Twelve days ago, Saturday, June 13, 2015.
Into another country. Which was just different enough to remind me that I was in a different country, which was cool.
It was a long day, although less than 300 miles or 482 km. The kilometer thing was one of those things that was just enough different to keep me on my toes. It took me a little while to figure out that I could use Kestrel’s speedometer (which has km in red on the inside of the little wheel, and miles in white on the outside) to figure out mileage as well as speed, and I was inordinately pleased with myself when I did.
From Colville to the Canadian border just north of Metaline Falls is a stretch of road that felt more and more remote the farther I went. I climbed up out of one river valley and down into another, past several tiny hamlets, and at last I reached a very tidy-looking customs station in the middle of the woods, with a very pleasant white male customs agent. Among other things, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a writer, he asked of what, I told him, he asked more questions, and the upshot was I ended up giving him one of my business cards so he could look me up online and see for himself. He also said, well, maybe you’ll set a book at Banff, and I said, hey, I went to Yellowstone and ended up with a trilogy, so it’s not that farfetched. He laughed and told me to be sure and include the handsome customs agent. I told him I would.
I suspect those customs stations out in the middle of nowhere get pretty boring. That one isn’t even open 24 hours a day.
Once I crossed the border and turned east on Hwy. 3, I started a serious climb up to Kootenay Pass, almost 6000 feet. Almost to the treeline.
Then down to another river valley and the farming town of Creston, where I found an ATM for cash and I bought my first gas in litres, which was interesting. I’d made a calculation before I left home, taking into account that a litre is a bit more than a quart and the favorable exchange rate, and had come up with multiplying the litre price by 3.2 so that I’d have a rough idea what I was actually paying. Gas is a bit more expensive in Canada than in the U.S., but it wasn’t as bad as I’d been thinking it would be.
From Creston, and lunch, where I also discovered that I couldn’t get unsweet iced tea (something that proved fairly consistent wherever I went — I drank a lot of hot tea instead and added my own lemon), I turned north and east towards the city of Cranbrook.
I’d read about a living history museum near Cranbrook called Fort Steele, which made an excellent afternoon stop. It’s sort of a cross between Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan, and Fort Nisqually just down the road from where I live. It’s a whole village of 19th century buildings that have been brought here from all over the region, with living history demonstrations and the whole nine yards. Not a whole lot was going on at the time I was there (part of the issue was that I’d crossed into the Mountain Time Zone without realizing it, and it was half an hour from closing when I showed up), but it was still well worthwhile, learning about the Hudsons Bay Company and the Mounties and so forth.
But I had another couple hours’ drive to get to Radium Hot Springs, a town on the outskirts of Kootenay National Park where I planned to spend the next couple of nights, and I’d just realized the time change (there’d been no sign, anywhere, to tell me), so it’s a good thing it was a straight shot north, up the valley past Columbia Lake, which is the headwaters of the Columbia River (which flows north at this point, which is just wrong). A wall of mountains on my left, another on my right, in between a string of lakes and me on the road. Just beautiful.
The hostel was on a hill above town just outside the park entrance, and had a lovely garden and a very friendly dog to boot. A good place to light while I explored my first Canadian national park (at least since I was a kid).