Our fall 2016 adventure into the west kootenays
There are 4 different weather websites that I frequent to obtain the most accurate prediction of the skies before heading out on a journey. Not that one has proven to be more accurate than the others, but somehow I seem to favor the one showing signs of clearer skies. As if 3 of the 4 predictions are wrong and there really is a glimpse of sunlight to be had for Colossal 2016. It’s something I can irrationally average in my head to make it seem like it’s going to be better than I know it is. The mind is funny that way, always trying to outsmart itself and I’m just along for the ride. Regardless, the forecast wasn’t looking too dry and I was worried that Colossal 2016 would be an epic, wet, soggy bust.
All mental averaging aside, this year’s destination resided in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia around some of the most remote mining territory of late 18th Century. A region quite familiar to me having grown up in the stunning Kootenay valley of Nelson, BC. It’s an area I often encourage my Alberta counterparts to explore on their own time, knowing what a gem it truly is – the natural beauty, the culture, and the peacefulness. Colossal has been happening for 6 years now, although officially dubbed last year, and it felt right to bring it home. It’s the last camping trip of the year. The last weekend to fold out the RTT’s and sleep in the fresh air. The last glimpse of fall before we are forced into hibernation (or ski season!) for the year. But, most of all, I think of it as the last escape – leaving work stress and deadlines behind it’s an excuse to get as deep into the backcountry as possible, disconnecting from our modern world using our trusty Toy’s.
Departure day had arrived. This year would be slightly different – full travel disclosure and locations would not be granted prior to departure. Not sure why I chose to do this and realistically it’s something I still would like feedback on. I guess in my eyes; I see the unknown as the necessity of adventure. Not actually knowing where we would be travelling to in the weeks of anticipation prior to this day seemed like a novelty I was willing to enforce.
Emails, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and text messages had been exchanged for weeks pertaining to vehicle preparation but no details were given on the primary location. Included vehicle and camping requirements had us all bustling to prepare our trucks in time for the trip. (Ask me how much sleep Jeff and I got the night before departure…) Wipers on full, I headed for the rendezvous point just outside of Calgary to gather with the group. Greetings exchanged and the clock ticking we hit HWY 1 Westbound for Revelstoke, BC.
The drive flew buy as chatter on the radio kept boredom at bay and the od hooning stint kept us alert. 10pm passes through the Rogers Pass avalanche tunnels with 14 Toyotas sure brings a sense of calm, or was it abruptly loud RPM bouncing acoustics? One of the two. A pit-stop in Revy for fuel and a few choice words with an enthusiastic member of the local Tinder population and we were bound for camp.
We rolled in late with the rain still trickling over our windshields. It looked like my optimistic forecasting method wasn’t working out so well. Regardless, the group was all smiles as we rolled into our large campsite around 11:30pm. Nothing but turning birch trees, the scent of wet pine, and a backdrop of darkness to set our eyes on. Camp quickly deployed and out came the awnings and beverages to help keep us dry/warm. We had an early start to get to our final destination within a reasonable hour the next day, but without a warm dry bed this night, we figured a night-cap was the least we could do.
Waking up the next morning was easy – simply rely on your fellow travel companions to alert you of sunrise via the gentle and rhythmic panging of camp cookware as they prepare a breakfast feast for sunrise. All sarcasm aside, the view from our campsite made an early morning justifiable. What was a blanket of darkness the night before appeared to be an epic view of Upper Arrow lake from our campsite. A pebble beach and large moss covered rock bluffs sank into the clear waters of the lake.
Low lying clouds wrapped our company as we took in the mysterious views and prepared for departure. We shook the water off our tents as best we could, folded up camp, and raced towards Galena Bay to catch the 9am ferry crossing. Cutting it close for time we made forward progress at speeds suited for smooth pavement; not bumpy, rutted, narrow, gravel logging access roads! Our group eagerly drove up to the ferry gate as the first cars in line were already boarding. Arriving a moment later and we would have missed the ferry!
Our group made form and rolled onto the D.E.V Galena as onlookers pointed at the posse of modified Toyotas. The stern deck raised and we started our journey east across Upper Arrow Lake.
The calm waters and decent 20min ferry ride allowed us all to stretch our legs and finish our morning coffee. As we sailed East, the sun’s rays began to burn off the blanket of cloud, illuminating the basin with dramatic visuals. Anticipation was growing in the group, as they still did not know where we were going. Soon I would reveal the area of interest, but first I pulled out the map and reviewed our route once on the opposite shore, towards one of the area’s great mining boom towns of the late 1800’s.