air was quite comfortable.
Then, a most exciting moment (we didn’t know how much so until later): We saw a caribou calmly grazing on the side of the road! At first we thought it was a deer, but noticed its strange antlers. After consulting with Wayne and the internet, we learned it was a female woodland caribou. They are endangered and there are only 47 of them left in the Selkirk range!
We continued on past a wildlife refuse of primarily marsh and lots of Canadian geese (how fitting). It looked like moose country, but there were none in sight. On to Creston and back into the U.S. without too much difficulty. Back to Bonners Ferry about 8 PM to shower and fall into bed.