Nelson And The Kootenay Loop: Bridges, Beaches And Beauty


It was an early Nelson morning as we awoke to the sound of golf carts ripping around the parking lot falling victim to the early tee times of the local Monday golfers! The sun was pounding on our backs as we enjoyed our breakfast burritos and coffee on our now well worn in picnic table discussing the days attack.

We extended the RV awning to limit the heat blazing against the side of Izzy and opened all the windows in an attempt to keep cool but the day was still young and we knew there was much more heat to come. Packed up by 11 we made the five minute drive down the city’s hills to our new site in the center of Nelson. We rolled into the campground and were greeted with an incredible campsite shaded by giant cedar trees in the heart of the camper chaos. Acting quickly we connected up power and jacked up the air-conditioner for Monty before packing our bags for a day in the city and unloading our bikes from their rack.

We decided to start our tour of town with the uphill section not far from our site. Meeting us in the downtown core, was a collection of small shops, cafés, adventure sport stores and lots of street side patios overflowing with patrons. We chained our bikes up to a lamp post in the shade and continued on foot around town searching for a funky spot to have some lunch. After completing a full loop of the main two streets and ending up at a hillside park, we relaxed on a bench and enjoyed the view across the town’s core while planing our lunchtime attack. After some thoughtful deliberation we headed over to a quirky café we had passed on our earlier walk down a back alley street off the beaten path. The Yellow Deli was a very cool spot, a small restaurant converted from a house on a hill surrounded by patios and featured a menu that was very vegetarian friendly. We ordered a veggie burger and sandwich to share while we enjoyed the patio and made a game plan for our bike ride. Once finished our very enjoyable lunch we jumped back on our bikes and headed to the lakefront to cruise the waterfront path.

The path lead us out on to a large wooden pier to take some photos down the lake before continuing on along the waterfront and through a park to the beach. The beach was busy but not packed and there were a lot of people out enjoying the water on kayaks and paddle boards. There was also the odd sailboat slowly floating around the smooth windless lake hoping for a gust but clearly in no rush. We set out our towels and laid down to soak up the sun for the first time in a long time. Once our bodies had reached their maximum temp we made a move to the water to dip our toes in the lake. It was a slow process as we waded in carefully due to the shockingly icy conditions but in the heat of the day the word refreshing didn’t do justice. A few quick dips were enough to chase us out of the water and back into the warmth of our towels in the sunshine. We took a nice end to end walk of the beach area then dusted off the sand and made our way back to the bikes. The hill climb back was a slow ride interrupted with a giant ascent of stairs before rolling downhill back to the campsite. Monty was anxious to get out and explore when we arrived back at the RV and we were anxious to lay down in the air conditioning and relax.

There was still plenty of daylight left in the afternoon so we moved our site’s table into the shade and sat outside for a few hours getting some work done on our devices. As the sun began to move down over the mountain tops, we decided to hike the dirt path through the bush behind our campground straight uphill to Gyro Park. Easily impressed by the colorful gardens and towering trees in the relatively small park, we followed the trail around to a lookout point giving us a panoramic view down both ends of the lake and across the water to the mountains. We returned to our camp and whipped up dinner while we sorted through our gigabytes of photos and watched the sun set through the giant cedars.

Our time in Nelson was at an end as we packed up the next morning and headed south west towards Castlegar. It was a 45 km drive and the sky’s were dreary but that did not diminish the beautiful lakeside drive flowing on along a winding river. We had a couple of stops to make once we hit Castlegar and took the opportunity to scope out the area. With bellies on empty we spotted a park to make lunch in and navigated our bus to Zuckerburg Island Park.  Bounding across a 473 foot suspension bridge we accessed the park and took a leisurely stroll around the quaint island. The island was refreshingly calming making it the perfect mid day traffic retreat in-spite of the threat of rain. While there we met up with our friend the mighty Columbia River and waved our final good byes to the Kootenay River one of its tributaries converging at the island’s rocky point.

After snapping some photos and exploring the rest of the little island we headed to downtown Castlegar to check out the Sculpture Walk. It didn’t take long to figure out why Castlegar was known as the the “Sculpture Capitol of Canada”. We wandered the tiny downtown core encountering a mix of art pieces varying in size and complexities. There was an area outside city hall which was uniquely quite pretty and had several interesting sculptures some large, some in motion and a few that were just confusing but interesting regardless.

Along the drive we did some research on where to stay for the night and Grand Forks seemed like a plausible option being close and advertised as cheap. We called ahead to the municipal campground to see if it was open and discovered that it was under-construction due to major flood damage that occurred in the spring but the city was allowing self contained units to stay for free, SCORE! Along the drive the weather cleared up into a beautiful sunny day and upon arrival in Grand Forks we easily found the campground and picked ourselves out a private spot. We investigated the hookups and were pleasantly surprised to find that power, water and sewer were fully functional and at our disposal! To celebrate we took a quick bike ride to the liquor store for some beer and a couple of bits from the grocery store to munch on. Back at the camp site we basked in the sun working away on a nearby picnic table while Monty scaled the concrete wall and disappeared into the bushes.  Our neighbor several sites down approached us for help and after talking for a bit we were surprised to find she was also travelling with two cats of her own who had also made the bushes their afternoon retreat. Fortunately Monty made friends or at least didn’t make any enemies.

We awoke to the sweet sounds of construction, not surprising given the campground was trying to get back in action with summer in full swing.  After taking the opportunity to dump our unmentionables we hit the road toward Kelowna to close the loop on our six day Kootenay adventure. There were two options for routes but since we had already done part the Osoyoos to Kelowna drive previously we opted to take Hwy 33 through Rock Creek.

Along the way we were flanked by a calm, flowing river off to our right and eventually found Kettle River Recreation Site right around the time our bellies were beginning to grumble. Past the entrance we followed the winding roadway through a forest of burned out pines surrounded with purple flowers dotting the otherwise golden landscape. The road came to a junction displaying a warning to vehicles larger than 24 ft that access was not advised but risking the result we hauled our 25 feet onward past the campground and into the day use area right on the Kettle River. After satisfying our grumbling tummies we walked the short path and grabbed a picnic table along the river bank. There were many people perched along the riverside and bobbing in inflatables slowly cruising by and stirring up our burning desires to go on a float of our own. There was an old rail bridge across the river, part of the Trans Canada Trail. A multi-use recreation trail that stretches nearly 18,000 kilometers and winds it’s way through every province and territory. We enjoyed the riverside and stuck our toes in the water as others jumped in off the bridge and sunbathed across on the opposite bank.  Discussing a future return to Kettle River for camping and drifting, we left the riverside reprieve and pulled back onto the highway. The drive back to Kelowna was unexpectedly windy and steep but surrounded by beautiful views with which BC never disappoints.

Diane Dee

Diane is a lover of all things travel. She and her young family wanted to explore North America from the comfort of their own home so they bought an RV. After fully rehabbing a 1994 Safari Trek, they set out to explore both Canada and the USA.

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