Searching for Fall Colors in The Kootenays
When WeatherBug online contributor George Elliott and his wife Brenda went for their annual vacation in October 2017 it wasn’t planned for so late in the year. However, since both were too busy to take time off in August, they turned the late season trip into an off-season adventure. Their primary goal was to relax and have a break in at least one of the natural hot springs in the Kootenays. Considering the time of year, with fall colors bursting all around, they had a secondary reason for their holiday.
With an interest in ‘touristy’ roadside attractions their first major stop happened to be at exactly that. North of Armstrong is The Log Barn. It is probably best known for the overhead goat bridge that spans above the entrance driveway but there is much more to see. The site contains many large statues of animals – mostly of prehistoric creatures. “It reminded me of one of those cheesy roadside tourist traps from the 70’s so we had to check it out,” Elliott says.
After getting back on the road the pair stopped at a historic site along the highway. The Last Spike at Craigellachie marks the location along the Canadian Pacific Railway where the final spike was pounded completing the cross-country rail line in 1885. It is a significant piece of Canadian history that is easy to speed past without realizing it.
After a night in Revelstoke and touring the downtown the trip went south on Highway 23 to Shelter Bay. This is the location of one of a handful of free ferry crossings in the province. This one passes over the northern portion of Upper Arrow Lake to Galena Bay. The next stop was Nakusp. The downtown and nearby side streets were bathed in trees showing off their yellow and orange colors. Following lunch the final target destination for the day was Ainsworth Hot Springs. A shortcut along Highway 31A passed through the historic towns of New Denver and Kaslo with an interesting stop between the two.
Fish Lake is one of two protected habitats in the region. The Western Toad breeds in the area and thousands of toadlets cross from the lake to their homes in the hillsides on the other side of the pavement. In fact, the region hosts an annual event called Toadfest in late August in Nakusp. The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program helps to coordinate the fun and educational event.
George and Brenda stopped at Fish Lake to see what the barriers were that spanned the shoreline and also to sit out the snowstorm. That’s correct. It was snowing with enough falling to provide a light cover on the grass in the Fish Lake Rest Area. The evening ended for our travelers at Ainsworth in the mid-afternoon so that they could spend some time relaxing in the hot pools and caves on site long before calling it a night. “I really needed to stop moving and laying in the mineral water in the caves was all I needed,” Brenda said.
A short road trip back along Highway 31A allowed for time to further explore Kaslo and New Denver. Both contain buildings that have stood for over 100 years. Plus, both communities were surrounded in bright yellows, golds and reds with trees that had turned to fall colors and still with many yet to make the change.
“The waves of colors on any hillside were spectacular but the downtown streets framed with them were even more stunning,” Elliott says. Kaslo provided shopping and a coffee stop where New Denver offered a lunch stop in addition to sightseeing of several historic structures in both communities. A return to Ainsworth Hot Springs in the early afternoon provided hours of relaxing in the mineral pools and hot caves.
Driving along Kootenay Lake in the morning allowed for brilliant fall color photos with bright morning sunshine that added something extra to the photos. Nelson was the next stop and a wander through the Cottonwood Falls Park and Market. The weekly outdoor market was near the end of its season and was located next to the Shuzenji Friendship Garden.
This Japanese garden was filled with reds, yellows. Purples and rusts that filled every frame of every photo one could take at the site. It is home to a 25-foot waterfall and a bridge that provides the best vantage for photos up the slope that contains cherry trees bursting with color. The day ended in Castlegar. This is home to the famed Castlegar Sculpturewalk where over 50 pieces can be viewed. In fact, the city is official known as the Sculpture Capitol of Canada.
An early start allowed for several stops along Highway 3 heading west, back towards home. Christina Lake provided a nice break and by mid-afternoon they reached Grand Forks. After wandering the area, another hotel room and a quiet night to relax.
From Grand Forks the trip went to historic Greenwood where buildings over 100 years fill the downtown. There were also several stunning displays of fall colors to photograph along with the old buildings. A couple more stops on the side of the highway for photos and by late afternoon George and Brenda were back home in Princeton.
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