backcountry BC

We drove to the middle of nowhere. We’ve been to Africa. It’s not in the middle of nowhere; there are more people than square feet. Where we drove, one can get lost. And no one would be around to know where you might have gone. It feels like a million miles from everywhere–though a grocery store is only an hour away.

Though the teenager was thrilled by this expedition, the younger three wondered when the pain of the drive would end. A couple hours winding British Columbia mountain roads — for what?

We drove…

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And drove…

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And drove…

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When we’d finally get to the turnoff that would tell us that the road was not safe, no longer in use, we turned right and drove up it…

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And drove…

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Good thing we have 4 WD–this ain’t no Sunday drive. Oh wait, it’s Sunday.

The couple hundred feet drops as we switchback along — tumbling rocky mountains and an occasional deer nipping a bush greet us.

The only sign of civilization at the top: an outhouse telling us to “Beware of possible wasp nests! Please latch outhouse door, wind gusts will rip unlatched door off its hinges”.

More than two hours driving, we were ready to rock this mountain (well, two of us were).

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Until the first few steps revealed we’d either gained weight on our trip up or oxygen saturation was lower.

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She’d not be the only one saying “help me”.

It was clear quickly that we weren’t zipping up those footpath switchbacks in the tour books suggestion of an hour. Every half dozen steps up, we stopped for oxygen.

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And selfies that resemble satisfaction.

June 2015 052 But were really excuses to stop.

What motivated us to keep going? This…

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But there were more than a few expressions of this…

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…from everyone under forty one.

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This guy would be the primary role of picnic caregiver, two backpacks. He didn’t complain. Checking our pulses at 150 bpm, out of breath, he knew we couldn’t do it. A good mile of switchbacks UP the mountain–he was the only one trained for this. Imagine that the book says this is an “easy” hike.

June 2015 061 His were sympathy stops.

June 2015 063Luckily, my fascination with botany required me to ‘stop and smell the…’ What is this anyway? A fuzzy, furry head.

June 2015 064 Every direction we turned we’d see this, so surely the end would be worth the effort.

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The flat trails were met with cheers of relief.

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Opposite our trail was the notorious Jumbo Mountain. Locals are resisting the creation of a new ski resort in our quieter mountain community. Someone has cleared patches of mountain for some reason.

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Something I’ve not seen before: new coniferous trees muddied in parts. They might appeared burned on one side, or perhaps an animal has rubbed against it, but I see some type of sap or mud gumming up the needles. This area is so dry there could easily be forest fires — just fifteen minutes away from our home, fire has ripped down the mountain putting the residents on evacuation warning.

We entered a woodland thick with mosquitos.

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Good thing we brought the Africa Deet. So clear was the water, I’m sure it would be drinkable.

June 2015 079 Hand on my chest to shoo away flies attacking my face.

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What are these flowers? We’re only weeks away from the abundant blooming of mountain meadows, but so many hikes, so little time, we’ll likely not find our way back here this summer.

Our most optimistic and hearty child has had quite enough of the bugs and the ‘walk’.

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June 2015 098 Yet, just over trail, someone yells, “I want to sing the Sound of Music…but I don’t have enough breath”. The hills are alive with the sounds of … breathing, panting, huffing.

June 2015 099Which way is north? The Inukshuk will tell you.

June 2015 106We’ve arrived at the highest point. Mountainous views from all directions. Mount McDuff, Mount … .

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June 2015 116Our swimsuits are on, we’re burning hot, ready to jump into the meadow pond, but…we don’t want to wash off the DEET.

June 2015 120Six years old, like daddy like son, he’s accomplished quite a feat. Driving home, my husband naps before his night shift and I take that 4WD off because I’m swinging along these mountain roads like a kid on a playground. We stop to take a dip at the Kaslo beach and collapse in front of the lakeside café for a well-earned burger and fries.

Van Gogh said, “If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere”. But I’d rather find it on a mountain.

Kaslo, British Columbia

It’s the nearest town northeast to where we live. Okay, internet says it’s not a town. It’s a village. The oldest community in the Kootenays.

What are the Kootenays?

These…mountains. Can you see them shrouded in fog?

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The thrift shop occupies the old fire hall. It wasn’t open this day.

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This particular day, we had a twelfth birthday to celebrate. So the birthday girl chose her lunch venue…the Blue Belle Bakery. It reminds me of that Quebec City bistro we visited on our first married Valentine’s weekend in the walled city. But people speak English here. The art on the walls I have coveted for my home since we first passed through this place a year and a half ago.

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I was here on my own birthday. It was the Goddess combo that charmed me. The spinach, caramelized onion, red pepper, tomato and feta cheese, baked in a spelt bun with pesto and olive tapenade. They had me at ‘tapenade’.

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One of its residents was awaiting our arrival to the local floral shop. We had to stop in, just to pet this fellow.

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And we found a non-living creature in another gift shop. Who knew there were giant sized googly eyes…oh wait, that’s my nickname. I mean Beanie Boos.

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Ahh, love at first sight. (We’d come back a week later to adopt him).

All communities this size have a transportation artery, that’s why they came into existence. This one has a tiny air strip, but with all that fog, I imagine it’s not always open. Kaslo is on the west end of the Kootenay Lake so it was also originally a waterway destination. To drive through here is truly off the beaten path. Well worth the mountain views, especially if you like heli-skiing, back country camping or enjoy hot springs.

This is where Osprey live, not Eagles.

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The Kaslo Hotel reminds us of its World War 2 significance. This was one of the local little towns that housed Japanese in the Internment. Far away from everything. It’s sobering past is remembered by huge poster plaques on its outdoor walls. New Denver, a nearby town, hosts the Japanese Internment museum. A haunting history.

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There’s a strip of shops highlighting the artistic nature of a Kootenay resident. Gift shops, delis, the best pizza I’ve had this side of Italy.

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The sweetest little home shop called Willow keeps me coming back. I suggested to the proprietor that the shop reminded me of Home Sense and she said, “Yup, except with all the stuff that people want, not the leftovers people don’t want”. I asked if they’d considered selling coffee in the back. I was told they had considered that, but since the businesswomen of Main Street would tamper with their business, and these are their friends, they’d rather not usurp business activity. Small town. Friends everywhere you go.

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Every time I come in this shop, I’m reminded that I ‘need’ a quilt; and if I decide I ‘need’ bamboo sheets, this is the place to come. Since my style is ‘Grandma English cottage’, I have found my destination design shop.

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Before I leave, I’m told that if I ever need a pit stop for the kids, a bathroom stop, I can always come in through the back.

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This part of British Columbia might not be a sun-lovers favourite if you’re here in February. But the charm, the friendliness, the penchant for casual, also known as ‘running on Kootenay time’ (oh, and the coffee), that’ll keep you coming back.

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