We left Banff with no clear plan. When I originally charted our trip, I intended to spend the next few days at Yoho NP – northwest of Lake Louise on the Trans-Canada Highway – and then continue on to Kelowna. But when our plans changed and Kelowna was no longer our destination, it made the rest of our itinerary futile. I had a lot of ideas about where we could go – Yoho NP, Golden, Revelstoke, Radium Hot Springs, Kootenay NP – but ultimately, a series of factors led us to make Golden, British Columbia (BC), our base instead.
We bypassed Yoho NP as another wave of rain set in and went straight to Golden. Our guidebook had a couple of campgrounds listed, but we weren’t sure what the availability would be like. We decided to check both. The first place was a little sad – fine for trailers but not ideal for tent campers. The next place sounded more promising: Golden Eco-Adventure Ranch. Tucked on the outskirts of town, with separate camping areas for tents and trailers and a shared washroom with laundry and showers (!), the eco-ranch was the perfect place to make a base for the next three nights. Since I didn’t have any luck with their phone number, we just showed up. Thankfully they had room and we were able to pick a site nestled in the trees. It was a great spot, shaded and spacious. Although the spots were close together, there was plenty of room within each site to spread out. We’d been going non-stop for several days, so it was nice to spend the late afternoon/early evening leisurely at our site with only one brief thunderstorm. We didn’t have any site mates our first night which made it pretty tranquil.
Later in the evening when we went to the main office to use the wifi, Zach made an important discovery. Golden had a brewery. Whitetooth Brewery wasn’t too far in downtown Golden and was open for another hour and a half. Zach had had enough relaxation; he wanted a craft beer. We hopped in the car to leave and it was dead! Zach had left the back hatch open for much of the afternoon and the door light had drained the battery. Since we had no immediate neighbors we went in search of someone to jump our car. Zach found Rudy, a delightful Parisian with a rental Jeep who offered to help us. Soon the Subaru was back in business. We gave Rudy a Texas beer to thank him for the help as we drove away to make last call!
In looking at the forecast, we decided to delay our visit to Yoho NP and hang out in Golden the following day. We had a leisurely morning at the campsite and threw around some ideas for the day. Zach proposed an afternoon whitewater rafting trip on the Kicking Horse River. He called a few places, but could only secure a spot on a mid-morning trip. We had an hour to kill beforehand, so we drove into town to browse the local bookstore, Bacchus Books. We easily passed the time there leaving with five (!) books between the two of us.
Though not initially part of the plan, whitewater rafting was an excellent idea. We hadn’t been in four years (since our Western US road trip), and I’d forgotten how enjoyable it was! As usual, I was mostly concerned with falling overboard – I’m 2-0 on that front thankfully. The weather was perfect – no thunderstorms like the previous day – and we had a superb Kiwi guide. At the end of the rapids, he encouraged us to get out and swim alongside the raft. Almost all of us did – why?! – and it was shockingly cold (it is glacial-fed after all). Getting back in the raft was the most cumbersome obstacle of the entire trip!
It was 3pm once we had finished rafting and returned to our car. We grabbed a beer and poutine back in Golden and walked around town before settling in at Bacchus Books’ upstairs cafe. It was at Bacchus that we received word of a grass fire spreading north of our street in Salt Lake prompting evacuation fears. Thankfully Truman had been picked up earlier in the day by Lisa, but it was a harrowing hour while we waited for word that the fire had been contained.
Relieved, we left Bacchus to visit Northern Lights Wolf Centre, a wolf sanctuary outside of town. We didn’t plan it too well, but managed to make it for the last tour of the day. The centre’s mission is wolf conservation and education. Our tour highlighted how wolves are an integral part of maintaining a healthy natural environment. A healthy wolf population impacts even the smallest creatures. Zach and I knew about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone NP, but we didn’t know the extent of its impact there. We had the opportunity to walk around and observe the wolves while they mostly lounged around. Our guide was quick to point out that some of the behaviors displayed by these wolves wouldn’t occur naturally in the wild. But since these wolves don’t have to worry about their next meal or predators, they can take it easy. I was fascinated to notice small mannerisms and behaviors similar to those Truman exhibits. In an odd way, they did seem like giant dogs. But it was also obvious that in the wild, they would command fear and respect.
After Northern Lights we drove back into town to end the evening at Whitetooth Brewing. We sat outside in their spacious backyard and whiled away a few hours. (I love breweries with yards instead of patios.) It was the perfect way to end a relaxing day in Golden. It was such a nice change of pace from Lake Louise, Banff, even Jasper. But we had one more day in a national park on the horizon. So as dusk began to settle into the valley, we made our way back to our camp.