YWCA Hotel was a very comfortable establishment and I would recommend it to any traveller in that region. I was bunked with one young girl in my dorm, but Graeme was bunked with 4 young men from various parts of the world. So, knowing what goes down in these places (thanks to previous travelling experiences) he put in his silicone earplugs and took ½ a sleeping tablet. At 4h30 he found himself being shaken vigorously by a young French tourist. He thought it was a midnight raid to establish verification of reservations, but once he took out his earplugs it was to discover his alarm ringing at full volume and all the young men glaring without compassion, nor understanding, at him….. He had forgotten to cancel the alarm set for our very early trip from Invermere to Lake Louise the previous week….. and if I think of the language used by the French tourist in Patagonia when a similar thing happened in our dorm at the hostel, I can only imagine the expletive thoughts being thrown out at Graeme.
Before I forget….I have since established that my reindeer from my previous blog was in fact, a caribou. So Rudolph remains safely with Santa Claus for now.
After breakfasting we made our way to Sulphur Mountain to hike to the top for the amazing views that everyone had told us about. I took one look at the incline and Graeme took a second look at it and the specs on the info board and conceded that it was not a hike for me to do. So we went to see how much the gondola would cost and changed our minds altogether about seeing views from the top of Sulphur Mountain. Neither legs nor pocket would make it happen. We then tootled our way over to Tunnel Mountain instead…the inclines were tough enough, but do-able in the end and we saw the very same views, except that we looked onto Sulphur Mountain instead. The panoramas are truly breathtaking and very difficult to capture in either words or photographs. But even more satisfying is the tranquil peace and noisy silence of nature around us. Really refreshing and fulfilling.
It was now time to wend our way north west to Revelstoke. We stopped for picnic lunch at Minnewaka Lake and ate our sarmies and drank our hot chocolate in sharp, icy winds. Just beyond Field, we stopped to see the spiral tunnels, built by the Canada Pacific Rail Company for their trains to cross the very high mountain passes in the region. Absolutely fascinating as they cause the track to figure-of-8 across itself and the trains end up crossing over each themselves as they traverse the tunnels, especially since these trains can measure up to 2,7 km in length (more about this observation later). We were very fortunate indeed, since as we were on our way back to the car, I heard a train and we rushed back to the view point and watched a train spiral its way over itself and it took my brain a while to figure out in which direction the train was actually heading. Graeme tried to take video of it since I become a bit 10-thumbsish when I get over-excited and he managed a small clip before the camera's battery said howzit!
We then took a minor detour to go and see the Natural Bridge and Emerald Lake. Again…the colours and the phenomenon of it all is difficult to conceive without actually witnessing it. Such blues and power and artistry in nature - so magnificent. Until the busloads arrive - then it just becomes a market place of incessant babbling!!!! However, our timing has always been very fortunate, in that we either arrive before or just after the busloads of babblers in most places. After again taking in the serenity of it all and taking photos around every corner (because each corner has a more magnificent view, or frame, or perspective) we hopped back into the trusty vehicle and started again towards Revelstoke via Golden. The scenery began to change to very high mountain peaks with very distinctive and deep valleys. The mountainsides, covered with exceptionally dense rain forest vegetation, were dripping with snow and glaciers. Everywhere we looked, we saw whiteness, stunning, pure whiteness with the black Oreo breakthroughs at the top of the peaks.
It took a while, but after a few silly assumptions and bad decisions re which off-ramp to take, we found our motel (which would have been right there if we had not taken the off-ramp) and we were transported right into the old Cowboy and Crooks movies. Our little dive was called Frontier Motel, but hey….even that beats a tent in the snow flavoured cold. The door opened to accost our nostrils with the musty odour of damp….we discovered why when Graeme stepped into a puddle of water on the carpet on his side of the bed next to the three legged and thus, wobbly fridge. His socks, needless to say, were no longer a comfort to him. However, there was a bath, so I was quite happy to stay if simply to just soak the cold out of my bones. Time came for a bath only to discover that there was no plug and the bath was so shallow that had there been a plug the water might have soaked one inch of my non-existent calf-muscles. But, the shower was hot and we slept very comfortably - it really wasn't as bad as I'm making it sound.
