Box Lake & Chasing Hot Springs in BC Road Trip

I think it was a Friday night in early March when we took off. Finished work at 5, or maybe an hour early, or maybe it was the next morning? Either way, hit the bottleshop for some whiskey and caffeine from Timmys then headed for the hills.

Its a long road ahead through the mountains. Up to Lake Louise, down the mountain pass round through the Yoho Valley and out through to Golden BC and the Columbia Valley. Id passed through here once years before on a Greyhound I recall.

We grab some more coffee and treats then head on; another mountain pass this time through Glacier National Park awaits. The weathers fine, with a fair bit of moisture in the air though enough sun to burn through it and shine some warmth amongst the snowy mountains. Odd bits of snow and slush on the road as we move through the highest parts, but we make good time and arrive at Revelstoke a little later on. Been here before a few years back too oddly enough.

We are have knocked off just shy of 290 kms at this this point, but now we must curve back around into the valley and down the Arrow lake to Nakusp. First though we are looking for some hot springs hidden up a logging road by St Leon. We drive 10km up a muddy icy logging road and here from some lovely canadian rednecks that its still another 5km in. We can’t make that in our Vehicle and don’t care to walk. We leave, not a big loss, try the next ones around the next mountain. Always have a back up hot springs!

These we at least find a parking lot for – 2 cars pulled over on the side of the logging road where there is little space. We march off and…end up getting lost in hectic thick woodland on a steep hill for the next 45min. I have lead us the wrong way. We climb and clamber over thick fallen timber. Its covered in moss and is hard work.

Eventually we make it to them from the opposite direction. The reward is worth it: we are semi naked in our own private 40c bath. Made of 3 clean rocks and steaming water that was dripping out under the moss covered tree. Whoa…nice.

Theres actually 3 pool, but this gem sits just above the others.


We drive a ways further, looking for a campsite. Many are closed and we move on, scope out the shore beyond Nakusp. We settle on Box Lake as our last option. Its perfect. One of the best campsites you could imagine. No one around, Enormous leafy trees amongst snow  covered mountains by a lake. A small jetty with a lone chair floats nearby.

Set up, fire going, drying wood and setting things to order. Order has been created. Get the whiskey.

We wake covered in a world of snow. Theres a good 3cm covering the tent but we are cosy in our warm den within. Cold slushy snow now covers our world as we face the spawning day.

Its amazingly beautiful but we quickly escape in the car and head on. Still a long way to go.

We pass down through the valley to New Denver, then to Nelson where we dry in the sun by the harbour and sports field. Nelson is a dream of a place. A confluence of mountain lakes that are big enough to hold a small marina of boats.

The day takes us further south, past the turnoff onto the US into Montana, as we finally turn back west, and for another mountain pass.

Its a stunning drive through the Kootenays. Smooth and with plenty of snow and sun. Epic views at every turn…they way the world should be. Down the valley and out to Castelgar.

Another 300km back up through the Columbia Valley and to the familiar 93 past Radium and into the 4th mountain pass of the trip. From the bright sun and warmth of the low flat Columbia, we are now back in a mountain snowstorm. 50km an hour now with a procession of traffic, full headlights with maybe 100m visibility. Rough. The car swerves on a berm of snow. Plows belt past in the opposite direction. Parks Canada doing some good.

It breaks, and we drop back into the mid Bow valley at Castle Mountain Junction before Banff & home.

Hector Lake

Hector Lake Canoeing

Its a little known place along a tourist thorough fare, and the locals try to keep it to themselves. Sitting only a short 2km hike down off the Icefields Parkway – a meagre 19km past the southern entry. Hector lake is as good as it gets. I’ll stake this claim now – second best place I have ever camped and most likely will ever camp.

Why? The lake is the pristine blue green that only those of the Canadian rockies can be, and is set against the steep cliffs of Pulpit Peak and the Waputik range. The lake is a large for the area and curves around to its source – the Waputik icefields at the back end and becomes a part of the Bow river at the front.

Its Friday afternoon when we park the car and wander down to the camp site. A slightly muddy track that the water flows down the meanders slightly downhill to the Bow River where you have to fjord. It can be very dangerous here at times and thats why this place can only be easily accessed in late season when the melt waters are lower and you don’t get swept away in a torrent of icy water. Its still bitingly cold and we cross quick before putting our boots back on the other side. A few hundred metres more and we arrive at the camp site. Only ones there. Fuck yes!

We scout the area and set up camp at the middle high spot, just off the lake. Time for some snacks and wine and we explore the area. The real gem of this spot is found – the old canoes hidden a little ways up the shore. We knew about these – the insiders tip I guess. Its what changes this from just a lazy camping trip, to so back country canoeing. We find a better spot – perched out on the flat with 180′ views of the lake. I put the tent on my head and carefully manoeuvre the thing to the new site. Its well set up with some tools – a saw, a shovel and a bread toaster. Luxuries!

