Day 4 – July 12 // Columbia Lake viewpoint, Radium Hot Springs, Olive Lake, Banff // Mountain Tunnel RV Park

Day 4 – July 12
Columbia Lake viewpoint, Radium Hot Springs, Olive Lake, Banff
Mountain Tunnel RV Park 4/5

Olive Lake

Olive Lake

Woke up at around 9 for breakfast and started packing, and left at about 12. It took us a while to decide on whether we will stay overnight in Banff, or go straight to Lake Louise. With the weekend, finding an RV park that could fit a 32 ft. motorhome was not an easy task, but, luckily the Mountain Tunnel 1 in Banff had one open spot. I made a reservation via reservation.pc.gc.ca, and off we went.

With a few stops at Columbia Lake and Olive Lake, Radium Hot Springs and an occasional viewpoint we made it to Banff in one piece at about 7 pm.

Olive Lake is a smaller lake (a pond, even), with the portions of it seeming blue, and some portions being emerald green. The water is so clear you see the bed – amazing! On the left side of the lake is a natural spring with (hopefully) drinking water.

After the Olive Lake, we took

Radium Hot Springs review:

IMG_20140712_160218497_HDRThere are 3 pools on one level, two large ones – hot and cool, and one colder jacuzzi tub. The regular admission includes access to all three. You can either get a single-entry, or a day pass. The cool pool has a МОСТИК to jump from, and the depth varies from 4 to 9 feet. The other 2 pools are of a set depth (about 3 feet). Both large pools have lifeguards.

Mountain Tunnel Park review (4/5):

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At the campsite

The massively overrated RV park didn’t have Wi-Fi, the showers were cold, but clean overall; though the views were incredible. To me, Banff is really just like Whistler, with the typical drunken youth, plus the Rocky Mountains. The spots are evenly spaced out, so you don’t hear your neighbours. The park is located in a coniferous forest.

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A viewpoint near the RV park

There was someone’s stuff in out spot – a few folding chairs, a tent, some towels and speedos, so I called the warden so they could come and collect it. Checkout was 11 am, so it has been at least 8 hours since they should have been back, but the warden told us they would send to look for them if they don’t come to pick their stuff up by the following day. We helped her to load the stuff up onto the trailer, and she left.IMG_20140712_123133801 IMG_20140712_170440395_HDR

The next day another warden came back to drop the stuff in the nearby bush.

In the evening we went for a dinner to Elk & Oarsman (the park warden’s recommendation), where we tried elk meat for the first time.

To sum up an Elk & Oarsman review, I give it a 2.5/5. The food was meh: our steaks were overdone (we asked for medium-rare) and the salmon was burnt on the bottom side; the service, however, was very courteous.

 

Day 3 – July 11 // Castlegar, Erie Lake, Lost Creek // Fort Steele Campground

Day 3 – July 11
Castlegar, Erie Lake, Lost Creek
Fort Steele Campground (5/5)

I woke up at 8 to Google all the possible alternative routes that would yield less driving time, and a more picturesque route. We decided to skip Nelson and Calgary, and possibly Prince George, to have more time in Banff, Tofino and Victoria (or so we thought).

Reginald at Erie Lake

Reginald at Erie Lake

Reginald at Lost Creek

Reginald at Lost Creek

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The tunnel of flags

We left at 1 pm for Castlegar, to eat at the Doukhobor Borscht Hut (it wasn’t bad), and headed to Fort Steele.

Neither Castlegar, nor Grand Forks really impressed me. Both are quite ordinary small towns. We only spent a few moments in each of the two, and didn’t stop at many viewpoints or heritage sites. The only one that was memorable was the Tunnel of Flags (see the link in the description below the picture). First of all, that’s where Reginald was born – my touristic alter-ego (the horse head mask from the lamp in the washroom finally had a more distinct purpose), and second of all, it was an old (1913) tunnel with a bunch of flags drawn over it.

Fort Steele, on the other hand, was probably the most picturesque campground for the duration of the whole trip. Maybe because I was still very fresh in the journey, or maybe because of the full moon that night.

The food at the Doukhobor Borscht Hut

Fort Steele Campground review (5/5):

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Fort Steele Campground really impressed me. Full hookups, surprisingly fast Wi-Fi, and free hot showers. I loved the mountain views all around. The campground is large, there are no trees or dividers or any kind in between, but the spaces are relatively far away from each other. The spots are large enough to fit 50 ft. motorhomes (motormansions).

The showers and washroom were really clean (and free).

When visiting the campground, keep in mind, that unlike the most of the BC, it is located in the Mountain Time Zone, which is an hour ahead of the Pacific Time Zone.

I liked that the management was pretty relaxed, and did not make us leave even though we overstayed at our spot for about 1 hour.

Day 2 – July 10 // Osoyoos, Grand Forks, Christina Lake // Totem Park Campground

Day 2 – July 10
Osoyoos, Grand Forks, Christina Lake
Totem Park Campground (5/5)

Reginald at Haynes Point

Reginald at Haynes Point

We woke up at around 9, packed up, had a small breakfast, and got on the road. Stopped at UBC Kelowna to check out their campus (nice views), and then got on the way to Osoyoos.

