Sunday, May 25, 2014

Oh Canada!

I scratched my head as I drove up Highway 95 just across the Canadian border.  It’s a bit over a 100 miles from home but it looks and feels like another world.  The peaks reach up to the sky and the ponds and creeks are green and crystal clear.  I’m not saying that the area around Coeur d’Alene isn’t beautiful; it’s just that the Canadian Rockies jut up so fast and are so rugged!
Another reason I think there is such a noticeable difference is that we have been traveling south and west out of our little town of Post Falls.  South is the Palouse with its rolling wheat fields leading down to the Snake and Clearwater Rivers.  West is the wheat fields followed by the scrub and sage brush of central Washington. Both areas have their beauty, but there is such a vast difference when you compare the vistas.

This week we decided to get away from the crowds that lay siege to the forests and campgrounds over the Memorial Day weekend. I the past we have driven north through Cranbrook, BC to a provincial park on Pemier Lake, so that’s where we headed.

The drive up is very easy.  North on 95 through Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, cross the border at Eastport, talk to the gruff border guard makes you feel like you are doing something wrong, then on through Cranbrook to your turn off 95 near Skookumchuck.  Once you leave the highway, it’s nine miles on dirt roads down into the lake.
When we crossed into Canada we knew we were in a different country. The vehicle speed and distance was in kilometers. The license plates on other vehicles were different.

Our thoughts went back to Mexico and since we spent so much time there this year we began to think that visiting here would be like being in Mexico in some respects.  We stopped in Cranbrook to find an ATM machine get some Canadian currency. Thoughts of not finding one or not being able to get the cash we needed were very much on our minds. Of course this was crazy because Canada is just like the US and there are ATMs everywhere! We were just thinking like being in Melaque where there was only one ATM and sometimes it doesn’t want to give you money.
At the Walmart we found the money machine and got the cash we needed. 

We hit the road north and drove out of town heading up highway 95 through the big valley leading to Radium Hot Springs and Banff.  After an hour or so we passed through some road construction, found our turn into the lake and hit the dirt road.  The road was a bit rough but passible and we dropped into the lake and entered the provincial park.

We found a camp spot by the creek and set up the camper.  There was a bit of deja vu happening and later as we walked around the campgrounds we realized we had camped in this spot before.  Our walk took us down to the lake where I immediately realized that I had made a big mistake by not bringing my fly fishing gear and stopping to buy a license in Cranbrook. (Note to self - put the Fenwick rod, some flies and spare reel into the camper.)
The lake is beautiful and the fish are just starting their spawn.  We talked to a lady who was sitting on the dock and she said that the park officials would be catching the fish and gathering their eggs in the next couple days.  She also told us that the creek that we are camped by had just started running two days ago.  This was because the weather had been cold and the snow had yet to melt.  This creek is a big spawning area and once the water starts running the fish head up to do their thing.

We talked for quite a while and then headed back up to the camper where we realized that it was past 5 pm and we needed to eat.  I made a quick dinner and then we played Cribbage and Hucklebuck until bed time.  I won the Cribbage match and Linda beat me in Hucklebuck so there was peace in the family as we went to bed.

And on the second day they walked to Quartz Lake, and Kobi said “Woof”. It was a good hike! Quartz Lake is about a two and a half mile in-and-out hike. We hiked in and took pictures and then turned around and repeated the path.  Not much to describe, the lake is small and beautiful with the snow caped peaks jutting up from its banks.  The road in is a jeep trail with lots of big mud puddles for dogs to lay in.  Kobi got to enjoy the water on the way in but we cut him off on the way out so that he wouldn't mess up the camp site.

Our evening was filled with Cribbage, Qwirkle, and Hucklebuck. We read and hit the sack about 10 PM.
The enemy!
When we woke up the sky was blue and sunny.  We ate some breakfast, I fixed French toast and Linda had one of her drinks. Then we went on a short hike to Cat’s Eye Lake.  The hiking trail was well used. It ran next to a creek most of the way up.  Linda told me that the creek was Staple Creek and it was also the one running next to our camp sight.

The trail wound up about 1.5 miles to the small clear lake.  We walked half way around the lake and then hiked back down the way we walked up.  Kobi climbed into the stream every chance he got. One the trail back there was fork that led down to a small water falls; we hike to a spot next to the water and took some pictures.  After that we walked back to camp and rested, watching for the Sutherlands to arrive.

John, Loretta and Scout pulled into camp about 3:30 PM. They set up in the spot next to us and we spent the evening introducing them the provincial park. Everyone ate a late dinner and sat around John’s propane fire place. It was fun and a new experience. None of us smelled like smoke when we went to bed; a definite plus of using the man-made fire.

The next morning Linda and Loretta followed the Jeep road that rose to the ridge above Quartz Lake.  They took the dogs and said the total hike was about 5 miles.  Later after breakfast Linda and I rode our bikes our bikes up the same trail.  It was explained to me that the trail was up and down all the way to a beautiful over look. On the trail I noticed that we were doing more up than down.  In fact the up was so constant that it made the smaller up actually look like they were down.  This optical illusion caused me to have to walk my bike most of the way into the overlook.  When we reached the photo spot, I was a bit done in. Linda and Kobi were ready to continue, but I turned around and started the walk back up and out to the ridge where gravity took over and I was able to survive the rest of the trip by coasting into camp.

After eating, sleeping and talking around the camp site we turned in and went to bed.

We got up and puttered around and then decided to head back home.  The weather had changed and it was starting to rain.  We had a great time and vow to return soon.

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