Thursday, September 2, 2010

Return to the Kootenays: Creston Valley

Continued from my previous blog post...

Leaving Creston is simple. The Crowsnest Highway cuts right through the town centre, so you simply follow it out. But as you round the bend out of the charming downtown, you immediately get pied with a slice of strip mall hell. "A-ha! Creston has its ugly side too" I thought. But it's only fleeting. Seconds later you're following a ridge that provides the most spectacular panoramic view of this utopian-looking fertile valley and it's hard not to be moved by the sight of it.

Remember the old computer game, The Oregon Trail?  In the game, you cross the west in a horse and buggy, sacrificing oxen and losing members to Typhoid fever, all in the name of settling the valley of all fertile valleys, godlike rays shining down from above. The Creston Valley looks like that. As an aside, apparently Bountiful is somewhere down in that valley. Of course.

As I drive along I am quite taken by the vastness of this fertile, lush, agricultural valley. I drive by weathered grain elevators not unlike those of small town Alberta. Photo opportunity after photo opportunity pass, and I am struggling with myself: do I pull over, or should I just keep going?

Only a few minutes later down the highway, there's a sign for a scenic viewpoint. Perfect! Coincidentally, the car in front of me decides to do the same thing. We're the only cars here. As I stop my car a few feet behind theirs, two guys in their early 20's get out and walk up to the cliff and take pictures. I pull out my camera and I can see one of them glancing back at me. I yell out, "I decided to copy you!"

We're all snapping photos of this gorgeous valley and the two guys wander over to the lookout deck.

I eventually make my way over and ask, "Have you been here before?" "No, it's our first time." "Me too." The two of them are from Chilliwack and are just finishing up their cross-Canada road trip. They have no fixed itinerary and sometimes flip a coin at a fork in the road to determine where they go next.

We discover that we're all on our way to the Kootenay Lake ferry, although none of us know when it departs or how frequently it goes.

Soon after we all head back to our respective cars, and it begins to rain shortly after. On what was apparently one of the rainiest days ever on record in Vancouver, it finally catches up to me in the Kootenays. I find it strangely comforting and continue my drive up the highway to the Kootenay Lake Ferry.

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Update from Island Lake Lodge outside Fernie in the wilderness

I have been driving practically non-stop since about 3pm Pacific (not including the 30 minute wait for the Kootenay Lake Ferry and the 35 minute ferry ride itself). Oh yeah, and not including my junk food binge at Creston's Dairy Queen, or the gas fill-up across the drive-thru liquor store in Cranbrook. Or the hour I lost crossing the Pacific time-Mountain time zone boundary. I forgot about that one.

It's now 11:15pm Mountain time.

Just when I thought my drive was over, I had a 10km climb up a gravel road through the dark in the forest in low-lying clouds. Very eery (in a Kubrick film kind of way... just kidding), but I am here. And I seem to be alone in this gigantic wilderness lodge outside of Fernie. It's surreal to be here because it feels so remote, and then you've got this lovely lodge all set up, key and instructions waiting for me at the front desk because the staff have all gone home for the night. I am slightly delirious from exhaustion, but the suite here is absolutely beautiful and it seems a shame to have it all to myself.

And get this, I just parked the car in the lot which is away from the lodge, and there's no light because the trees block the lodge... and I actually felt nervous having to walk 50 paces in the dark, where the only lights are the stars and the Milky Way, and the only noises are coming from the forest. I absolutely love it though. The amount of stars is staggering; I only wish I had been here for the Perseids.

This is where I am:

View Larger Map

Can't wait to see it in the morning!