Saturday, June 3, 2017

Oh Canada!

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Oh Canada!
Jennifer E. Miller

We made it across the Canadian Border! Remember, we obtained those Enhanced Drivers Licenses so had to put them to use. Our vacation road trip was nice with the exception of G losing her wallet and falling on her face, T developing a mysterious rash on his elbows, me getting sick, and repairing the car. Only minor inconveniences.

Our road trip started in Spokane, of course, going north past Elk, Ione, and Metaline Falls, and passing through the border inspection at Nelway. The first Canadian town was Salmo, if I remember right. There wasn't much through these small border towns, except I did swerve to miss a turtle crossing the highway near Ione, and there was an elk crossing sign in Salmo. It looked similar to a deer crossing sign but with an elk; assuming one can recognize the difference. I wonder why there wasn't a turtle crossing sign. Animal discrimination! Sorry, no photos to accompany these claims. You'll have to use your imagination.

Continuing north on Canada HWY 6 (to Nelson), we turned onto HWY 3A toward Ainsworth BC and, further north, Kaslo. With windy narrow roads, the Selkirk loop is a motorcyclist's dream. Bicyclists are fond of this route as well, but due to the extremely narrow shoulders, I wouldn't feel safe riding a bike here. Rarely did cyclists ride in tandem; mostly side-by-side. I'm not sure if this is Canada thing, but it didn't strike me as a very safe way to travel by bicycle. We are, of course, cautious of everyone on the road, but, as you know, not all drivers are mindful.

We stayed one night in Ainsworth Hot Springs and two nights in Nelson, British Columbia. After checking into Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, we drove a little further north to Kaslo and toured the Moyie Museum. It's an old paddle steamship that is permanently shored and set up in period decor. Surprisingly, G found it really interesting and fun. Unfortunately, this is also where she discovered her wallet was missing. After moseying around the gift shop, she went back to the car to retrieve it to purchase some souvenirs and trade her US money for Canadian. We searched and searched, but the wallet was nowhere in the vehicle. We never did find it. It must've fallen out either in Ione when we stopped for a bathroom break, or at the Hot Springs Resort while getting out of the car. She had about USD $8.00 and some change. Originally, she had a twenty dollar bill and a huge handful of change, but mom was smart and encouraged her to leave the twenty and most of the change at home "in case something happens to her wallet." How did I know?

The cashier at the museum's gift shop was a friendly lady and gave her a few Canadian coins out of her own wallet. One was a special commemorative quarter celebrating Canada.

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Next to the museum was a small city beach, where we romped around and took in the beautiful scenery. The snow-capped mountain tips gave a lovely contrast to the sapphire sky and midnight blue of Kootenay Lake. Of all the mountain scenery we saw on this trip, this little spot in Kaslo was my favorite. Quiet, serene, and small town friendly.

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

That evening, back at Ainsworth, we soaked in the hot springs located on the resort's property. The main pool was body temperature (97-100 degrees). This is where most guests hung out. Next to the pool was a walk-through cave connected to hot soak tub (108 degrees) as well as a cool pool (39 degrees). I know what you're thinking: Who the heck wants to soak in 39 degree water? Well, here's the thing: when you walk the cave loop with hot water and jump back into the main body temperature pool, it feels cold. Soooooo....after exiting the hot water, take a quick half-second dip in the cool pool, and proceed to main pool; it will feel warm and cozy. Supposedly, this cycle of hot-cold-warm water is good for your anyway. I did it several times. Unfortunately, for me, the mineral bath wasn't in time; I got sick.

Main pool at Ainsworth Hot Springs.
Photo by Jennifer E. Miller
As I got into bed that night, I noticed my throat felt scratchy. I thought it was from not drinking enough water at the hot springs. I gulped down some H20 and went to bed. In the morning it was worse. No matter, I'll eat breakfast and it should go away on our way down to Nelson. This is what usually happens with allergies for me; sore throat upon awakening and it goes away throughout the day. I tried not to think about it too much. We are on vacation, after all.

Per the advice of the friendly Moyie Museum cashier, we stopped at Fletcher Falls for a short hike. It's an easy hike, but steep in most places. G gained too much momentum from running (hiking 101 error!), couldn't stop, and came to a short drop off of about four feet. Without other options, she jumped, landed on her feet, but her face came forward and her jaw met her knees. Thank goodness she didn't fall on the waterfall side of the trail! While her jaw was sore for the day or so, it wasn't anything serious. However, my sore throat decided to hang around.

Fletcher Falls
Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Also on the way to Nelson, we decided to ride the Balfour Ferry east across Kootaney Lake, as it's the longest free ferry in the world. We saw more lovely scenery and rode it west back across the lake, lest we wanted a road trip within our road trip.

We made to Nelson, checked into our hotel where I proceeded to eat the handful of Halls cough drops I had on me. I was annoyed my throat was still sore; in fact, it seemed to be getting worse. Add cough and nasal congestion to the list of ailments. The Halls didn't do much good and I quickly ran out. We found a grocer and I purchased a different brand called Fisherman's Friend. Not realizing they were anise flavored until I popped one into my mouth, I was a tad disgusted with the taste. I dealt with it because HOLY COW these things work! They are strong and richly soothing. Ditch your Halls and go buy Fisherman's Friend. There were other flavors available and I'm hoping I can find them in the USA. If not, I will head up to Canada to purchase them again (I'm serious; they work that good).

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller
After eating lunch at the Main Street Diner (located on Baker Street), the waiter gave us some sightseeing ideas and we started with the Nelson City Beach. You have to watch when a Canadian says "within walking distance." They clearly are used to walking more than Americans (what does that say about us?) because the walk was about 1.75 miles one way. I know, it really isn't that far, but when visiting a new place, one block can seem like a half mile at times. And with a sore throat doused with anise, across the parking lot feels like walking into a never ending time warp!