Next morning took us up to the Mt Revelstoke National Park to make our way up to the summit to, again, see the awe-inspiring views of the surrounding landscapes. We stopped at a view point on the way up and Graeme caught his finger in the car door - only the tip of his fingernail, but enough to have blood spurting forth - and so, my trusty first aid box, which had drawn many cynical comments from my children as I had prepared it, came in very handy and the problem was sorted in a jiffy. It was throbbing badly, so I gave him a pain killer too. Noddy badge moment, I tell you - I felt very competent! We met a lovely couple who walked around the summit with us. Eric and Anne from Kamloops provided us with lots of interesting information and in the end invited us to stay over with them in Kamloops if we find ourselves in the area. Our walk-about at the top of the summit of Mt Revelstoke gave us many different views of the thickest fog I have ever seen in my life - and it was snowing pellet snow down on us….so much for that then!!!!
On our way down the mountain again we encountered a hike called Broken Bridge and decided to walk it. It was a forest walk and started off very prettily, but Graeme was not up to it….great disappointment at the summit experience was setting in, and so we about-turned to return to the car. He made good speed of his return (which is nothing new) and I simply took my time and enjoyed the little bit of forest available to me….and lo and behold, a little squirrel came to save my day again….he chirped noisily to warn all forest creatures of my presence and then curiously peeked around the trunk of his tree at me from a number of different positions. I so wish I could have one as a pet, but I do know that it is in nature that they belong and the character would probably change altogether if domesticated!
When we got to the bottom of the mountain the pain killer kicked in and Graeme needed to cat nap and I used the time to look for alternative activities in the area to fill our daytime hours. We made our way to the Begbie Falls walk. This was such a good decision…again, a walk through the forests, but a challenging walk, so the competitor came out in Graeme and he actually enjoyed the walk. Just as we got to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the middle of the walk, a sign indicated that a toilet was situated off to the left. My bladder rejoiced at the thought and so I went off to the left and Graeme waited for me at the cross road. It was only to find that the loo was at the summit of Mt Everest, so a good old South African bush-pee became the order of the day….I squatted and prayed that no grizzly would decide that it would be good moment to make an appearance!!! Well, I'm still alive with my pants on to tell the tale…… Just watch those pine trees grow in the next couple of weeks!!!! I re-joined my patient spouse and we completed the walk through glorious moss carpeted forest floors and found ourselves at the foot of the falls and faced with a school of crimson salmon fighting for space in the pool beneath us. What a sight! We then backed to the mouth of the creek which feeds into the mighty Columbia River which weaves its blueness through the valley between Begbie, Revelstoke and other mountains. The walk back to the car went a lot faster than expected and was again filled with squirrely entertainment.
After some grocery shopping and the sorting of some IT issues in town we made our way for our second night of motel luxury and upon arrival, Graeme discovered that he had lost the key to our room…they were so understanding and didn't even expect us to pay the anticipated fine.
Following day we made our way back into the Glacier National Park to do some of the walks along that route. We started with the Giant Cedar Boardwalk - it was like entering a wonderland of forestry with cedars growing since the 15th century that travel unendingly skywards. I made Graeme walk it a second time going in the opposite direction to see it from new perspectives and actually just didn't want to leave - so beautiful it was. Second up was the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk - also pretty but not as exceptional as the Cedars. Then we hit a trail simply called 1885. This was a 7,2 km walk along the old Canadian Pacific Grade before it was discontinued (we cannot find out when this happened). It was a very easy and level walk and also a little eerie as you walk along old moss covered wooden sleepers that are only distinctive because they give the terrain a rippled surface. We stopped to eat a snackbar at a picnic table upon our return and then drove on to the Rock Garden Loop. Stunning enormous Moss and lychen covered boulders that appear to have been deliberately positioned to form a beautiful garden. Then on to the Skunk Cabbage boardwalk. This would have been a stunning walk in the summer time when the yellow skunk cabbage lilies (look much like Arums) are in full bloom, but all we saw was giant plants in the process of dying off for the winter months. But we did encounter a brightly coloured hairy caterpillar along the path. We had lunch here and my fingers were frozen icicles by the end of lunch time, which I saw as a foreboding for our camping again that night - Graeme had decided that he was NOT going to wake up in a smelly motel room on his birthday!!!
