Saturday, August 8, 2015


Columbia River Wetlands about 5 miles south of Radium Hot springs looking west toward the Purcell Mountains.
We have just returned from a two week visit to SE British Columbia.  Having heard how congested the Banff area was in the summer, we had decided to stay on the western side of the Rockies in the town of Radium Hot Springs.  
It was an easy, but long trip north from Coeur d'Alene and the border crossing took all of 30 seconds.  Nothing like our experience crossing into Vancouver.  The drive up to Radium was through a long narrow valley which encompasses the headwaters of the Columbia River.  Over 80 rivers feed into the Columbia creating a large wetlands with marshes of horsetails and cattails, streams crisscrossing each other, ponds, flowing rivers, and lakes.  The area is not inhabited due to the seasonal flooding so it provides a wonderful sanctuary for all kinds of waterfowl, hawks, wolves, black bear, and smaller animals.  
Radium Valley Vacation Resort

We stayed in the Radium Valley Vacation Resort and although it was convenient to the town, the hot springs, and the drive over to Banff, we would not stay there again because of the nature of the park.  What we did not know until we got there was that it was an RCI park which caters to family camping and there were children everywhere, including in our site, babies crying at midnight, babies in diapers in the hot tub and swimming pool of the resort, and there were fines for not obeying the rules, which were numerous.  
Radium Hot Springs, Kootenay National Park
The hot springs are in Kootenay National Park about 4 miles from Radium.  There is a hot pool and a cooler pool, although it was still warm enough.  It was reasonably priced because it was run by the national park, so we were able to drive over several times during our visit to sit and soak at the end of the day.  Although the pool itself is similar to a regular pool, the surroundings are steep cliffs with the occasional bighorn sheep or deer walking across up above the pools. 
Fairmont Hot Springs
We also drove south back down to Fairmont Hot Springs one day, about a 30 minute drive, to try their pools.  It was similar to Radium in that there was a hot pool and a cool pool, but the price was double that of Radium.  What was really great however, was that they had a huge rv park attached to the resort back in the pine trees.  So those folks who were staying at the rv park got a special rate and a bracelet to wear which allowed them to enter the pools as many times as they wanted.  After a long soak in their pool we had been tipped off to a good place for lunch called "From Scratch".  One of the best meals we have had on the road in a while.  I had a roast chicken with grilled veggies and Allan had the ribs.  I know it sounds ordinary but the spices and sauces that accompanied each dish were extraordinary.  Sorry, no photos, I know that many of our readers seem to crave photos of our best meals, but we were so hungry after our soak, we just dug in and scraped the plate before we remembered about taking photos. 
Bighorn Sheep in downtown Radium
One thing that really worked out well for us was the location of where we were staying.  Hwy 93 turned east into Kootenay National Park right in the center of Radium.  It was an easy hour and fifteen minutes up to Hwy 1 which is the east/west interstate that goes from Vancouver over to Alberta, Canada.  From that intersection, we could go south about 20 minutes to Banff or north 20 minutes to Lake Louise.  Since the first three days of our visit was rainy, we took the drive to see the town of Banff.  It was mostly hotels, tourist stores, and restaurants.  The only thing we purchased was a jacket for me, mostly because it was on sale from $100 to $40 and $40 Canadian dollars are equivalent to about $32 US dollars and it was a great jacket which, I might modestly say, looked great on me.  
Entrance to Kootenay National Park
We did have a really good lunch in an Irish pub.  What was really interesting for me when I looked at the menu was to see a selection entitled "bacon butty".  Now for many of you who know me really well, you know that I am a foreign mystery buff and have read mysteries in Africa, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Russia, Israel, Canada, and Iceland to name a few.  But I also read a lot of British mysteries and the Inspector is always telling someone to go down to the caff and get him (or her) a bacon butty.  Well there is never an explanation of what that is exactly.  Obviously it is some kind of sandwich, and it has bacon, but other than that I have been clueless.  So I asked the waitress in the Irish pub, what is a bacon butty?  And it is two pieces of white bread, buttered, with bacon in between.  So now you all know too.  Just in case you are ever asked.  

Lake Louise
I have saved the best part of our trip for last.  The visit to Lake Louise was the highlight of our visit.  We had to wait for a sunny day, and we had to leave very early in the morning, as we had been warned that if we did not get there before nine a.m. we would not be able to park very close.  We also had to take the dogs with us, which we usually don't do, but this was going to be a full day.  As we were pulling in off of the highway around 8:30 a.m. we were in a long procession of vehicles all doing the same thing.  We did get a parking spot near the hotel, but when Allan went back to the truck one half hour later to drop off our jackets, the parking lot was already full.   
Lake Louise water tastes good.
We took the walk along the north side of the lake which is the same trail that takes everyone to the teahouses.  We did not want to go that far but did walk over 4 miles, out and back.  The dogs were troopers and had a great time getting admiration from everyone and sniffing noses with other dogs and even going into the water when they wanted a drink.  
Looking back towards the Hotel
We made it all the way to the very end of the lake where water was dripping down from the glacier above.  The minerals from the rocks provide the color of the lake and there was plenty of sediment all around, they even built a boardwalk to get across some of it for the walkers.  We were really glad we saved the best for last.  If we do come back this way, I think we will brave the crowds in Banff and stay at the rv park there so that we can do more exploring in this area.  

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