Canadian Rockies, Day One: Seattle, WA to Radium Hot Springs, BC

On our first day, we set out from the Emerald City (Seattle…just in case you were unsure) and headed eastbound on I-90 around 0800 Pacific. I wanted to get through Snoqualmie Pass before the Labor Day traffic backed up, but we made it through with little to no problems.

Driving on the ‘dry side’ of the Cascades reveals a landscape that’s very….different (read: boring) than the wet side.

The plains of central Washington
The plains of central Washington…miles and miles of it.
Nearing Spokane, WA
Starting to look a little more like western WA.

The landscape reminded me more of Texas or Oklahoma. Fun fact: most of WA is arid desert, with some irrigated farmland along a lot of the Columbia river. Other fun fact: Seattle’s climate is considered ‘Mediterranean’ (wet winters, dry warm summers) and the Olympic peninsula is classified as a rainforest. Three majorly different climates in one wonderful state!

We crossed the border at a very small crossing in Eastport, ID (or Kingsgate, BC). The Canadian border agent – asked few questions: “Why are you here?” and “Do you have any firearms in the vehicle?” (‘To spend a week in Banff’ and ‘I do not,’ respectively), he replied “Have a good trip.” Maybe it was the NEXUS (pre-cleared border passes) that limits the question or it’s just Canada being awesome, but whatever. I get fewer questions at border crossings with the NEXUS card (even at non-NEXUS crossings) than I did with the full passport.

Canadian Border Crossing
Bienvenue au Canada!

We drove through many miles/kilometers of wilderness, even going past an active wildfire scene (with helicopters airlifting water drops into it as we drove past), we arrived at our first stop: Radium Hot Springs, right on the edge of the Kootenay National Park.

Wildfire smoke
Smoke from an active wildfire.
Car mountain shot
Take me to the mountains…

So there’s a legit hot spring nearby – pretty cool, eh? (spoiler alert – we passed it on the way out the next day: it actually just feeds a swimming pool. Glad we didn’t go). We stayed in a cute little motel (Gateway Motel) that was Bavarian-themed. In Canada. This was a theme that would repeat itself.

Gateway Motel, Radium Hot Springs, AB
A Bavarian-themed (sorta) motel in…Alberta, Canada!

After a trip a nearby Old Salzburg Restaurant (again – Bavarian) where I had probably the most authentic schnitzel in years (not since actual Germany in 2003), we went to bed to press onward tomorrow towards Banff National Park and the town of Banff.

Maybe the most authentic schnitzel I’ve had outside of Germany.


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