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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Next: Four Days in Kaslo