Our next destination was Nelson. It was a stunning drive, first along 25km of dirt road, still marked on google maps as a highway, before climbing on Highway 3 and heading into small town Canada. Tantalisingly close to the US border and separated only by a slither of hills, the towns felt like the abandoned small mining towns of the state, quaint in their memories of trades past. We raced the sun into Nelson, arriving just at sundown to our next rest stop. We were now in the Kootenay region and blue signs informed us this was the Hot Springs area of BC. The high street was tall townhouse style shops, now filled with healing herbs and ski gear, a unique high street of a town awaiting winter. A skunk crossed the pavement in front of us and scuttled under a car. When disturbed by Monique’s torch light he returned to the path in-front of us as we looked on in surprise at his presence, however he made it clear he was not interested in making friends, quickly going to lift his tail, our cue to run.
The town boasted lots to see and do but first we met Kelly for coffee at a locals favourite, Oso Negro. She joked that it wouldn’t belong before she saw someone she knew. We were there half an hour before her Uncle Tony walked in and joined us. The towns position in the valley of the mountains makes for many adventures in each direction. First we checked out the towns picturesque Cottonwood falls, set in a Japanese garden in unusual setting of a carpark of the industrial part of town. Naturally, next came Cottonwood lake, a short drive towards the ski hill and clothed in shadow from the afternoon sun. A few were trying their luck fishing here, but we moved on, across the aptly named ‘Big Orange Bridge’ to climb the Pulpit for a view over town. The steep climb crossed back and forth rising away from the Kokanee Lake until the viewpoint emerged in front of us. The small airport serving the town had ‘Nelson’ written on the tarmac, signalling to us and the aircrafts of this little treasure in the mountains.
Our drive shadowed the edge of the Kokanee Lake up to Kaslo, a high street frozen in time. Kelly and her family were welcoming us into their house for a few nights, as long as we would share our beds with three pugs who seemed to get more energetic come night fall. Each had its own personality and kept us amused with their adventures.
The next morning, I met Joe and Jess for a hike to Kokanee Glacier. The toughest part was the drive to get there as I was directed up a forestry road which continued to climb and climb. It was unrelenting with potholes and grit and without phone contact, I wasn’t entirely sure if anyone would be waiting for me at the top. Luckily, Joe and Jess were there and together we strode on to find hidden lakes with glacial lookouts. Halfway to the top, on a little goat trail, my phones GPS who had been quiet for a long time suddenly to our amusement demanded I take a U turn. The area is a popular spot for Porcupines which luckily for us, are noctornal. Anyone wanting to stay overnight has to protect the underside of their car with chicken wire secured with rocks, as porcupines are known to take a nibble on your break cables.
Leaving Kaslo the next morning we wanted to check out the waters of this mineral rich area and we visited Ainsworth Hot springs. On the banks of the lake, this spot has been a sacred place for the local first nation band, Ktunaxa (K-too-nah-ha.) There is a cave in which rich, hot water pools and floods from the walls. After a few minutes, the heat and darkness made me light headed, enough to brave the cold plunge pool outside. Any excuse for a competition, Jess, Joe and I took on the challenge one by one, lasting mere seconds before returning to the temperate waters of the outside pools.
After lunch we took the car ferry across Kokanee Lake. The ride is scenic as the boat turns north, heading for Kokanee Bay on the farside. It boasts being the longest free ferry ride in Canada and according to a website I stumbled upon, the number 1 thing to do in the Kootenay’s. Now on the far side of the lake, we headed south again along the eastern shore line, nearing ever closer to our new home in Kimberley.
Kimberley was once a mining town with a Bavarian influence which is preserved in its pedestrianised shopping street, the Platzl. Once in Kimberley, the agenda changed from roadtripping, to making home for the season. First on the itinerary was househunting. We found a condo on the ski hill which stole our hearts with its view out onto the mountains and were lucky enough to move in a few days later. With a base sorted, Monique tackled the job hunt, I tackled some hikes in the nordic ski area and we prepared for hibernation before the upcoming ski season. Much to our delight, our new home has a good concentration of quirky coffee shops for us to try and the place has a friendly small town feel where people stop to talk to you in the street whether you know them or not. With Joe and Jess helping us settle in, we got Halloween fever as we had pumpkin carving competitions and headed out to Fort Steele Heritage town for a halloween. We sampled the sunday night bingo at the bar in town, explored the trails through the woods to Dipper Lake and enjoyed racing sticks at Marysville Falls.