Holidays and Birthday!

31 Jul


The Railroad is as major a feature here as the lakes and mountains. We complain about its noisy presence (I am sure the drivers delight in sounding there horns extra loud around known campgrounds) but have to accept that were it not for the railroad, and the engineers who constructed it in such harsh circumstances, few if any of the towns and roads would be here, and the roads would be far busier with lorries carrying the vast amounts of freight the trains seem to move. On highway 1 between Lake Louise and Golden a viewpoint gives visual access to a series of tunnels which allow the railroad to pass through steep and difficult terrain on its journey from east to west. Known as the Spiral Tunnels the viewing area is a busy place with visitors reading the information boards and trying to orientate themselves with the model of the terrain and the tunnels, working out which route the trains take to pass through the mountains, also hoping that in the time they have available they may see a train loop its way around and confirm their theory on the route.

When time is of no importance you can spend as long as you like waiting for the train, and, as we had passed one along the road we actually knew it couldn’t be long before it arrived in view. The trains never seem to move very fast and are very long (another bone of contention at night when they are rumbling and bumping past the campground, squeaking around the corners or grinding to a halt) and it was actually about half an hour before, in the trees behind and above us, a loud honking announced the arrival and everyone turned to see the large red engine. It had to turn just less than 360 degrees in a tunnel behind us whilst descending to allow it to go under the rail track it had just passed over, then under the road to our left to cross below and in front of us before disappeared off in the trees to the right to eventually reappear going into the top entrance to the second tunnel visible to us. Five minutes later the front reappeared from the lower entrance whilst at the same time the middle of the train was still entering the top opening and the last few trucks were just passing in front of us. You probably had as much difficulty following that as I did trying to write it! There will be photos, but… it is all quite complicated to work out – unless you are an engineer!

Running into Golden the scenery was again quite magnificent, huge mountain ranges stretched out in all directions and a steep down hill brought us to the turning for the main part of town. We found the municipal campground at around 3pm and walking to the office the heat of the afternoon melted us yet again, we were greeted by one of the rangers carrying half a dozen large bags of ice and the comment of ‘this feels real good’ , it was 34 degrees! We were allocated a pull through site and once set up flopped to try and stay cool. The sky was threatening across the valley and sure enough before too long we heard rumbles of thunder, a few spots of rain were all it managed to send for us, even though the thunder clouds rolled across the valley until bedtime, it did however cool the temperature a few degrees.

A couple of showers through the night brought a pleasant morning for us to explore Golden which, amongst other things, actually has two decent supermarkets (with sensible everyday prices) and a bank with a Visa ATM. It sounds like we have been out in ‘the wilds’ with no services for weeks, whilst it is probably more like 10 days, and you realise how much we have come to expect these things to be on every corner. With the intention of returning to Golden for the Wednesday Farmers Market we left the town to visit Kimbasket Lake, we had spoken with a very helpful (aren’t they always) lady in the Information centre who had given us great local information and said we would like the lake campground. Around 45 min from Golden we turned off the Highway on to a dirt road which was very amusingly signed along its 5km length to persuade visitors to drive slowly, thus avoiding bumps and dust, we dutifully trundled along at less than 10miles an hour but still created a dust cloud behind us, a truck and fifth wheel coming in the other direction were doing exactly the same thus covering the front of us with dust too. The signs assured us the drive would be worth it and sure enough a picture postcard blue lake emerged at the end of our drive. The lake is the other end of the one we had hoped to reach when in Valemount but had aborted the rough forest road after six miles and half an hour, the mountains we can see are the opposite side of the range which the Columbia Ice field sits on, looks like we have come around in a circle, the vastness of the area is hard to comprehend when you realise that from Valemount to here we have travelled 500 miles. The Campground itself is obviously suffering, like the rest of us, from heat exhaustion and the grass has turned brown and dusty but the view from the terraced pitches, the little beach and the small boat jetty make a very pretty campground which was almost full by the end of the day which once again had reached 30 degrees.

(Now writing on Thursday 30th)

The heat continues and is now being classed as a heat wave all across BC apart from one small area in the extreme south east of the Province. Wild fires in the Kelowna area have been a problem and the whole Province is on extreme wild fire alert. We are, according to one report under a weather system which is extremely slow moving and will be a while before it changes. We are therefore trying to minimise our late part of the day movements and arrange to be somewhere cool and shady before it gets too hot!

We spent another night in the Golden area this time at the Golden Eco Ranch Resort. We had a lovely pull through site overlooking a field and mountains to both sides, the fact that the field was the landing zone for the hand gliding club and the huge mountain to the left was where they took off from and soared around, made for an even more interesting view. Tandem flights were available but neither of us could pluck up enough courage to jump off a high mountain to glide back to a bumpy earth landing!

We may have stayed another night but the sites with views were all booked up, this will be a long holiday week-end in BC and with the weather everyone is heading out for the sights and cooler (hopefully) lakes and rivers. Assessing the map we felt Fairmont Hot Springs was a good travelling distance and final destination, calling ahead we discovered most of the bookable sites were taken apart from one at $55 ( we usually pay $15 at Provincial Parks up to $40 for fully serviced private campgrounds) or we could take pot luck on un-serviced first come first served sites. We thought we could manage with pot luck!

The highway from Golden follows the Columbia River and the railroad. The pine clad mountains opening out to a wide valley with wetland spreading either side of the river, this is the largest area of wetland in BC. Very little habitation is obvious along this stretch of highway, two or three small places highlighted on the map emerged to be a gathering of a few properties, the land looks like it should be fertile but seems not to be being utilized at present. The last few miles before Radium Hot Springs are blighted by the large advertising hoardings and the town itself looks like it is growing at a rapid pace with apartment blocks either completed or nearing completion on a large area of land in the town. Just along the road is Invermere, lying at the head of Lake Windermere, it is a little smaller but equally advertised. Fairmont in comparison seemed smaller, that is before the Hot Springs Resort which we turned into around 1pm. We took a walk to view the sites available giving us a chance to assess the resort and surroundings. Verdict was – busy – poor access for most of the available sites – the few suitable sites open and in full sun. Back in haRVey we reviewed our books and called a couple of campgrounds to hear they were fully booked for the week end and up to Tuesday, we should have known better.

A call to Mountain Shadows RV resort back up the road over 30km proved more successful and we reserved one night and trundled back arriving rather hot at 2.30pm in 28 degrees. The campground however proved to be a well maintained pretty spot with mature trees, well spaced sites with full hook up and the benefit of WI-FI INTERNET. We booked a second night and have a wiggly line behind that just in case we wish to stay longer.

As I am writing it is 5.45 pm and we have just started to hear thunder rumbling down the valley, maybe we are going to get some much needed cooling rain after all. Ahh! I also hear the glug of the celebratory glass of red wine (BC grown of course) for Robert’s birthday which we are celebrating today.

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