Over the past few days Seb and I went on a camping trip. We’ve both been working a lot this past month but managed to find a few days to escape our beautiful mountains to go to some other beautiful mountains.
We decided to head to Valhalla Provincial Park. Seb visited there a couple of years ago and was keen to go back to a great campsite that he’d stayed at. However, for all of his fantastic qualities, Seb probably has one of the worst memories and senses of direction ever.
“I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere on this road,” he said, pointing to a 100km stretch of highway on Google Maps.
“And I think there’s a side road somewhere… But it’s not marked or signposted or anything.”
“And then you drive through a building site. I think? Or maybe that’s a different place…”
“Quiet roads. Restful villages. Unspoiled landscapes. A place where time passes slowly and life is less complicated,” says the tourist info website. It was true to an extent – the “villages” consisted of a single street with a few homes and shops scattered around. However, life was decidedly more complicated as instead of following any kind of map or directions, we were going by Seb’s (awful) memory to find the camp spot.
So, following these incredibly vague directions, we drove 4 hours east towards the West Kootenays – or along the “West Koot Route” as the locals (probably don’t) call it.
“Keep your eyes out for something that looks sketchy,” Seb said when he thought we were getting closer.
Against all odds, we actually found it. And it was amazing. Think classic, picturesque Canada – mountains, trees, a huge open lake. I would honestly love to tell you where it is, but even having been there, I’m still not sure myself. Ask Seb to point it out on a map.
We decided to hike Gimli Peak, an astounding looking mountain in the area, famous for rock climbers and mountain goats. Getting there was again difficult as again we were following some very vague directions from a couple of websites. Again, I wished that we had a map. Again, I thought we were going to end up lost in the wilderness somewhere and be forced to start eating our toenails to stay alive.
Thankfully (and unbelievably), we found the trailhead.
The hike was immediately awesome. We crossed a creek and hiked our way through the forest up and out of the treeline. The views were astonishing and we weren’t even at the top yet.
As we rounded one corner we saw a tiny little mountain goat was siting on the side of the trail, licking at the rocks. Silly goat.
“Awww, look at him!” I cooed. “He’s adorable.”
“Let’s not get too close,” Seb said. We’d heard from some rangers that the goats liked to lick up the minerals from human urine, and therefore were getting too acclimatised to people.
“Aw, he’s only tiny,” I waved Seb off, continuing on the trail towards the goat.
“Hannah, I think we should avoid him.”
We were only a few metres away from the goat by now. He had his head down, slurping away happily. I looked up the trail, and suddenly, over the horizon, I saw something. Another goat. But this one was big. And he/she looked angry.
(In reality it was probably a normal goat, but Seb and I both remember this particular goat being enormous, at least as tall as a human, with foot long horns, massive razor sharp hooves and scary glowing red eyes.)
The monster-goat started walking faster. Then it started running. Now, if you’ve ever had a goat charge at you, horns down, ready to impale your bladder and suck up all your urine, you’ll know the horror that we felt.
I’d like to say that I kept calm and composed when faced with death.
“AHHHHHH!” I screamed as I started running away. Then I remembered Seb.
I looked back to see Seb standing, arms out, ready to face the goat charging towards him. Seb was sacrificing himself so I could flee the beast! I kept running.
“HEY,” I heard from behind me. I turned around. Seb and the goat were in a face off. “STAY BACK,” he said. The goat slowed to a walk, only metres away.
“STAY. BACK.” Seb said loudly, arms out wide.
The goat looked him in the eye, and something passed between them. A moment of respect, of admiration – two souls acknowledging and accepting each other. The goat stopped, and started walking away from us.
“Yeah! That’s right Mr. Goat! We rule!!!!” I called after it. “Loser!”
Seb turned and glared at me. “Shut up.”
After that, we were a little bit shaken, but also filled with a new sense of confidence. Seb was an animal whisperer! I was looking at him in a new, sexy light. We carried on walking.
The last leg of the hike was along a ridgeline made up of gigantic boulders, with huge drops on either side. It was terrifying and fantastic. We were trying to find a comfy rock to eat some lunch when I saw a large furry animal up ahead. It looked like if a hamster and a beaver had a lovechild.
Usually marmots are incredibly shy creatures, who scurry away as soon as they hear something approaching. Not this one. No no no. This marmot was the king of the rocks. He was strutting along, not a care in the world that two scrawny humans were on his territory. I’d only seen glimpses of wild marmots in the past, so to admire one like this was an awesome experience.
We made our way past him, clambering over the boulders. Steady, steady. Don’t look down, don’t slip. Three points of contact on the rock at all times.
Suddenly, I heard a human-like scream behind me. Seb turned around, eyes wide.
“What was – ?”
Another scream. I looked back and saw two marmots running towards me. Again, these were probably normal marmot-sized marmots, but in my imagination they were huge rodents, vicious snarls on their faces, incisors ready to impale. I forgot all regard for my own life and started running across the boulders towards Seb, ready to feel teeth in my legs any second.
Seb grabbed me as I reached him.
“They’re after me, Seb!” I cried.
“No, they’re not – now please stop running along the cliff,” he frowned at me, as the marmots ran past us, screaming and chasing each other along the ridge. Whatever. How was I supposed to know that marmots weren’t man-eaters? Hmm??
We sat at the top for a while, enjoying the 360 degree views of Valhalla Park and the mountain ranges around us. The views were amazing – it was one of those places that pictures just don’t do it justice. There’s something about being on the top of a mountain and seeing so much around you that makes you feel incredibly small and insignificant. All your problems fade away into the air, and you’re left there – a tiny human on the edge of the world.
Like Eckhart Tolle says, “accept the present moment and find perfection.”
Deep breath in, deep breath out….
“See the fullness of life around you.”
I’m so peaceful… The world is so beautif-
“OUCH you buggering fucker mosquito! FUCK OFF!”
We decided to sleep under the stars that night, the shore of the lake only metres from our sleeping mats. There is something honestly incredible about sleeping bare and exposed to the elements, with only shooting stars and the full moon above you.
To finish off the weekend we stopped at some natural hot springs near Nakusp. Our hearts sank as we got near when we saw the trails of campervans and cars – the worst thing about how great hot springs are is that everyone knows how great hot springs are – and it kind of spoils the experience when you’re sitting in a circle of naked old men telling you their life story and how you remind them of their great-niece.
Thankfully – truly truly thankfully, Seb knew of some other, secret hot springs a short hike away. Surprisingly, we found it, and even more surprisingly, there was no one else there. We had the whole place to ourselves. Lying in a natural hot spring, your toes in the dirt and the sun on your face, the sound of a river rushing by just next to you… That’s some kind of magic.
We managed to finish our trip without getting lost or getting into any more face-offs with wild animals (except one brief moment that we nearly ran over a black bear, but let’s not get into that). We made it back to SilverStar, grubby but satisfied, all toenails still accounted for.
And so, if you’re travelling to BC, I say skip the tourist-trap of Whistler and instead head to the West Kootenays. I’d recommend it to anyone, but especially if you like true wilderness, secret local spots, and getting attacked by horned beasts and giant rodents.
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