Even the water goes up and down hill. Mostly down, always fast.
02.05.2009 - 03.05.2009
"Do you remember what to do if we go for a swim?' my son asks me as I struggle into a dry suit. I remember Laura's words as she lent me her sleeping bag. Schaun had just told her we were putting in at Horseshoe rapids and coming out near White river. "oh", she said. "You must be a very experienced paddler." I thought to my self as I smiled confidently."No".
We packed for every circumstance. A barrel for food, a barrel each for clothes, sleeping bags, a barrel for gear and a fold out chair for dear old dad. There would be no portages. Good I hate humping stuff over blockages. It turns out that there are no blockages because the water just blows any trees and rocks out of the way! The Kootenay blows the little rocks out of the way, any thing bigger than a pick up just rolls around a little. Starting at Head lake the Kootenay tumbles down the Rocky mountains into Montana and Idaho then back to Creston in Canada to join the Columbia. The rock flour gives a Cerulean blue to the crystal water. I'm not a great paddler but my son Schaun is. This was familiar territory for him. For three years Schaun had 'adventure' trained British Military personnel. A 2% loss rate was acceptable. During the infrequent quiet spots Schaun recounted past rescues and pointed out memorials to those that the river had taken. I felt better all the time. I only got to take pictures in these quiet places. Giant towering Hoo Doos. Giant rock cliffs. Small bits of torn up canoes. One reassuring sight was half an aluminium canoe wedged amoungst some scree on shore. "Three doctors form Montana, were in that" when I asked. They all lived. Others were not so lucky there were crosses at both the start and end points of our trip. My friends from Australia say you an always tell a Canadian by the way we are 'geared up'. It's true You can be sweating in the afternoon wake up to snow in the morning and get rained on by lunch. You can also see more spectacular natural beauty, and wild life than any place else. Carry a camera for the Ospreys and Eagles and Deer and Elk and Sheep and bear spray for the Grizzly and Black bears. Be prepared or be another memorial. Our first night we pushed out a family of deer for our campsite. Deer are a major food source here providing food for the wolves. I didn't mention them skulking across the river. The deer also feed bears and mountain lions and people and scavangers as mischance sweeps them into the river. One carcass was lodged seventy meters up on a hoo doo a miss step, a tumble onto the unforgiving clay. Eagles caught the up drafts, punching up past the snow cover peaks like fighter jets, searching for hardworking Ospreys to steal their dinner. My most distinct impression was big everything is huge; the water the cliffs. I've punctured and folded a few canoes in my time back home in Ontario but it's small almost dreary compared to here.
After pulling out of the Kootenay we drove to White Swan hot springs for an uncrowded soak in the sulfur water. We chatted with a couple of locals then splashed in the cold mountain creek, an hours ride and we were back in Kimberly. On a map Kimberly looks like it is two thirds to the middle of nowhere. Really it is in the middle of any adventure you want; rock climbing, canoeing, fishing, skiing, lots of photography. People here carry monster cameras with lenses the size of sewer pipes. Each to his own and there are a lot of choices. Before you think about going on these rivers get some professional advice, gear up and remember all those crosses. P