Across Canada – Nelson, BC to Golden, BC
After leaving Nelson I headed north up along Kootenay Lake. As the weather and the scenery were both picture perfect I decided to camp for the first time this year and to give my new tent a whirl. This turned out not to be my most successful camping experience. Although the rec site was in a nice spot, there wasn’t really anywhere particularly suitable to put a tent! I selected a rare piece of flat(ish) ground but it was too rocky to use tent pegs so I had use rocks to pin it down. After winning this battle and then climbing in to my little one man tent I discovered an hour later that my inflatable mattress had a leak. This meant that I was now lying on the rocky floor. I re-inflated the mattress, which I knew was futile and after another hour was back on the floor so I abandoned camp at midnight and hiked back to sleep in comfort in the van!
The next day I arrived in Kaslo which I had read was a friendly little town, but I hadn’t expected to find this out for myself quite the way I did. Stocking up on reading supplies in a small book shop in the town as I was paying I noticed a hand written note on a pile of magazines which carried the name “Joe Hawes”. I asked the proprietor what I was looking at and being pretty confused I didn’t really wait for a reply before exclaiming “That’s MY name!”. It turns out that Joe Hawes is the name of a local and the book shop owner told me he was next door and that I should go and say hello!
Joe was next door with his family having an ice cream (there were lots of Hawes grandchildren running around) and we were introduced – showing each our drivers licenses to prove we were in-fact who we said we were. I have only met two other people who share my surname that i’m not directly related to and never a Joseph. We were both pretty surprised and we chatted for a while, it turns out that Joe had never met another Joe Hawes before either. Joe, a miner who has lived all over Canada turned out to be a really nice guy. We both got pleasure in him introducing me to other locals as “Joe Hawes… from the UK!” We exchanged contact details and even got a quick photo together. The encounter really made my day.
My next stop was Sandon, one of many ghost towns in the area left behind after the mining booms. The visitor centre was not yet open for the season but I enjoyed walking around and checking out the town. I was also surprised to find a collection of old trolley buses gathered from some of the larger Canadian cities parked up in this small town in the middle of nowhere. It turned out that they were being stored here, being slowly restored while awaiting a more permanent home.
I paused for a day in the small, friendly town of Nakusp. Finding a nice cafe to shelter from the rain (yes back to rain!) I also took a nice stroll along the lake and got to appreciate the overlooking mountains. Leaving the town I tried to find some local ‘wild’ hot springs (there are lots of hot spring resorts in this part of BC but also some wild ones out in the forest). However after travelling far up a forestry road my path was blocked by a land slid which had made the road impassable.
Heading towards Revelstoke I just missed being allowed on the ferry crossing of the Upper Arrow Lake as it was full, but being guaranteed to be the first on the next ferry and with some pretty good views I wasn’t too bothered to wait another hour.
I had planned Revelstoke, just outside of Mount Revelstoke National Park to be a chance to stock up but I was pleased to find that it was another nice town that warranted some wandering around. Although almost all of the trails in the park were closed I took a short hike up to a viewpoint in the park which overlooked the town.
Leaving Revelstoke and driving through Mount Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park I drove by some some stunning mountains – part of the Columbia mountain range which borders the Rockies. This was getting me me pretty excited for what is to come.
I decided to try a rec site just West of Golden, BC but as predicted, due to it being May long weekend (apparently this is when Canadians go camping ‘mad’) the site was full. Which was a bit weird as until now I had had almost every rec site to myself. Knowing that there were two more rec sites further along the same forestry road I continued, gradually getting higher into the mountains. After missing the second rec site and having to turn back due to snow before getting to the third I found a quiet spot to camp for the night. Just before going to sleep I noticed strange glow above the mountains to the North and realised that I was looking at the Northern Lights! They were very faint and I only got a brief I got a glimpse of a green hue behind the mountains, but I have wanted to see the northern lights for a long time so this really put a smile on my face. I moved a section of foam into the roof of the van and lay up there in my sleeping bag appreciating the clear view of the stars. Now that is what road trips are all about!
The trip has been going very well so far and I have been really please with how well living in the van is going. I have been managing to find places to camp very easily, thanks to the huge size of BC and the amount of forestry service roads it has never taken me long to either find a free recreation site or a quiet pull in. This means that three weeks into my trip, and after two weeks in northern Vancouver Island I had not paid for accommodation once.
I am enjoying the freedom the van brings me and have very much been making up my trip as I go along. My friend Jim from the UK is meeting me in Toronto on the 1st of July where he will join me for a couple of weeks. I am looking forward to having some company and while I don’t normally like having fixed commitments in advance when I travel, as I legally need to leave the country by the 20th July (at the moment I am expecting to come back into Canada after this date on a tourist visa and continue with my trip to the east coast) it’s actually quite good to have Toronto as a fixed goal.
However my trip so far has not quite worked out as I had hoped. Hiking and running are two activities which I get a huge amount of enjoyment out of and as my knee still isn’t strong enough to do much of either of these so far my activities have mainly consisted of sight seeing, exploring, reading and relaxing. While this is enjoable, I have to admit that this lack of running and hiking is starting to get to me a little, especially now that I am approaching the Rockies.
While I haven’t given up hope of hiking in the Rockies just yet as time goes on and the weather improves it is something I am thinking about more and more. To an extent I think this is not helped by the fact that I am alone. Don’t get me wrong – I have always travelled alone and like it that way, but unable to do the activities that I had hoped my trip would be based on and not having anyone to distract me from that fact I have started to feel a little lonely. This isn’t new to me while being on the road and it is something I expected, it also comes and goes and overall isn’t something I worry about. But it is there.
This trip is a new way of travelling for me and I am enjoying both the adventure and learning to adapt. I am also appreciating doing a little work on the move and helping to pay for my trip – something that I may continue to do if this trip goes well. Though as I pass from town to town it had dawned on me that unlike when I am backpacking – staying in hostels and with couch surfers and meeting lots of other travellers, this trip I am not getting the chance to connect with any one. I chat with a lot of people I meet as I go and Canadians really do live up to the friendly stereotype, but in these brief encounters it is hard to get beneath the surface.
Pondering these things I have decided to check in to a motel and spend a couple of nights in Golden, BC – giving me a chance to sleep in a proper bed (though after one night I realised just how comfortable the van really is!) and to give me a chance to reflect on my trip so far. I also wanted some time to think a little about the upcoming few weeks of my trip, especially about what I will be doing and who I might meet along the way.
I don’t however want to come across as negative at all in the above paragraphs – I have had an amazing year which keeps getting better and better. I am very very fortunate to be where I am doing what I am doing and I by no means take it for granted. This has been a learning curve for me though and I came to Canada to learn things about myself and what I want from life. I can happily report that I have achieved a little of both over the last year and hope to continue doing so.
Taking a little time out has been going well so far. As I checked in to my motel yesterday a group of cyclists – friends on an annual ride together were checking in also. Later on we shared some drinks together, both in the sunshine and in the hot tub before going out for food and drinks at a local bar. It was really refreshing to be able to have a good chat and relax with such a nice bunch of people.
Having my own shower has been a nice luxury too 🙂