08-13-2014 Four Days in Kaslo

Current Location: Home in Rocky Point Oregon

I spent a lot of time reviewing the few options for RV parks in the vicinity of Kaslo before we made our reservation.  I know that reviews are not always accurate, but if there are bad reviews, I try to check for the date and then see if the good reviews are a response to the bad ones.  Sometimes it is fairly clear that the park owners or managers have tried to offset the negativity.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (41 of 71) In this case, I decided to ignore the few bad remarks about the Municipal Park and pay attention the bad remarks about some of the other places.  Turns out I made a good choice.  I wanted hookups, and what I didn’t learn from the reviews is that anything more than 15 amp power is rarely available.  The Kaslo Municipal Campground had just three sites with 30 amp power, so I was extremely glad that I had made a reservation.

 Kaslo Municipal Campground When we arrived, there were a couple of other rigs in line, and as I walked up to the crowd of people, the manager said, “Excuse me, but I need to attend to Sue here before I check you in because she has a reservation”.  She knew who I was from our rig!  Pretty nice.  Then she gave me a choice.  We could take the nice shady site on the hill, not very level, and with 15 amp power, or we could take the crowded sunny (hot) site with a sliver of lake view next to the park and 15 amp power until the next day when we would get the 30 amp post.

I was all for the shade, but Mo opted for the 30 amp.  Either way, our first night was going to be a hot one.  Once again, we put the fridge on gas only and didn’t even bother trying to turn on the air.  The fan had to be enough and with the temps a hot and somewhat humid (for the west) 90 degrees F we waited for a breeze.

Kaslo Municipal Campground Nice thing about our site, however is that it backed up to the park, with just a few hundred yards to a spot where we could launch the kayaks.  With fairly strong winds on the lake, we didn’t unload them the first night, deciding to wait for better weather the next morning.  Instead we had supper before taking a lovely stroll along the lake and up toward the sweet little town of Kaslo.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (66 of 71) It still had the charm that I remembered, but just a bit more so, with many eateries, little shops, and the beautiful Kaslo Hotel right above the shoreline and the marina. Even with the smoky skies, the surrounding mountains were magnificent. 

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (47 of 71) My favorite moment, however, was spying these two ladies in their rigs visiting along the park in front of their lovely retirement home.  If it weren’t for winter, this might be a really nice place to spend your last days.

Kootenay Lake kayak (4 of 27)Kootenay Lake kayak (3 of 27) The next day we launched the kayaks, in spite of the strong breezes and managed a few miles south of town along the shore, and then back north and into Kaslo Bay.  The water was deep and clear, but the beaches near the campground are made up of large rocks, making for some gingerly walking to get the boats in and out of the water.

north of Kaslo (26 of 46) On another day we decided to explore the road north toward Duncan Lake, and took the long dirt road to the towns of Argenta and Johnsons Landing.  We read about these two historic places in the Kaslo travel guide and Mo loves old small historic towns, so 30 miles or so round trip on a dirt road seemed worth it.  To our surprise, Johnson’s Landing is completely locked up and private, and we didn’t drive as far as the world famous trailhead at the entrance to Fry Canyon.   There are a LOT of day hikes and longer hikes in the Kaslo area.

Someday, when Abby doesn’t need to be pampered with short walks, we may come back and hike the canyon, but on this day we knew long hikes were not on the agenda.  Abby is doing well, but long hikes are out of the question.

Kootenay Lake north of KasloOn a bit more sober note, I took several photos of what looked to me like a glacial outburst type of landform, adjacent to the lake near Johnson’s Landing.  Nowhere did I find information about this until today, researching links for this blog, when I found the story of the devastating Johnson’s Landing Landslide of 2012. (link here)  It is somewhat disturbing to me that I could blithely drive around this area, that I could talk to people in Kaslo about being there and going there, and not one local person mentioned this tragedy.  Just for perspective, here is another ( link ) to what we read about Argenta and Johnson’s Landing from the BC tourism website.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

north of Kaslo (45 of 46) We did finally find something to look at in the community of Argenta, where the travel guide said “there are many self sufficient types located here.” I imagined hunters and fishermen, but instead we found huge organic gardens and lovely tanned men in colorful sarongs and young women with beautiful hair driving older SUV’s.  Not many mind you, but enough to realize that this area was an enclave to hippies in the best sense of what that word can mean.

