Tales from the road – “Going Loopy in the Kootenays Somewhere Down the Lazy River”

Hello again from a Kozy place!

You know, there is a reason the slogan of this province is
“Beautiful British Columbia”. Simple, but it sums it up quite nicely. It’s easy
to forget, living here and waking up every day surrounded by mountains and
trees, just how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place. This past week,
Prez and I gave ourselves a little reminder as we headed the Red Racer east and
took a little road trip across part of Big, Eye-Popping, Treemungous,
Riverlicious, and yes Beautiful, BC.

Our destination was Nelson BC, home of our great friends
Becky and Tim “The Ripster” Ripple. Prez and Tim met years ago while teaching Outdoor
Ed at Strathcona Park Lodge. Prez moved away to become a stunt stud, Tim’s path
lead him up many mountains, including Mt.Everest, and he is now an
internationally known climber. With Becky at the helm, Peak Freak Expeditions, has earned a reputation as one of the best (if not the
best) climbing and trekking operations out there. And they’re our friends,
which I believe makes us cool by association.

Aside from finally getting to hang with the Ripples in their
‘hood, this trip was also a bit of a scouting trip to see if Nelson is a place
we might want to live in. With this in mind, our hosts made it their mission to
show us as much of the area as possible in three days. Holy sensory overload
batman! I mean the town of Nelson
itself is a postcard makers’ dream – heritage homes nestled on the
mountainside, majestic cedars, a lake dotted with boats, sunshine and blue skies
– but venture in any direction outside of the town and you will find
breathtaking vista after breathtaking vista. No wonder the biggest crowd of
tourists in town could always be found outside the real estate office’s windows
gazing dreamily at the properties for sale.

Day one we did a loop around Kootenay
Lake with stops at the fabulous
“Chalet Ripple”, the Salmo River,
and Crawford Bay,
among others. At Crawford Bay
you will find glass blowers, potters, weavers and many other artisans including
North Woven Broom. And you’re probably thinking, “Brooms? Why would anyone make
a broom when you can get one at Wal Mart for goodness sakes???” But these are
not just any brooms, in fact if you want to see some of them just go rent any
of the Harry Potter movies – yes, they made those brooms, neat eh? Crawford
Bay is also home to the longest
free ferry crossing in the world and, I might add, the funnest wait I’ve ever
had in a ferry line up. Turns out we showed up just as gaggles of families were
leaving the Star Belly Jam Festival (there are tons of festivals in the
Kootenays) which meant a three sailing wait. Ask anyone who’s had a three
sailing wait for a BC ferry and they’ll likely use adjectives like
“frustrating”, “horrible” or “wanted to
kill myself” (OK, that’s not an adjective but you get the idea) but those folks
didn’t get to eat burgers, drink frosty beers and swim in the lake while
waiting like we did. Three sailing wait? Sweeeeeeet!

We were all eager to start the second day’s loop, a float
down the scenic Slocan River,
as it was roughly 72 billion degrees out and we were all creating rivers of our
own with our sweat. Various floatation devices were loaded in and on our
vehicles, lunch was packed (liquid and solid), bathing suits fastened,
sunscreen applied and we were off!! As we neared the put-in, however, an
ominous cloud appeared. Then came the rain. Not just a sprinkle or a drizzle
but a full-on dump. The Ripster, our fearless guide, assured us the moisture
would move on and soon we’d all be stinkin’ hot again so we braved the elements
and jumped in the water. He was right the rain stopped shortly after we started
the float and the sun did indeed come out again…just about the time we rounded
the corner to the take out and pulled ourselves onto the shore. We weren’t the
only crazy people to do this either, a steady stream of near-hypothermic tubers
and rafters were all over. Yes, Nelson is full of crazy people – my kind of
town. Despite the weather we had lots of giggles and returned to the Ripple Ridge
Estate for a wonderful dinner…in the sun.

On Day three we figured it was time to give Tim and Becky
some peace and quiet, so we went loopy all on our own. This drive took us over
BOB (the Big Orange
Bridge) to North Nelson, on to
Kaslo, across to New Denver, and back along the Slocan
River – home of so many shivery

I love trips with surprises (well except the ones where your
airline goes bankrupt and leaves you stranded in the desert, thank you very
much Canada 3000). Having never been to this part of the world, I was surprised
to learn that Nelson and the surrounding areas were once the center of a silver
mining boom. Prez and I explored one of these abandoned mines – the Amazon Mine
– that we saw just off the side of the road. And just in case any law
enforcement types are reading this I want to say that there were no “no
trespassing” signs (that I saw) and I’m certain that chain link fence we
crawled under was just to keep the wildlife out. There were all kinds of rusty,
old, mining implements scattered about and the shaft we wandered part way down
was cold, damp and creepy! Oooooooooooh, creeeeeeeeppppy! Much further along we
would stop in the “town” of Sandon which in 1898 was a city of over 5000 with
28 saloons, 2 banks, 3 sawmills, a whole slew of silver mines, and 50 buildings
in the “red light” district. Today only a smattering of old buildings remain –
but there’s still one brothel! Unfortunately for the Prez it is no longer in
operation. We were very surpised to learn from the kindly old lady in the
museum that over 35 billion dollars in silver was taken out of the Kootenays.
That’s more than ALL of the North American Gold Rushes combined! Yet another
surprise was the many old Vancouver
trolley buses that were lined up there. How odd to find myself sitting in the
driver’s seat of the Granville trolley bus (or “Brill” as it is properly known)
in a mining ghost town in the middle of the wilderness. Turns out they are
being restored there and then they will be shipped off to various Canadian
museums – but it’s still weird.

