Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

Now in Crawfordsville, Indiana

We are now in Del Rio Texas

We are now in Del Rio Texas

Radium Hot Springs/Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

August 18 – 20, 2017:  

Radium Hot Springs was an optional visit for us. We really didn’t know just how much time we would have in the area when we planned this 6 months ago.  We also wanted to fit some time in to visit friends on our way to Vancouver before the Alaska cruise next Monday the 28th.   It turned out that our friends, Dianne and Steve, were available as their quad event had been canceled due to the fire ban here.  That left us with time to visit the Radium Hot Springs area a bit.

The trip from Lake Louise to the hot springs was a little bit more mountain climbing than we have had so far.  Still wasn’t too bad though.  Most of the upgrades were short and around 7-8%.   However the last downgrade was a real doozy of 11% for about 5 miles! That last grade was coming into the town of Radium Hot Springs.  And just at the end of the grade was a very sharp curve that overlooked the town.  I wouldn't want to do this trip in the winter! With our engine brake I really don’t mind these downgrades that much though.

Entering British Columbia

Our start down into Radium Hot Springs at 11% grade

The end and the sharp curve at the end.

It took us about 2 hours to make the trip to Radium Hot Springs from Lake Louise.  Once we arrived we found out that we didn’t have a reservation as we had thought.  It seems that there are 2 campgrounds named the same thing, one here and one in northern BC.  We had a reservation at the one in northern BC and the one here was closed! Uh oh! 

We pulled over in a parking lot while Patty found us another place, and she did!  She found us a place on the other (North West) side of town on BC 95.  So we headed out of town for about 5 miles to the Edgewater Golf Course and RV Park.

The campground was very small, just around 10 sites, and we were surrounded by the golf course.  The owners had raised a family there and farmed the place until the late 80s.  They opened for business in 1994 as the golf course and campground.  Mom bakes pies for sale and runs a small cafĂ© on the premises.  Dad maintains the golf course and the park facilities.  It also looks like some of the kids are helping too. This is a nice family owned and run place and we highly recommend it! We there stayed for just 2 nights giving us one full day to explore and visit the hot springs.

Our nice site in the Edgewater RV Park.

They had fresh rhubarb pie!  We got 2!

Our main purpose for being here was to use the radium hot spring. We got our swimming suits and towels out and headed to the hot springs located just outside of town on BC 93. First, though, we had lunch on our way at the Horse Thief Creek Pub in town. Lunch was great, believe it or not.  Again the food on this trip out west has been really good and this place was no different.  I had fish and chips and the fish was perfect!

The Horse Thief Creek Pub

Now on the Radium Hot Springs.  The hot springs is just like a really good private run swimming pool but is owned by the National Parks System.  It has a cooler spring fed swimming pool and the Radium Hot Spring pool which we were mostly interested in.  The place is real cheap too at just $5.60 each. 

There is a walkway tunnel under BC 93 to the Hot Springs
from the parking lot.  This area is under construction.

The hot springs has a spa too that we did not use.  They have showers and mens and ladies locker rooms with coin operated lockers. The hot springs here have been open since the early 1900s and before it was used by the Indians.  In the 1920s the Canadian government took over the springs as part of the Kootenay National Park.

The Radium hot spring hot pool is between 100 and 103F. The day we are there the air was a little chilly at around 68F so the water felt real good when we got in.   However, it was a real bear to get out though, it felt really cold!  

Patty was hoping it had some effect on her skin itch issue but it didn’t. It actually seemed to cause her even more itch!  We really didn’t hold much hope that the springs would offer much help but we wanted to try anyway.  Her itch is mostly from a neurological issue that we have as yet get a complete answer to.

We spent about an hour and a half there before heading back to the RV.  For the price you just can’t beat this place. For just under $10 USD the 2 of us had the whole day if we wanted to, to use both pools!  For a few dollars more could have gotten massages too.  We should have done that, not sure why we didn’t!

That was it for our adventure to the Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park.  This was a nice place to stay and unwind.  If we had to do this over we would have stayed an extra day and more fully enjoyed the hot spring, maybe a massage, and had dinner in town.  It was still a very good adventure and we are glad we went.

We had a visitor walk through our site!

Next up, we are headed further west to see a couple of RV friends (Dianne and Steve Colibaba) in Logan Lake BC.   First, we will do an overnight stay in Salmon Arms BC.

Stay Tuned!