We saw many geese, pigeons, ducks, and even a swimming woodchuck on the walk which bordered the lake. The outdoor gym was quite popular and interesting, but I imagine it isn't usable during the winter. In the soccer fields, an athlete walked to the lake's edge, dunked his Nalgene bottle under, and drank. We didn't notice a filter of any sort within the bottle. Pretty sure he was drinking straight up lake water filled with woodchuck and goose poop. I may have thrown up a little in my mouth. Maybe this is normal in Canada; but ewwww! Several statues, or works of art, I should say, line the walkway. Speaking of which, the photos are my works of art; getting tired of typing my name on each photo.

The front statue is pointing at another statue behind it: birds roosting on a pylon

Heron's Landing by Jock Hildebrand

Shoreline with iconic Nelson Bridge

The beach is small, but what else does one need besides sand, water, and sun? It's a popular spot for kayaking, paddle boarding, and sailing. Thong bathing suits are popular for both men and women, including teenagers. Oi! There's another cultural difference.

The vibe of Nelson was overall extremely earthy/hippie. It's a town for organic foodies, wanderers, free spirits, and outdoor enthusiasts. I wouldn't say we didn't fit in, because it seemed to be an overall welcoming town. Since we fall into the more outdoorsy category, we headed slightly out of town for another hike, recommended by the waiter: Old Growth Trail.

The Old Growth Trail trailhead is a "short 11.5 km up Kokanee Glacier Road." 11.5 km is about seven miles which doesn't sound far, but it's a narrow, bumpy dirt road which took at least thirty minutes. Old Growth Trail itself was listed as an easy hike in my guidebook. While it wasn't hard, I wouldn't classify it as easy simply because young children and seniors could find it challenging, especially if unseasoned to any sort of rough or uneven terrain. There are large cedar, hemlock, and spruce trees that are hundreds of years old. I don't think we made it to the extremely large ones as the creek had washed out the trail, which is where we decided to turn back. We enjoyed the parts we were able to hike, and G didn't even hurt herself this time! Since it was Memorial Day, I snapped a photo of us in our American spirited attire with US and Canadian flags. We didn't forget the significance of this special holiday while out of the country!

American spirit in Canada.

Here's a big one growing around a boulder.

Returning to the trailhead required us to step around some man-made stairs because of water run off again. With footing on branches, we heaved ourselves up whilst gripping boulders. At the top, I happened to look in a specific spot and saw a calypso orchid! It is an endangered species in some places (or at least was at one time) because of their delicate nature and pickiness to a specific habitat. I have not found one in the wild until now. Being a bit of a flower nut, I was excited. I wished the flower was facing me for a better photo, but naturally I wasn't going to disturb it.

Photo of Calypso Orchid by Jennifer E. Miller

After T and G waited patiently for me to finish photographing this forest beauty, we returned to the trailhead and got in our car to head back down the mountain to Nelson. That's when we noticed liquid leaking from under the glove box. Sloshing and singeing could be heard, too. Great. We reached the bottom of the mountain where T pulled over to check the fluid levels which appeared normal. If something is leaking, shouldn't the dash be lighting up with alarms, bells, and whistles? That's the whole reason they make cars with bells and whistles, right?

Luckily, we arrived safely into town where we proceeded to find an automotive repair shop. Canadians don't celebrate Memorial Day so businesses are open. The first place we asked only did body work. "Try Walmart across the street or the tire place down the block."

Walmart's auto center is closed on Mondays. The tire place wouldn't take anymore mechanical work for the day. They directed us to a variety of other options. We tried the one across their parking lot simply called The Garage. It's a hole in the wall establishment next to a Crossfit Box. I walked into the tiny, yet inviting, entry area with two sitting chairs and a coffee pot sitting on a shelf recesses into the wall. There was a sliding window with a handwritten sign next to a doorbell that read "ring for service." I buzzed it and someone, presumably the owner, came to the window. I explained we were traveling and told him the issue with the leak and other noises. We were worried about the drive back home tomorrow and would it be possible to look at our car. He was very understanding and said, "Tourists first; the locals can wait." He also stated he tries to keep an empty slot open in case of emergencies such as ours anyway.

We own a Mazda which we pronounce Mahz-duh. In BC, they apparently say Mæz-duh (like the "a" sound in ma'am). I held my tongue about the accent because I didn't want to come across as a snobby tourist. Plus I wanted my car fixed. Remember my previous blog entry about regional accents? Add Mahz-duh/Mæz-duh to it!

The Garage needed about four hours to diagnose and unclogged the air conditioner hose. During part of the wait we headed back to the beach, which is when T pointed out the weird rash on his elbows. I told him to suck it up and be thankful he's not clogged like the A/C hose. He never figured out where the rash came from. Calamine lotion helped.

With the car fixed up we headed home safely the next day. Need car repair in Nelson BC? Call The Garage.

It was smooth sailing from Nelson to Spokane. Crossing the border back into the USA was stricter than entering Canada. Two border agents, not one, inspected us. One searched the car, while the other examined our IDs and asked what we were bringing back. Kids only need their birth certificate to cross the US/Canada border by car, yet the agent politely questioned her. He asked G her name, birth date, and age all which she answered lickety split. Then he asked, "Who's this guy sittin' in front of you driving?" G thought this was an odd question. She gave him a weird look, then looked at me; silently asking what to do. I told her to just answer the questions. "That's my daddy." The agent smiled and let us through. And we were home free. 

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