Today, while researching this post, I found this rather fascinating story about Argenta that wasn’t in the Kaslo Visitor Guide.  Seems as though a group of California Quakers established the community, building the Argenta Friends School where they taught homesteading skills and welcomed draft dodgers.  The school was closed but the nature of the community has remained intact.  Peace loving, simple living Quakers and peace loving, simple living hippies have a lot in common.

north of Kaslo (18 of 46)We drove north toward the Duncan Dam, found the beautiful overlook and gorgeous lake, and then traveled north even further to the tiny hamlet of Howser. 

north of Kaslo (28 of 46) There is a lovely Provincial campground at the end of the road, and we were really sorry we hadn’t put the kayaks back on the car after our day on the water at the bigger and windier Kootenay Lake.north of Kaslo (35 of 46) I took photos of campsites where the MoHo could fit, with only a couple of miles of dirt road to navigate.  I am sure we will return to this place.  Both of us loved Duncan Lake more than Kootenay Lake: it was far more remote and protected with the glassy water kind of kayaking and bird life that we love.

north of Kaslo (12 of 46) We also checked out the two Provincial campgrounds right on Kootenay Lake just a few miles north of Kaslo.  Both Davis Creek and Lost Ledge campgrounds are on the water with beautiful views.  No hookups and no reservations, but there were spaces available on the day we visited, so we do hope to someday return and camp.  We decided a few days of boondocking would be interspersed with a day or two at the Municipal Campground where we could charge up and dump before going back to the north.

north of Kaslo (27 of 46)A nice advantage of returning to Kaslo was the delightful outdoor eatery, boasting gluten free sourdough bread, and non GMO foods.  Healthy alternative lifestyles are the norm in this part of British Columbia and it was so refreshing.  Of course, I had a Rueben hot dog, not very healthy or gluten free, but oh so yummy!  They had home made ice cream there as well, but we never managed a return visit.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (54 of 71)Our last day turned out to be cooler and rainy, and we just took some time to relax, go for town walks, and in the afternoon Mo drove me 12 miles or so back south along Highway 31 to Ainsworth Hot Springs, high on my list of todo’s in this area.  Mo didn’t want to leave Abby for an extended time, so while I went to the springs, she explored the lakeshore toward Balfour and found a gorgeous beach with beautiful water and sand where Abby played and swam.  Mo said she even swam all on her own just for fun without Mo having to throw something to encourage her.

(I took no camera or phone to the springs, so these photos are from the internet)

ainsworth_hot_springs_bc_02 I spent two glorious hours, for the paltry sum of $11.00 Canadian, soaking in the hot odor free mineral waters that have made Ainsworth famous.  The springs are no longer in their natural state, but the water is wonderful, and in the big pool the exchange rate is about 6 times per day.  I was glad it wasn’t a weekend, but the place was quite crowded with kids and people, mostly Canadians, but I heard many different languages being spoken.  French, of course, but also Russian and I heard a woman with a beautiful accent from South Africa.

img_ainsworth_pool It was fun being there alone, and I didn’t engage much, but listened to the Canadians talking about their country and their towns.  Especially interesting were the conversations about Calgary becoming way too big with crime coming into the neighborhoods and Lethbridge being a gorgeous place to live with a wonderful university.  I do love my country, I wouldn’t choose any other, but I did find myself unwilling to give away my US accent.  I felt like a true foreigner in a foreign land.  Don’t let the similarities fool you, Canada is NOT the USA.

ainsworth_caves2The best part about Ainsworth Hot Springs are the caves.  They are shaped like a big horseshoe, and the water is about waist deep and the temps were 104F on the day I visited.  You enter the cave, and then walk through into the dark hot steamy interior.  Part way in a very hot waterfall provides a great neck massage if you can stand it and by the time you reach the other end of the horseshoe you are ready for some cool air!  The cave ends in another hot pool, and adjacent to that is the ice plunge pool.  On this hot day, the ice plunge was a balmy 49 degrees F, but after the heat and steam it was still enough of a shock to get your blood tingling.  The ice pool also has a waterfall that is a bit harder to stand under than the hot one.