By the time we got there, it was 4 pm (123 km from Kelowna -> Osoyoos). We stopped for a dip and a lunch at Haynes Point Park. This park splits the lake in two parts, and because of the strong winds one part is wavy, and the other half is calm.

We decided to take another 125 km trip to Grand Forks, but were not very impressed with the campground and drove another 20 km to Christina Lake to stay at a much nicer Totem Park.

 

 

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 Totem Park Campground review (5/5):

IMG_20140711_094010509Totem Campground has clean washrooms, $0.25 hot showers and pretty fast Wi-Fi. Washrooms and showers are older, but very clean. The park has tall coniferous trees. The spots are spaced in an interesting fashion, so that despite being close to each other, you get as much privacy as possible. We were allowed to stay for 1 hour past the check-out time, because it wasn’t very busy.

Christina Lake is just a minute walk down from the park.

The lake is very warm, and the bed has an unexpectedly large drop. Just a few steps into the water it was much deeper that my height. The public beach is really tiny, and the majority of the lake access seems to be privately owned.

Reginald at Christina Lake

Reginald at Christina Lake

Day 1 – July 9 // Kelowna // Hiawatha Campground

Pre-story:

Both my parents got their Canadian visas sometime in June, and bought airplane tickets to come visit me and my brothers Philip (21) and Savva (17). It has always been my dad’s dream to rent an RV and ride around North America with the family. Originally, we have planned to go from Vancouver to Montreal, but didn’t book an RV from a company that allows one-way trips in time, and decided to go around BC and Southwestern Alberta instead. The last time we have gathered together as a group was 5 years ago, in 2009, so we were all pretty stoked to finally go on a vacation together.

We have rented a Winnebago Villa, a 32′ RV with a 30 amp hookup, 200 l. tank (about 25 l/100 km on a highway), 6 sleeping spots (although, it’d be a nightmare sleeping on the reclining sofa for more than 1 night), a full washroom with a shower, TVs in the master bedroom, the top front by the driver’s seat, and a tiny personal one (with wireless headphones) in each bunk bed, and a kitchenette with a microwave, a gas stove and a fridge.

They have arrived on the 2nd of July, spent a few days in Vancouver and left to Kelowna on Monday, July 7th. I wasn’t very keen on spending 3 days there because, face it – Kelowna isn’t the most exciting place, so I have taken my 2 weeks off from July 9 to 22 and met them on the 9th.

I have noticed, that the campgrounds (and the businesses we have dealt with) generally have three approaches to the customers:

1) “Give me your money and f*ck off”;

2) By the book – e.g. being honest and reliable, but only following pre-cited rules;

3) By the case – e.g. treating each customer individually, according to the situation;

I will note, whenever I had enough interaction, which of the three approaches was utilized.

Day 1 – July 9
Kelowna
Hiawatha Campground (Rating: 4/5)

IMG_20140710_095657604I woke up at 7, thinking the bus was at 8.30 – turned out to be an hour later time at 9.30. Great, I thought – more time to spend with the girlfriend and the dog!
At 9 am I got into a cab and got to the station just on time, and realized I forgot to pack the sunscreen, my flip-flops and an AUX cord.

The day before I bought a Greyhound bus ticket to Kelowna. $50 (after taxes) online versus $73 buying at the station – not a bad discount for only a few minutes of your time.

IMG_20140710_095512155I got on the express bus, 9.30 am to 3.10 pm. By the time I got to Kelowna it hit me: I could’ve ridden my bike the entire trip – that would’ve been a journey and a half. I have weighed a possibility to return back and meet them in Osooyoos the next day, but decided against it because the bike wasn’t ready for a far journey: it had no windshield, chain was loose (I couldn’t tighten it myself because of a stuck bolt) and it needed an oil change fairly soon. And, most importantly, I would miss out on spending the quality time together with my family.

I met with the relatives, who were staying at Hiawatha RV park. We spend a little time on the beach, went out for a dinner at a local restaurant, then we took a stroll to check out my youngest brother’s place, and took a cab back. Sleepytime!

Hiawatha Park review (4/5):

We had a spot with full hookups and a very slow wifi. The campground was clean and taken care of. The park has the leafy trees all over, and the spots are just next to one another. I haven’t used the washrooms, but my mom is telling me they weren’t the cleanest. Unfortunately, I cannot rate the RV park any further, because I arrived late, and haven’t spoken to anyone but my family there.

Keep in mind, there are only 2 campgrounds in the area, and the other one had much worse reviews.

We have paid $61 per day + GST. The spot was large enough to host a 32″ motorhome without a problem.

Guess who’s back?

2,810 km’s in 15 days (according to the odometer), and I’m finally back home again. The trip was awesome! I’ll start editing the notes I took for the duration of the trip, and the first post should be up by this evening. The tag is BC RV road trip, so use this link to see the entire trip, chronologically.

Family BC RV trip

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The route did vary from the original plan quite drastically, the details and reasoning will be explained. Stay tuned!

P.S.: The difference of 265 km is driving here and there, as the route is based mostly on just the campgrounds we have stayed at.