Some of our other favorite stops included: Kaslo, a cute
little lakeside town and the resting place of the SS Moyie, the last
operating sternwheeler in western North America; and the 12 Mile Forest Service
Road that we followed up a steep mountain for some of the most incredible views
of peaks and glaciers I’ve ever had. We didn’t see any bears up there but we
did see a large pile of bear droppings and an equally large, muddy, paw print!
And the best part of our loop was coming home to good friends and a yummy Greek dinner at sunset (thank you Becky!).

So are we ready to move to Nelson? Hmmmm. Well, let me
finish with the rest of our trip and then we’ll talk about it.

It would have been very easy to spend our whole week with
the Ripples in Nelson but we had one more set of amigos to visit and we have a real job now so our time is limited. We packed everything into the truck – including one very grouchy cat – and made
a beeline for the home of All-In-Jim, Miss Sue and Max the Super Dog on the
bank of the Kettle River.

The Kettle River has dual
citizenship; spending part of it’s time in Canada and part in the U.S.
For this trip we would have to cross the border to the American stretch of the
river. The crossing, at Grand Forks,
was a small little building but that does not mean these small town border
guards take their job lightly, no siree! At the window, we were ordered to “Put your vehicle in park, turn off the
engine and apply the emergency brake!!”
Yikes. Things deteriorated from
there when we couldn’t properly answer the question, “Where are you going?” We knew we were going to Jim and Sue’s house
but that’s about all and as it turns out the guard didn’t know Jim and Sue (too
bad for him). I fumbled around my seat, trying not to look “terroristy”, and
finally produced Sue’s email with directions which I read out to our stern
faced interrogater. “…at the intersection
turn right and then go exactly 3.74 miles…
” He finally waved us on, his
mind made up, I’m certain, that Canadians are sure a bunch of flakes.

After our whirlwind tour of the Kootenays, Jim and Sue’s
quiet, little place on the lazy Kettle was just what we needed. What a tranquil
setting. Rolling hills dotted with pines and no sounds but the occasional chitter
of a chipmunk…aaaaaaaaahhhh. Interestingly, both sets of friends built their
own houses and they were both amazing. You can certainly do worse than sitting
on a back deck watching the river flow by with a cocktail in your hand.

We met Jim and Sue in Posada a few years ago and have since
become close friends despite the fact that we gave their dog a tumour – long
story. I always find it interesting to meet up with our Baja buddies on their
home turf. Some people lead very different lives up north from the ones they do
down south; I know we did. But Jim and Sue are as laid back and fun loving on U.S.
soil as they are on Mexican. Maybe it has something to do with the river. I
don’t think I have ever enjoyed a river so much in my whole life. So slow, so warm,
you just want to climb on a PFD with a good book and float forever. And we did
float, for four hours anyway (thankfully the sun stayed out this time).

Miss Sue waited on us hand and foot pretty much the whole
time…a girl could really get used to the whole hand and foot thing, let me tell
you. We took a jeep ride into the mountains but really, for me, the highlight
was some good old fashioned R&R. I had the most wonderful nap after our
float!!! Oh and there were the poker games, those were also fun especially when
I kicked everyone’s butts on the last night.

It was hard to leave but we have a big job starting on
Monday and we wanted to get back and get ready. Sigh.

A million thank yous to Tim, Becky, Sue, and Jim for putting
us up and putting up with us this past week, we are very, very grateful!

So back to our decision; will we move to Nelson?

Well, we’re going to try. Nelson seems to offer pretty much
all the things we love: friendly community, rivers and lakes, lots of outdoor
recreation, clean air, friends, good restaurants, arts, etc. etc. In fact we
probably would have moved there long ago except that the thought of being so
far from the ocean has always made us a little claustrophobic. And part of me
still feels strange about going “inland” but Prez and I realized that living
where we are, we hardly go to the ocean anyway and we can always fly back for
fishing trips soooooo…..we’ll give it a couple of months and see how it goes.
If we’ve learned anything in the past three years, it is that you can never
really know how you’ll feel about a place until you live there.

I will say this, as much as I love all our friends here in
the city; we are never here very long before I start to pine for life in a
small town. There is something so comforting about knowing the names of the
people who live and work around you, or feeling safe leaving your doors
unlocked, or not having to fight a sea of traffic to go somewhere. Ukee may
have been a little too small for us (Nelson has a movie theater!) but there’s lots
I miss about it. I know most folks don’t like the lack of privacy in small town
living but I feel, more and more as I get older, that the more people that fill
an area, the less that each individual seems to matter. You can be rude to
someone in the city because you’ll probably never see them again but in a small
town you will run into that person again and again and again – so you learn to
be a little more respectful. In small towns, tolerance and acceptance aren’t
just PC buzz words, they’re a necessary fact of life.

What about you? When it comes to where you live, does size matter?

I am officially rambling. And my tummy is rumbling. Time to
wrap it up.

What a great vacation! Hope you enjoyed this little slice of

Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy &
lovin’ life!

The Princess

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