I was given an opportunity to work at a different site for the week. So, I jumped at the chance for a change of scenery and to be able to explore another city, on my company’s dine.
I would be working in the little town of Castlegar, with a population of 8,000. It is home of the only airfield that takes you directly to the Kootenays from Richmond’s YVR airport. Travel is by small propeller plane that you load onto right on the tarmac of the runway. The trip is just over 1 hour, but comes at a steep cost, given the limited flights available.
As this was for work, I would have my choice of accommodations. Looking outside Castlegar’s Best Value Inn and Super 8 motel, I figured a 30-minute daily commute from the larger city of Nelson to Castlegar would be reasonable. And staying in Nelson would mean more accommodations to choose from, with more stars. And the ride honestly was not too far of a drive, seeing as my regular commute takes as me just under an hour or so.
After weighing my options, I booked the Hume Hotel for a week, given that it was located within the immediate centre of downtown Nelson. Everything would be within walking distance, ideal, for when I did not want to drive or fumble with coins that their parking meters only took. The stay would not come with parking and a week’s pass at the adjacent parking complex would be necessary. Or I could risk finding space adjacent within the free lot, or on the street after a certain time. I would pass on both, and opt for a sure thing instead.
Little did I know that my hotel would come with a 100-year history and accounts of ghost sighting. Admittedly I am a scaredy cat and do believe in the supernatural. Walking into the hotel’s lobby and noting the classic framed portrait of the hotel’s benefactor and his wife, with their years of life listed underneath gave me shivers. A chill that was furthered by taking the cramped, single, coffin-sized elevator up to my assigned floor. The initial trip up would see to it, that it would be my last. Staying on the 3rd floor, a walk up and down creaky stairs, past hallways plastered with blown up black and white photos of people long gone seemed less terrifying.
I would later find out that there have indeed been ghostly sightings on the premises, although all accounts are of them being friendly poltergeists. And the staff member who was a believer, swore that the being was friendly and has not been known to bother anyone in my assigned room. This was a slight sigh of relief, but I still went into my unit removing the mirror that faced the bed and hiding it. And trying, but failing to remove the additional black and white photos that were hung over the bed in decoration.
Upon check-in I was warned that my room would be right above the bar, and as a result it can get pretty loud on weekends when patrons are most rowdy. I was happy for this, to be able to hear those around me made me feel less uneasy when trying to fall asleep.
Although for the quieter nights I sough sleep through booze, bought rocks for celestial protection, and looked to chanting mantras in prayer. It was not until midweek, when I met my neighbours was I put to ease. Two little old ladies who scoffed at my fear of ghosts and stated that I actually had an alcohol problem instead. I took their quip as solace, as they swore, they have stayed at Hume twice now, and nothing out of the ordinary has happened. I actually ran into them taking in all the wallpapered photos, that I have been avoiding eye contact with and wrote off as creepy.
My room had two Queen beds and therefore plenty of space. A bed for sleeping and one for lounging on. A dresser, a desk, and a view of the city streets and its construction below. The sleep itself, on either of the firm beds with hotel quality sheet was comforting.
The washroom was tiled in white, walls to floor. Standard with a deep soaker tub, a black marble sink and plenty of fluffed up hotel quality towels. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash was a push press dispenser by Beekman.
Additional amenities included a coffee maker with pods, mini fridge, and ironing board. I would not use much of this, as when I wasn’t up early for work, I was off exploring the surrounding cities and as much of the Kootenays as possible, in every which direction.
Thankfully my work trip came with a rental car of my choosing (to a certain extent). I was out in the wilderness and planning to explore their wooded areas, so thought an SUV would suit me best. The goal was to see what wildlife and foreign vegetation I could spot, given I was as far East of BC as possible, before hitting the Rockies.
Sadly, I did not spot any of the wild turkeys crossing the road that the signs warned of. Nor did I pass by any antlered beasts grazing on the side of the street. No bear, goats, or even smaller burrowing animals.
Just plenty of stinkbugs indoors and out. You would literally sweep the floor, riding yourself of 20 or more of them, only for them to return unannounced 30 minutes later. My visit coincided with their peak season, and they were everywhere. Luckily, I am not afraid of insects, and even went out of my way to pose with the city’s commemorative statue of them, which marked entry to the city. Fun fact, this and many of the other public works of art and statues have given Castlegar the moniker of the “city of statues”, totalling the most of any in Canada.
I was given the 2022 Ford Edge as my exploration vehicle, and she was a good one. The week I spent communing and exploring gave me extensive time behind the wheel. Driving as far out as Kaslo, which is 2.5 hours from Nelson, after driving back from work 30 minutes away. My trip to Kaslo was on a tip that I would be able to find morel mushrooms in an old burnt forest. Although the drive gave me time to take in the sights and experience small town county driving, it was all in vain as I found no rare fungi. And what I thought was a bounty of chanterelle, would actually be imposter mushrooms. At least I can say that I tried and got a quick hike out of it.
Considering all the kilometres I clocked in; I was appreciative of the Edge’s great fuel economy. I only had to fuel up once across 6 days, and that is considering all the extra traveling I did: driving to neighbouring towns, then maneuvering through its streets there.
Rossland was the local ski town with buildings that resembled wintering chateaus and statues erected to celebrate its long ski culture.
Trail was the area’s industrial town, with much of the land dedicated to the large Teck smelting operations.
And Ainsworth was a must visit with the Kootenay’s only commercial hot springs.
Although truthfully, you didn’t need much time exploring all of the above. A couple of busier streets and some nice art installations to take in. Not much in terms of shopping, other than local coffee roaster, chocolate makers, and breweries with tasting rooms. I would spend most of my time exploring the largest city of them all: Nelson, and spending my daily work per diem there.
The 2022 Ford Edge proved effective in tackling all that I threw at it. It was easy to handle with very little effort needed to steer, ideal for my extended travel. Coupled with firm seats and stiff suspension for a more comfortable, longer distance ride. Hair pin steering around winding mountain roads. And the ability to quickly accelerate and overtake big rigs, RVs, and all the other Sunday country drivers, passing them across the dotted lines.
The Edge’s intuitive high beams and fog lights were well suited to my early morning drives. At 4am, where a look into the rear-view mirror only gives you pitch black darkness. Dangerous as there is a need to keep alert in case deer, moose, or any other wildlife decides to cross the street.
The SUV had all the modern conveniences. Both USB and C-cable outlets, plus Bluetooth and Apple car play possibilities. It includes plenty of cargo room, should I have come with more than a carry on, and transport more than leftovers in the back seat.
It was easy to stop and park along the highway, in order to take extended views of Kootenay Lake and its tributaries. Surrounded by the greenery of nature and the majesty of the mountains. As a whole, this was a great trip, and one I would not soon forget, travelling alone and independent.
I would be covering my more notable stops and dining options within the Kootenays, in their own post. So will leave it here saying. my trip was a more successful and safer one thanks to the reliability of the 2022 Ford Edge, a fantastic driving partner when going alone.