Current Location: at home in Rocky Point
There are many options when planning the route home, but there was no option that didn’t include visiting the little town of Nelson on the west arm of Kootenay Lake. I remember Nelson as a small logging community, but even back in the 70’s and 80’s there was some cute stuff there. By the time my friend Maryruth and I saw it, the cultural creative boom was already happening.
Our last day in British Columbia started with rain, and it only got heavier as we traveled south. Big thunderheads loomed above us as we packed up the rig and the first big drops fell just as we drove out of the campground.
There is a dump station associated with the campground in Kaslo. It costs $5 Canadian if you are a registered camper, $8. if not, but it is only open for a couple of hours in the morning and in the evening. We wanted to leave early morning, but the 9am opening of the dump lock gave us the luxury of a leisurely breakfast. We decided to go get in line about 8:45, just in time to be ahead of a big fifth wheel that thought they were going to dump immediately. Sorry, I told them, the manager doesn’t get up till nine. She has a big sign on her door that is a pretty good indication that she doesn’t want to be bothered until exactly 9AM. Who can blame her. Being a campground host must be awful sometimes, everyone always wants something.
Sure enough, just at 9, she showed up looking a bit sleep rumpled and unlocked the cover. We were ready with hoses out and ready to go so it only took us a few minutes to dump. We have that teamwork down pat. We also have the hookup the car thing down pat as well, and I laughed to see a couple of people in the campground taking time out from morning coffee to watch us hook up the Tracker in a few quick clicks. Moments like that I get all cocky and like to show off. Men especially get a kick out of watching us do things efficiently. I have to be careful to not get too cocky because I could just as easily do something stupid or the hitch would stick or the pins would drop in a manhole or something.
Still, we were on the road by 9:10 after a particularly good dump. You know the ones. The tank sensors are all the way green, the flashlight down the toilet reflects on the shiny bottom, and all is good. I can’t figure out why they all aren’t like that.
The road to Nelson followed our route to Balfour and continued along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, where we saw gorgeous sandy beaches along the beautiful wide river/lake and homes to match. The closer we got to Nelson, the more waterside mansions began to appear. Hmmm, I could live here, I thought. It was breathtakingly beautiful. A bit later, as I perused the Real Estate magazines in Nelson, I saw that those houses were in the vicinity of a couple million bucks. Gentrification is everywhere. What happened to the sleepy logging town in the wilds of BC??
We did love Nelson, and did our usual initial search for the Visitor Center. Right in front of the building, across the street, was curb parking for the MoHo and Tracker. No parking meters, and a driveway behind us so that if someone parked in front of us we could still exit gracefully. A quick stop inside yielded a pretty young thing who knew ALL the best places to eat a great breakfast and told me we could park for a few hours free if we wanted to.
With the cool rain falling, Abby was quite content to remain inside resting. This is a new phenomena. At 12, it seems her separation anxiety has subsided enough that sometimes, not always, she will wait in the MoHo without barking and going into a general state of panic. Lucky for us. Hard rain means that even with dog friendly patios for dining, we might not want to sit outside in the rain with the dog.
Climbing the stairs in the lovely little town built on the side of a cliff, we found the main drag and the string of shops and restaurants that are the mainstay of Nelson. Full Circle Cafe at 11AM still had a long line of folks waiting, but it was the best and we wanted to try it so we put our name on the list and waited. What a great place. More of that signature British Columbia organic stuff with tofu scrambles, and 6 kinds of free range eggs benedict selections. I think they specialized in hollandaise because it came on everything, even the tofu!
Yum. I had an omelet with perfect caramelized onions, goat cheese, and French ham, topped with hollandaise. Insanely good. Mo had what was called the Redneck Burger, free range beef, but that is where the redneck adjective stopped working. I never saw spinach and sprouts on a redneck anything! Her salad was one of the best I have tried. Yum again.