Banff Gondola trip to top of Sulfur Mountain

August 17th, 2017:  

This is the last of our adventures in the Banff area.  Looks like we should have done this first as the wildfire smoke was the worst we have seen today.  On the 30 mile trip from our site in Lake Louise to the town of Banff we could barely see the mountains just next to us.  And the main purpose for the gondola trip was to view the area from the top of Sulfur Mountain!  

On our way to the gondola on the south side of Banff.

Walking to the Banff Hot Springs, the wrong way to the gondola!  Same parking lot!

We had no issue finding the parking lot for the gondola ride; however both Google and Garmin tried to lead us to slightly different places.  Neither system has worked very well for us in Canada.  Once we were parked we had no idea where to go to get to the gondola.  The parking lot serves 3 places really, the trail to hike up Sulfur Mountain, the Hot Springs, and the Gondola.  Of course we tried the other 2 things before we figured out where the gondola was.  But no fear, we were still 10 minutes early, yeah us!

When you purchase a ticket you get to pick a date and time for your ride up to the top.  The times are for every 10 minutes and they let you in line 10 minutes before your appointed time.  The cue system seemed to work very well, I was impressed.

The gondola ride is an enclosed cable car that holds 4 people.  The cable runs continuously so getting on is done very quickly.  The ride up takes just a few minutes.  The mountain is at around 7500 feet and the ground is about 4,000 feet so we did a climb of about 3,500 feet.  That was enough to make our ears fill up by the time we got to the top!

I was surprised that I wasn't claustrophobic!

We have both done this sort of thing in Switzerland and this is very similar but just not as high in elevation.  Now at the top of the mountain we see that we are in a 4 floor building with loads of windows for looking out.  There was a long wooden walkway outside so you could walk up to the highest point of the mountain a couple of hundred feet higher than where we were.

The building you arrive in from the gondola

The view of the observation point that we walked to from the gondola building.

View with loads of smoke!

View of the town of Banff from the top of Sulfur Mountain.

Patty with another chipmunk friend.
These are being fed by tourists as they are so tame.

We walked the wooden walkway to the top and we did a bit of tourist shopping in the building.  After that we decided to have lunch there before heading back to our site.  Again the lunch was great and, as usual, it was pricy but that is expected in a tourist trap like this.  I am just amazed at how good the food has been I these tourist traps though.

Our lunch place on top of the mountain

A nice smokey view from our lunch place.

After lunch we headed back down on the gondola which was not crowded at all now.  After the rush in the morning the smoke was worse now so people were just not going up and we can’t blame them.  Even with the smoke we did get some nice views of Banff.  We could just imagine how great the views would have been without the smoke though.

A cool trike.  Looked this up and it is German built.
It was in the gondola parking lot.

We filled up the truck fuel tank in Banff and then went back to our site for a short nap.  Then we headed into the tourist area of Lake Louise to just check it out before we leave in the morning.

The Lake Louise tourist area wasn’t anything spectacular at all.  It was mostly tour companies.  There was a small grocery store so we picked up a few essentials.  Then we ended the visit with an ice cream at a shop there.  This was the first ice cream that wasn’t spectacular.  This was just regular ice cream and we didn’t get much for a huge price. Not bad to have just one not so good experience out of so many great ones!

View from the parking lot of the tourist trap shopping district of Lake Louise.

We liked these glasses.  We are going to try to purchase these on-line when we get back to Texas.  They are plastic!

We see a lot of black-billed magpies here. Cool birds.

We ended the day with a hike on one of the trails that followed along a mountain stream that paralleled our campground.

That was a great end to a great visit to Banff and Jasper National parks in Alberta Canada.

Now we are at the end of our Banff visit.  I would give the visit here very high marks.  It was definitely a better experience than that of Glacier and the Grand Tetons National Parks in the USA.  The USA parks are great too but Banff was just better.  We are very happy we visited here!

Last view of our Lake Louise Campground site in the Banff Canadian National Park.

Now we are off for a day at the Radium Hot Springs about 80 miles south.

Stay tuned!

Jasper National Park, Columbia Ice Fields, Alberta Canada

August 16, 2017: 

Day 2 in the Canadian Rocky Mountains we went to Jasper National Park, specifically the Columbia Icefields.   Our route took us on Alberta 93 which is called the Icefields Highway.  We took Trans-Canada 1 just a couple of miles from Lake Louise to 93 and then 70 miles later we stopped at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center.  From the Discovery Center our plan for the day was to take a tour of the Athabasca Glacier and visit the Skywalk.  