And thus I found myself on the shores of little Lake Williamson. What a very pretty setting!!! We set up camp and then took off to walk around the lake, and although this was pretty enough it was a little underwhelming.
Turns out that the temperatures next to this lake are very mild compared to those under snow-capped mountains, so I slept quite comfortably and we woke feeling really refreshed on Graeme's birthday to a full view of mirrored reflections on the glassy-surfaced lake before us.
The weather had cleared and we decided to try Mt Revelstoke another time. Wow, wow, wow….so glad we did. What magnificent panoramic views that photographs will never be able to reflect. Once again squirrels and chipmunks did their thing for us in the early hours of the morning. We did a number of the walks on the summit, but avoided the hikes due to the fact that we needed to get to St Ives on Shuswap Lake for our next leg of Time sharing by 17h00. So, once we had seen everything we wanted to see, we reluctantly descended the mountain and made our way into town to do our shopping for the week to come. That done, Graeme dug around in his portfolio to get the travel details for St Ives only to find that he had mixed up the dates and we were only due to move in the following day!!!!!!! Oh my sainted aunt wearing the holy hat of Scarlet Johannsen!!!!!! That resulted in our having to find another camping spot for the night…..I will not even try to explain my feelings!!! It also meant trying to find another bottle of gas for our stove since we had run out of gas the previous night….now to find gas in Revelstoke??? Eveeeeeeeeentually, Graeme found a place that sold the stuff, but only in packs of 4 cans…so now we have way too much gas for the remainder of our trip! We also tried to kill time by visiting the historical museum…possibly the most boring museum I have ever visited in all our travels. We found Lamplighters Campsite and it all seemed pleasant enough, so we chose what we thought was a very nice spot to pitch the tent. They had a communal kitchen and dining area which was warm and cosy, so we moved in there for the evening. We celebrated Graeme's birthday with Cup-o'-soup and scrambled eggs on bread and then spent the rest of the even playing card games…Crazy 8's, Golf (yes, you read right) and double solitaire. Time came for bed and I filled my trusty water bottle with hot water and dressed up like an Eskimo and hit the sleeping bag….BUT, still I froze…as did my water bottle…..and then we discovered to our dismay that the campsite was situated right alongside the railway line…..remember those 2½ km long trains I told you about??? Well, none of this boded well for a good night's rest! I was a miserable soul when the sun rose and it was time to leave again.
At LASSST…. The time came for our journey to St Ives. En route we stopped in at Crazy Creek falls and walked across the suspension bridge and then sat above the falls for a long while, just unwinding. Here the squirrels were really tame and I managed to get some lovely pics, but the chipmunks still scurried around most uncooperatively and so no pics of them. We popped in at 3 Valley Gap (I think) but changed our minds re visiting the Ghost Town there and we stopped to lunch at a rest area at the very beginning of Shuswap Lake….this lake has a circumference of 1000km. The colour of the lakes here are no longer a varying palette of turquoises and aquamarines, but now they vary in shades of teal greens and en masse, appear almost black - the colour of stout is how I would describe them.
We got to Sicamous and having read that we are now in farmland country, I insisted on stopping in at fruit and vege markets and any other farming produce places along the way. Of course we bought produce!!! At D Dutchman dairy we bought 2 litres of ice cream for the week. Our last pop-ins were at Salmons Arm - the metropolis of the lake side villages and visited thrift stores (got some nice books for a song) and yet another farmers' market. Left that for our next leg of 100+km around the lake to register, thankfully, at St Ives Resort on Shuswap!!! Phew!!!!