Hot springs, bird watching and the Nordic god of snow
Spontaneous Spring 2019 Road Trip Day #2
Following our annual indulgent spa pamper in Canmore the previous day, we settled in and enjoyed a comfortable enough sleep in our cozy and somewhat smaller-than-usual bed in our penthouse perch at Radium Chalet. Read about our Day #1 experience here. We managed to mobilize ourselves in time to make the most of the included continental breakfast in the motel’s lobby.
Lussier Hot Spring
After assembling a rudimentary day pack of snacks and a change of clothing we once again set out, heading south along the Kootenay Highway, Highway 95, past Invermere, Windermere and Fairmont Hot Springs to Canal Flats. Here we turned onto the Whiteswan Lake forest service road and headed 20km into the mountains arriving at our hear-say destination of Lussier River Hot Springs.
This little-known gem is nestled down a mountain slope on the Lussier River and has been made accessible from the car park by a well-constructed pathway and retaining walls by BC Parks. Compacted snow and ice in the winter might make access a little more challenging, so consider bringing good footwear in the winter season. The semi-natural cascade of three rock pools is fed by a constant supply of mineral-rich hot spring water that becomes ever-cooler as it filters from one rock basin to the next before emptying into the icy mountain waters of the river.
There is more than enough space to disrobe and leave your gear next to the pathway. For convenience we would recommend arriving at the hot spring already suited up in your swim gear. It takes a bit of mountain-goat dexterity to navigate some of the jagged boulders to access the pools. My preference was to start in one of the cooler river-side pools and slowly work our way up to the hot pool. Other courageous bathers would languish in the cooler pool and periodically dunk themselves in the river’s icy flow. Once I become accustomed to the dislodged, floating algae blooms and the periodic sulphurous odours escaping from the pool’s waters, the outdoor soaking experience amidst the snowmelt in this pristine wilderness setting was quite surreal. During our one hour stop-over the crowd of visiting soakers varied from 30 to perhaps 10 by the time we departed.
Our midday outdoor public bathing experience at Lussier River hot springs happened at a pleasant 8°C ambient temperature with no snow on the ground. I suspect the experience would be significantly more other-worldly were you to attempt it in the thick of winter when shrouded in snow. It would also make the logistics of driving to and accessing the pools a little more challenging, but no-less rewarding. If you’re considering doing this in mid-winter it may be wise to do it under advisement from the local authorities since access through the mountain pass-type service road may be challenging, assuming the road is maintained at all.
Our visit to these hot springs, aside from being a picturesque drive, was a refreshing follow-up to yesterday’s spa experience. Having gathered our kit and re-clothed ourselves over our nearly-dry bathing gear, we returned to our vehicle and made our way back to Highway 95 and Radium Hot Springs. En route we were very gladly distracted by flocks of trumpeter swans in the extensive wetlands north of Canal Flats. We remained captivated by the scenic serenity and beauty punctuated by the diversity of birdlife lurking in the lake and grasses.
Invermere Detour & Dinner
Never having visited the lakeside town of Invermere, we made a late afternoon detour here. We parked our car and walked the main street, exploring some of the numerous touristy stores: art, crafts, gemstones, games, ice cream, coffee shops and farmers market. Although many stores were still closed for the season, there was no shortage of unique places to discover before we happened upon Ullr Bar on 13th street. Ullr, apparently the Nordic god of snow, in a show-down with Theodoric (supposedly the origins of my name), Ruler of the people. I didn’t feel much like a ruler then, but more like a boy being dictated by the cravings of his belly, having not eaten a proper meal since our Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company lunch in Canmore yesterday.
Being early enough in the evening, we were some of their first patrons. We ordered a serving of the Ullr fried chicken and the Belly of the Beast pork dish off their simple dining menu. I don’t think it was just our dying hunger that made the food taste so good. I think it actually was very good, particularly the generous portion of succulent, deep-fried chicken!! With our energy levels significantly replenished we made our way home to our Radium Chalet penthouse abode where we settled in for a quiet evening of reading, writing and relaxing before retiring for the night. Another delightfully enjoyable, agendaless day thoroughly enjoyed and well lived!