We wanted to get back on the road, with no idea of where we might spend the night, but knew it would be somewhere back in the US. I navigated toward the border, but my BC map in the big Atlas didn’t have enough detail, and with my phone turned off I also didn’t have Google to help out. The GPS is worthless if you don’t have an address, and we didn’t really know exactly where we were headed anyway.
Somehow we ended up going through Salmo instead of Trail and to the beautifully quiet border crossing at Metaline Falls. We didn’t stop at Salmo, but in passing I caught glimpses of some rather amazing stone murals that are the pride of this small town. Hard rain and the upcoming border nixed any ideas of exploring.
Getting back into the US was a bit more complicated than we have ever experienced, and the main culprit was dog food! We knew about the requirements, so Mo was prepared with food in the original bags, but they saw the doggie treat bag and had to check that as well to be sure the treats were made in the USA. They also asked to come in the rig and would we please restrain the dog. Then they asked for the keys to the baby car where the big sack of dog food was stored.
After searching the car and part of the rig, they then wanted an additional photo that matched our passports. While looking at our passports and drivers’ license, they asked what we did before we retired, where we were going, where we had been, and the names of our firstborn children. Oh not that last part actually. They were kind and we had nothing to hide so it was more entertaining than anything, but different than we are used to. After 20 minutes or so we rolled back into the good ole USA.
Metaline Falls is a tiny town on the gorgeous Pend Oreille River, the downriver part of the same river we traveled on our trip north previously. I had never been on this route and it was gorgeous. Even in the rain we stopped to hike up to the lovely falls at the Sweet Creek Falls Wayside on the route of the North Pend Oreille Scenic Byway. For those not familiar with the northwest, the pronunciation is Pond er Ray. Just thought I would mention that. As Spokane is Spo Can, not Spo Kane…and Oregon is Or E Gun not Or E Gone…and Nevada…ooops. guess I got carried away. I have been writing these posts for a couple of days now and am getting a bit rummy.
We turned west toward Kettle Falls through the town of Colville. It was originally the plan to enter the states through Northport and possibly find a place to camp somewhere along the Columbia River. Instead, far south of good camping spots on the river, we continued west on Highway 20 toward Sherman Pass. Stopping in Kettle Falls to top off our fuel, (did I mention we didn’t have to add fuel to the MoHo in Canada?) we wanted to be sure we were ready for boondocking and using the generator. Sometimes it is easy to think, oh we have more than a quarter tank, we can fuel up tomorrow. Not so smart when you want to run the generator. It doesn’t take much fuel, but it doesn’t like a tank below a quarter full and will not run when it drops below that point.
We started up Sherman Pass with a couple of campgrounds in mind, but looking more closely I could see that the more distant one was at 5200 feet and only allowed rigs less than 24 feet long. We could fudge that sometimes, at 26 feet, but why bother when the closer campground had a 30 foot length limit.
Turned out to be a fabulous choice. Except for one other rig on the opposite side of the campground, we were the only ones there. We got a perfectly level site with a campfire ring and no campfire restrictions, and best of all a nice big stash of ready cut firewood for Mo to split. Mo loves a good campfire and with fire restrictions being all over the place it was nice to enjoy a big fire and some marshmallows. The campsite fee was a hefty $3.00 with our senior pass.
There were bear warnings at the campground kiosk, so we kept Abby close, but most of the huckleberries were gone so I didn’t worry too much. Would have been nice to see a bear from the safety of the rig. The signs indicated that in addition to black bear, there were also grizzly in the area. What I didn’t know at the time is that there are also some viable, active wolf packs in that part of the country as well.
After our yellow lighted nights at the Kaslo Campground, the thick darkness and quiet of the Canyon Creek FS campground on Sherman Pass was incredible. The sounds of the rain and a huge thunderstorm only added to the coziness of the MoHo, and actually being cool enough for a blanket was pretty nice, too.
I thought I could fit the entire trip home into one post, but it seems that isn’t to be the case. We did some cool new stuff on the rest of the route that I don’t want to skimp on. Guess I’ll have to go change the title for this one.
Next: The Long Way Home Part 2