Ainsworth-Hot-Springs-Cave-2-by-Marcin-Chady After a few rounds through the cave and the ice plunge, I would go back to the main pool and eavesdrop on all sorts of nearby conversations.  When Mo returned two hours later to pick me up I was limp as a dishrag.  Once again, don’t pay attention to the negative reviews.  Ainsworth is a treasure to enjoy for exactly what it is.  Not fancy, not natural, but a special place.

north of Kaslo (31 of 46) There is so much to see in the area, great art galleries and some small museums in Kaslo, including the beautiful sternwheeler the Moyie, but on this trip even three full days and half another didn’t give us enough time to enjoy all of it.  The S.S. Moyie is the world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler and has been lovingly restored in the last few years.  It represents a great era of the history of Kootenay Lake and Kaslo.  I loved hearing the loud steam horn blow in the afternoons.

Kootenay Lake kayak (27 of 27)It was with a bit of melancholy that we left on Thursday morning.  But there was something very special waiting for me back in  Klamath Falls on the coming weekend and I wasn’t about to miss it.  We knew our time wouldn’t be long enough but it was OK.  We saw enough to know that this is a place we will return without question.  It is under 1,000 miles from home and best of all, it isn’t at all crowded!  After being in the Canadian National Parks of Banff and Jasper when it felt like a crazy zoo, it was so refreshing to enjoy the beautiful Canadian Rockies in such peace.  

Drive to Duncan Lake If you are interested in ALL the photos, they are here in my SmugMug trip gallery:

Next: the Long Way Home

 

08-10-2014 North toward British Columbia

Current Location: home in Rocky Point…but you already know that right?

As soon as it was decided to have the Oukrop reunion in Spokane, Mo and I were thinking, “Yes!  A chance for another trip to Canada!”  Especially nice was the idea that we could dip into Canada without having to purchase very much fuel while we were there.   

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (15 of 71)The Kootenay Lake loop north from Bonners Ferry and back through Nelson to Spokane can be done in a long day.  I used to do it back in the days when I lived in the area.  Some of my favorite photos (remember I have been scanning old photos for a month now) are from one of those trips back in the 70’s.

1985 Sue and Maryruth833 1985 Sue and Maryruth834

Sue and Maryruth Girl Time at Destiny Bay 1985

In the mid 80’s I took my grandmother on a road trip over the same route to Kaslo, staying in a little motel there for a night before returning.  It was one of the last long trips I took with her.  In the mid 80’s Maryruth and I celebrated my 40th birthday at the fabulous Destiny Bay Resort, no phone, no TV, just two days of girl talk and a trip to Ainsworth Hot Springs.  Ahh, such great memories!08-75 Kootenay Lake

Two of my girls on Kootenay Lake 1975

It was a place I was excited to share with Mo.  We often try to get to places that neither of us have seen, but that is getting harder and harder to accomplish.  This time the Kootenay Lake Loop was my idea and it turned out great.  Mo loved Kaslo and the entire area.kootenay

When we left Spokane at the 1:00 PM check out time for Riverside State Park, it was hot.  Surprisingly, the farther north we traveled the hotter the temperature!  We took the familiar route north along Highway 2, one we have traveled several times, and in spite of the beauty of the Pend Oreille River and the little town of Sandpoint, we were not inclined to stop and linger.  Not only was it hot, but the skies were so smoky from fires in the Okanagan and the Colville Reservation area I took no photos.

With no solid plans for where we wanted to stay, I pulled up CampWhere and AllStays, and we decided that a free night at the Kootenai River Inn was a good choice.  We could offset some of our travel expenses with a free boondocking night, and be ready to cross the border early the next morning.  What we hadn’t considered was that the temperatures would still be in the high 90’s as the sun set. 

With permission from the front desk, we parked out in the far end of the lot, no jacks down, and we left the slide closed.  Started up the generator to run the air conditioner and settled in to relax a bit.  I had planned to cook up some quesadillas for supper, but instead, with the heat, we ate some of Wynn’s leftover lasagna she so kindly packed up for us the day before.  We had a moment of trouble with the generator providing enough juice for the air conditioner, but discovered that if we took the fridge off automatic and put it on gas only we had no problem.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (1 of 71)I walked around the parking lot trying to get some photos of the August 10 supermoon, but almost everywhere I walked there were telephone lines and houses.  Even down along the river by the hotel I couldn’t find a place to set up a shot.  Oh well, I still got to look at it, and with the smoke in the atmosphere it was bigger and redder than I expected. 

