The drive from Kaslo to Nelson was really lovely. There were a few small lakeside communities, but mostly it felt like one long stretch of lakefront homes. One town, Balfour, is known as an artist community, and we noticed many signs welcoming passersby to visit home studios. When we arrived in Nelson we drove first to our Airbnb to unload and then promptly to find dinner downtown. We were both starving. We chose Loka, a casual middle eastern eatery, for a hearty meal. We were fairly exhausted from our hike at Monica Meadows, so instead of staying out, we returned to our room to finish the rest of our wine from Salmon Arm and unwind.
The next day’s forecast was fantastic, but the following day’s included another bout of rain storms. I was itching to do another alpine hike, but we also wanted to kayak. With only one day of favorable lake weather, we settled on a short hike at Gibson Lake before an afternoon kayaking on Kootenay Lake.
We started our day at Oso Negro with a leisurely coffee and breakfast. With its reputation as the best coffee in town, we weren’t surprised to see a trail of people out the door when we arrived. Even so, the line moved quickly, and we had no problem finding a table. The place had a good vibe, and it was entertaining to watch the whirl and buzz.
After Oso Negro, we set out for Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Gibson Lake sits at the top of Kokanee Glacier Road, so it requires little physical effort to enjoy it, though the dirt road is rough in one or two areas. The parking lot serves as the trailhead for several long day or overnight hikes, which I hope we can do in the future. On this trip, we simply followed the path encircling Gibson Lake. It was a really pleasant trail, offering varying views of the lake and basin. The water was calm, and without any kayakers or swimmers, we could enjoy the subtle nature sounds around us. We perched ourselves on a boulder by the lake for a snack and enjoyed the immense beauty.
For our kayaking adventure, I thought nearby Kokanee Creek Provincial Park provided the perfect base. Close to Kokanee Glacier Road, the park sits along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. With a short distance between the parking lot and beach, we were able to assemble the kayaks on the lawn and carry them to the water – nothing like the trek we made to Bannock Point!
We spent several hours paddling around the lake. It was the perfect day for such an activity – warm enough that we occasionally splashed ourselves to cool off, but not blistering hot. (Zach even went for a dip!) We initially wandered east then turned west mirroring the shoreline to find an isolated part of the beach for the light lunch I brought along. The highlight of my afternoon was an unexpected Osprey sighting. I noticed a bird circling above the water nearby; suddenly it dove straight into the water! It caught me by surprise at first, but as I realized what I witnessed, I called out to Zach and turned my attention back to the sky. We were able to watch it dive once more before it flew off to the opposite shore- maybe it had been successful!
Back in Nelson, we wanted to get a taste for the city’s beer scene. Up the hill from downtown, Nelson Brewing Company is located in an unassuming ivy-strewn building. The interior is small and cozy, verging on cramped. Licensed to fill growlers, operate as a bottle shop, and offer tasting flights, there isn’t much need for more room. We were able to move to the bar shortly after we arrived, which was better positioned for both tasting and chatting. We each ordered our own flight of four beers to maximize our tasting potential. Nelson Brewing is an organic brewery. They source their ingredients locally making it truly feel like a product of the Kootenays. My favorite was the Fir Tip Red Ale, which actually had a hint of fir! But every beer we tried was refreshingly different and delicious.
After our tasting, we returned downtown for dinner at Pitchfork based on a recommendation from Andy at Angry Hen Brewing in Kaslo. We showed up without a reservation and were incredibly fortunate to get a table on their glorious patio. (Others arriving just afterward were given a considerable wait time.) We enjoyed an excellent meal – Zach still calls the salmon tartare his all-time favorite dish – and the ambiance from their patio was delightful. To close out the evening, we walked to Backroads Brewing on Nelson’s main drag for a night cap.
After having such a fabulous day, we found ourselves disheartened at the prospect of yet another gloomy, rainy day. We had planned to stay a third night in Nelson before crossing back into the US, but since our Airbnb would offer a full refund, we chose to leave Nelson a day early and chase the sun. Our decision was reinforced when we awoke the next morning to loud rumbles of thunder, high winds, and a deluge of rain.
Energized by this change in plan, we spent our final morning at Empire Coffee and strolled Baker Street, popping into a few shops to pick up souvenirs and books. As we drove south, leaving Nelson in the rearview, we eagerly looked ahead to drier skies.