We watch the sun kiss the peaks goodnight and settle in to fight the cold around the campfire.

We wake at the crack of dawn. A bit chilly the night was and we put all we have on to face the morning. We get a fire going and smoke floats across the peaceful still waters. Stiring it delicately as it floats gently across. The sky lightens and the sun strikes the furthest peak across the lake. Sole illuminating it and leaving all else bathed in shadow. We are utterly content and at peace with the world as we wander the foreshore – spying Mt temple down range, before returning to take the canoe out and simply sit in the middle of the lake as the natural world around us wakes from its slumber to face the day.

A beauty breakfast of eggs and bread and we pack the canoe to head across the lake. We hear theres a trail somewhere out yonder. Somewhere to discover. We paddle across hard to get the blood moving and soon reach the far shore were we make our way along up toward the source of the lake. We spot a landing area…at least it looks like one and its a creek outlet. Seems like a good spot. There’s faint signs of life – a old fire spot, a few boot prints. We land and strip off. No one hear…why need clothes? For once its nice to be au natural and get some sun on our skin. Its a rare treat in a land where we are almost always rugged up.

Clothes back on and we follow the path that winds up the creek. 30 minutes later we come across a high alpine lake. Shallow but clear as glass. Its full of old trees. Knocked down in landslides and push out into the water. 200m across and you can still see the bottom. We eat a snack while sitting on a big log and staring up into the high cliffs and the water fall that cascades down.

We leave the paradise of Hector lake, later that day and unfortunately head home. So happy to have been here.

Lake Ohara Pt 2 – Abbot’s Pass

Towards the end of our time in Canada we had one last adventure to tick off the lists. To head as high up into the big mountains as possible. I remember looking at a map, and then again on the trail of six glaciers walk at Lake Louise and seeing the hut, perch ominously high atop the Victoria glacier in another realm and thinking….I need to get there.

The weather forecast was foul, but we were going regardless. Lake Ohara involves a 10km bus ride in by the national parks to limit numbers and we eagerly jumped on amongst the midst of hikers. There was 7 our party, Laurel & Riggs, Laurels brother Alex, Rosie, Cat and myself. All venturing to the hut for the first time. The previous week had made conditions sceptical at best with a lot of snow on the ground in the lower valleys and more in spots around the higher valley where we got off the bus.

We took a round about route up beyond Opabins prospect and to Moors lakes to see the last of the larches in the winter haze. Glorious golden sentinels saturated in a frosty mist, with a view back down the long valley 15km out. A pause for a snack and to indulge the serenity before marching on across the hioghline trail of yukness ledges to the bitter cold and damp shore of Lake Oesa. Lunch time as we looked upon the daunting 600m scree slope straight up to the hut on and angle of about 45-60 degrees.

High avalanche and rock slide danger, and when I say high, it is essentially a avalanche shoot with the visibility disappearing around half way up. Well lucky we packed the helmets and poles eh?

We rug up and power up the lower levels, making our way further round beyond the left hand shore of the lake and up over the far point of the huber ledges. We march up the scree slope quick. snow is up to our thighs in some places and there are no clear paths or tracks. We loose ascend into a blizzard with around 100m of vertical to go. Visibility is down to 30m and the wind is ferocious. We have split into two groups and plow on fast. We can’t stay here! heads down and charge. Its steep and slippery, rocks giving way at every second hand hold and ice laced wind pelting out faces but shortly we crest the cliff after an almost vertical final 20m. We see others in the hut and bust the door in to a cheer!

All safe, fire wood is turned out along with a few drinks, and some delicious yet mysteriously flavoured cookies (thanks Laurel!) and we settle in for the night while the blizzard howls on.

It doesn’t let up all night and we go to the bathroom peeing down into the dark of the cliff of the glacier. No stars and no sunset which is a shame, but it adds and eriesness to our current location that I’m almost content with…like its better not to see or know whats beyond the cloud layer?

6 hours of hiking with about 850 of vertical. worth every moment.


Elk Lakes Alpine Hut

May 7, 2015

Hiked into Elk Lakes cabin on the 5th with Cat and Adrian. Took longer than expected due to snows still in the pass. Two wrong turns and shoes fill with ice. Also lots of bear sign.

Lovely hut once in here and smoked and drank until hearts content on first night. Second day explored the lake shore. Stunning vistas too big for a camera lens to capture. No wild life spotted beyond a rabbit on the second night.

Took some drawings of the mountains to further refine my understanding of them for structure and form to render in paint. Hopefully one day produce something worthy of the scenery.