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Dad and Kerry's 2003 Trip to British Columbia

Day 7 - Last Day in BC: Kootenay River -- Balfour Ferry -- Cranbrook -- Back to the USA

WEDNESDAY, 20 August 2003

I'm now sitting at the picnic table in our campsite, in [Whitefish Lake] State Park, in Whitefish, Montana. That's right; we're back in the States!

I think I actually got around 7 hours of sleep last night - that's more than my average for the trip so far. Dad goes to bed between 10:00 and 10:30 (Utah time) which is good in that I have some quiet time for reading my scriptures and writing in my journal. Unfortunately, he also gets up early (around 4-something today!) and for one reason or another I wake up earlier than I normally would.

Anyway, we were packed and out of the campground by a little after 9:00 local (Pacific) time. Our plan was to ride to Castlegar and have breakfast at the McDonald's where Randy and I ate last year. I kept thinking that they would serve breakfast until 10:30, but then I realized that I was guessing and that it would be better to get there by 10:00. So, I kinda "pushed it" and got us there with 5 minutes to spare. We both had a Big Breakfast; Dad added milk and I had apple juice.

We saw in the paper that some of the fires in B.C. had tripled in size. Yikes!

We briefly considered taking a different, less-populous route from Castlegar to Nelson [via Salmo], but ended up going the same way that Randy and I went: along the Kootenay River. Last year the river was shrouded in mist; this year the sun shone brightly. I had forgotten about the several hydroelectric "dams" - really just generating stations at existing falls. But the river was as neat as before; I'm pretty sure Dad enjoyed it a lot.

Just like last year, we didn't bother stopping in Nelson. We went right over the bridge and continued toward Balfour and the ferry. Unlike last year, there was very little traffic; most of the time there was nobody in front of us and nobody behind us. Ahhh! It made the rather low speed limit (60 kph) more bearable. I [was] amazed again at all of the little docks and small sandy beaches along that 20-mile stretch of Kootenay River/Lake. It would be a neat place to spend some time.... When we arrived at the line-up-and-wait area for the ferry to Kootenay Bay [Map Point #2] there were only 4 or 5 cars in line. The next ferry wasn't due for 20 more minutes so we were able to use the restroom, get a snack, and call Sue. I noticed on the schedule that the next boat was not going to be the Osprey that Randy and I took across last year. Instead of taking the other (older, smaller) boat, we decided to wait an extra 40 minutes.

I'm glad we did.

Dad and I walked all over the boat...

...enjoyed the (unfortunately still somewhat smoky) scenery...

...and got a big kick out of the "wind" coming from the direction of the bow.

That's a really neat ride - and FREE! The only thing that Dad didn't like was where we were directed to park on board. Except for some forest service trucks that received priority treatment, we were the first ones on board. Probably because of that, the loadmaster directed us to a small area on one side, some distance from the bow.

As the other vehicles lined up beside us and closer to the bow we realized that there was no way we would be getting off first as we had hoped/planned. Sigh.

(And we were right; the lane along our side of the boat was the last to be taken off!) A few miles after getting off the ferry...

...I pulled over to "give the other cars a headstart". We used the time to have a snack and look at the lake.

So, the ride to Creston from Kootenay Bay was probably a bit of a letdown, but it was OK. We didn't drop into the States from Creston like Randy and I did; we looped back northward to Cranbrook and joined 3/93 a little south of Wasa to close the [BC] circuit. We rode south to Elko and then broke from our inbound route and dropped into Montana at the Roosville gate [Map Point #3]. Going through customs wasn't too bad. The man told Dad to get a passport or bring his birth certificate next time, and we had to open a saddlebag to find the can of Nalley's chili that we bought in Golden (because it contained meat). It turned out to be a product of the USA, so it was OK.

We stopped to take a picture of the "Welcome to Montana" sign...

...and then headed south again. Two ladies at a Ranger Station told us about campgrounds in the area and gave us a Montana map. (Now Dad has one just like mine.) We found this state park and are fairly satisfied, although it cost us $20.

The bathroom/shower building is clean and modern, and it's very quiet here ... except when the trains roll past about 100 yards away and blast their horns! I went down to the lake about half a page back and called Sue again - on my TracFone! Yay - no more 25¢/min calls on my WalMart / AT&T calling card with a 10-unit penalty for using a pay phone....

Miles covered today: 342
Total miles covered: 2186


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