Only a minor glitch to mar the evening was easily remedied.  An older RV pulled in front of us, and actually backed up so that their rig was just feet from our front bumper.  Then they turned on their generator.  It was loud and it was old and the fumes were so bad we couldn’t breathe.  By this time we had ours off and the windows open, so it was getting too hot to close them.  I hemmed and hawed a bit, and then in my most sweet possible face I walked over to the rig where folks were playing cards and very nicely asked, “Are you planning to run your generator long?  If so we will move”. 

The guy was a bit taken aback at first, I guess he had no idea his fumes were so bad, but then he was kind and actually moved his rig far enough forward that we could breathe with the windows open.  Nice interaction, although a bit scary for me at first to do that.  In addition, the railroad route runs right along the parking lot, and those horns were loud!  Maybe none came by during the night because I had no trouble sleeping after we turned off the generator and turned on the fantastic fan for some air.  It was a hot night!

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (6 of 71) We had planned to enter Canada at the smaller Porthill crossing, but I somehow missed the turn (remember I mapped soils here and supposedly KNOW the roads), and ended up going in through the 24 hour Eastgate crossing.  Highway 3 exits west toward Creston just north of the border, and the drive was lovely so it wasn’t a problem.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (4 of 71) The crossing was incredibly simple.  The guard looked at our passports, checked Abby’s rabies certificate and asked if we had any produce or firewood.  “Half a head of lettuce” and he didn’t care a bit.  I do think he asked our destination and if we had been in Canada before and where we crossed.  The whole process took maybe 3 minutes. 

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (5 of 71) Once over the border, we headed west toward Creston, stopping at an ATM to withdraw some Canadian cash.  Creston is nothing like I remember.  What was once a dingy little place now boasts cute shops, restaurants, a nice looking downtown, and even murals!  We passed by a couple of RV parks that we had considered for the previous night and were perfectly happy with our casino docking choice.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (25 of 71) Kootenay Lake is incredibly gorgeous.  Creston is at the southern end of the Canadian part of the Kootenay Valley (it is Kootenai in Northern Idaho) and the lake is long, narrow and deep lying between the Selkirks and the Purcell mountains, which extend northward in British Columbia and southward into the US. The waters of Kootenay Lake end up eventually in the Columbia River at Castlegar.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (18 of 71)The mountains range on both sides of the lake get higher and more rugged toward the north, but the road that parallels the lake is an easy route.  There are lots of places to stop and check out the views, and in spite of the smoke I tried to get some photos. 

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (12 of 71)There is a small tourist attraction along the lake called the Glass Bottle House.  I had been there many times, the photos of my kids above were taken there, but Mo wasn’t all that interested in doing the tourist thing, so I simply took a few photos from the outside.  It is interesting if you feel like stopping and paying for the views and the story.

The main destination for us and for a lot of other folks was the ferry that crosses the lake to the little hamlet of Balfour.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (27 of 71) This ferry is part of the BC highway system and doesn’t cost a penny.  During the high season, the ferry runs about every 50 minutes between Kootenay Bay and Balfour, with a second smaller ferry put into service during peak times.  We were lucky enough to snag a trip on the big ferry, sharing our ride with some very big logging trucks and a lot of RV’s.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (37 of 71)Check out the MoHo tucked in with those logging trucks

The wait at the ferry wasn’t long at all, and as the vehicles lined up to load I was sure we wouldn’t get on.  I was totally amazed at the load that ferry could carry. Not only did we get on the first trip, another two lines of vehicles next to us got on after we did.  I still can’t quite figure out how they fit all those rigs on that boat!Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (38 of 71)

The crossing is beautiful, taking just 35 minutes, with gorgeous views both north and south on the lake.  Once the ferry landed in Balfour, we were unloaded quickly and in minutes were on our way north on Highway 31 toward Ainsworth Hot Springs and the little town of Kaslo where we had reservations for the next three nights.  Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (34 of 71)

Next:  Four Days in Kaslo