The trip up on the Icefields Highway was absolutely fabulous!  We have never seen so many large mountains with snow and ice on them in one area like this.  It really reminds me of the Alps but I think it seems that these mountains are closer together.  The other cool thing is that you can drive right between them for miles.  There really is not much of a grade to contend with making driving pretty easy.  It wouldn’t be any problem to take a large RV to most any of this area.  For 70 miles you see nothing but tall mountains, glacier lakes, waterfalls, and streams on both sides of the road.  You just don’t know when to stop taking pictures!  

Pictures on the 70 mile drive to the Athabasca Glacier

 The Athabasca Glacier from the parking lot of the Discovery Center

The trip to the Discovery Center took us 90 minutes from our site in Lake Louise.The Discovery Center is where we took a regular bus a couple of miles to the edge of the Athabasca Glacier.  At this point we got off the bus and were put on a very large ice bus that took us another couple miles out onto the glacier. 

 In line for the packed bus!  I don't like packed anything, maybe a packed lunch!

 View going out to the glacier on the bus

This ice bus is huge; it has 6 wheels that are something like 4 feet in diameter.  They travel at a top speed of just 20 mph. The entire trip from the Discovery Center to the drop off point on the glacier took about half an hour.

 The Ice bus
 Riding the ice bus out to the glacier

 We need to descend this huge hill to get on to the glacier.  The driver told us that she just closes her eyes, that makes it better!

Going down!

 On to the ice!

 Once at the drop point on the glacier we had around 30 minutes to walk around, explore and take pictures.  That amount of time was more than we needed; we were back on the ice bus after just 10 minutes.  We had full sun but it was about 40F with a steady 30mph wind.  We were also standing on an 800 foot thick chunk of ice too!  So it was cold and not a lot to look at.  You get off look around a bit, take some pictures and then it’s time to go back to the warm bus! 

 Patty getting off of the ice bus

 Many people got some of the glacier water to drink.  

We loved the entire experience!  We could do the same thing in Alaska by taking a helicopter to a glacier for a 10 minute walk around for something like $300 a piece!  We did the same, without the helicopter ride, for around $120 for the both of us.   We are really glad we did this!

 Back up and onto land.

After being on the glacier for a few minutes we did the bus thing in reverse, sort of.  We had tickets for the skywalk that was just a couple of miles from the glacier so the road bus dropped us off there.   The skywalk is just like the skywalk over the Grand Canyon.   Basically the skywalk is a horseshoe shaped transparent walkway.  The walkway is cantilevered out over a valley about 800 feet above the valley floor.  The walkway, besides giving a great view, is to show you just how thick the glacier ice is.  When on the walkway we are looking down just about the same distance as the glacier is thick.

 Pretty cool!

 Patty leading the way to the skywalk.

I am not afraid of heights so this wasn’t frightening for me. But, walking out on a transparent floor 800 feet in the air does make one feel a bit disoriented.  That is the only way I can describe it, its disorienting making you feel like you need to hold on to the handrail.  Some of the younger ones on the walkway were a bit more daring.  The walkway bounces a bit as you walk on it so some kids were practically jumping to make the walkway bounce.  It didn’t bother me but for some this was a bit scary.  

After visiting the skywalk we took another bus back to the Discovery Center for lunch.  We originally arrived at the center at 10:30am and now it was about 3pm.  The difference in the amount of people was just crazy.  We thought it was a bit crowded at 10:30, now it was a zoo!  This is why we like to travel in the shoulder seasons and not at peak like we are now.  

 Great view for lunch!

 We had a little visitor for lunch.

 Had to show this photo of a van in the discovery parking lot.  
We passed this on our way out.

Our lunch was great but was way too much food.  Now we had dinner too for when we got back to the RV.  So far we have nothing but great food at the national parks both in the US and in Canada.  It’s a bit expensive but that is to be expected.

 Pictures of the ride back to Lake Louise

Closing thoughts on our adventure today:

We would do this again in a heartbeat.  We loved everything about the day and wouldn’t change a thing.

If traveling here during peak season be sure to be at the discovery center before 11am, before the crowds.

There is a huge easy to get into and out of parking lot for RVs.  We wouldn’t bring our RV here but it is very doable.

Buy the tickets for these things on-line as it will save about 20%.

That’s it for Wednesday the 16th of August in the Canadian Rockies.  Tomorrow we are going to take a gondola trip up to the top of Sulfur Mountain in the town of Banff.

 Gift shop pictures.

 I agree!

Stay Tuned!