The Slocan Valley is peppered with small bodies of water heated by small burps of volcanic activity. Many of the best spots aren’t signed and are predominantly frequented by locals.
On the spur of the moment, we planned to tear out of town for an evening hot springs expedition. Unfortunately, just before we left, the power in Nelson went out. We desperately tried to cook our big pre-trip meal, chili accompanied by nachos and cheese, on outdoor cooking apparatuses. The high winds had apparently knocked out a power line, so I was forced to temper leaping flames and my sister’s vicious micromanaging to get the nachos cooked. I pulled them off a barbeque awkwardly, but grilled to petroleum-infused perfection.
We rode into the sunset in two cars, in true Lochinvar style. We seemed to keep up with the sun-set. We were transfixed by the misty blues and greys that swirled around the rocky silhouettes of mountains, we gawked at the sun’s artful touch on rocky walls and shimmering waters.
Drowsy from the long drive, and the wearing off of a couple of road pops, we pulled into the pitch-black dark of a logging road. I piled out in short-sighted flip-flops, camera swinging wildly around my chest, a poorly packed hiking bag tipping me side to side. Our humans to headlights ratio was troublingly low so the steep climb down merited a steady stream of curses from my grimacing, tightly pursed lips.
After a series of downhill flips, followed be a series of flops, we arrived at the quaint, candle-lit hot springs. It was very nice to find a site so well-maintained but still public and only inhabited by a handful of people. We changed into bathing suits, lined gin bottles and pineapple stuffed tupperware on the rocks, and slipped into the soothing, sulphurous heat of the rocky pools. My feet relaxed greedily in the water and thanked me profusely for the sudden drastic change in how I was treating them.
I tried to snap a couple of photos, but the flash was strobing and the lens couldn’t focus in the dark. Eventually a voice piped up from admidst my friends, “hey! Cut it out with the flash!” Indignant and passive-aggressive, I continued my attempt to capture the steamy enjoyment of the moment. “Dude!” the voice emerged again, “at least wait until the locals have finished changing!”
So we stayed submersed long into the night, long past the 20 minutes of hot-tubbing reccomended by pedantic health authorities. We had a grand time, but as the hours creeped by a few of us grew anxious to leave. Perhaps the gin was inspiring the beginnings of belligerence, perhaps I hadn’t fully recovered from the stressful descent, but I wasn’t having it. I wasn’t leaving in a hurry. I was staying for the night. Especially after humping that bag down.
I was staying alone, apparently. I am an aspiring grizzly man, am I not? Slightly inebriated, I collected some meagre stores from my friends: 25 plump cherries, some chips, and a chrushed up hemp cookie. We wished eachother luck. I shook my head at them to express my opinion on the insanity of their imminent, winding, mid-morning drive through the mountains. They shook their heads at me in question of my bold decision to stay alone, without a vehicle to travel the 200 or so kilometers back to Nelson.
I awoke to a steady rain which prompted me to stay in the relative comfort of my lopsided tent until late morning. Having set up my tent with the fragile shine of a tea-light and an Ipod, it was a pleasure to stumble out into glistening sunlight. I cleaned up in the river, packed up and headed up the cliff.
It took me five rides, three episodes of the Q with Jian Gomeshi, and 8 kilometers of flipflop hiking to get back to Nelson. It was a blast. I caught my first ride off the logging roads from a logger named Jessie and his three loudspeaker children. The most rebelllious of them, Teagen, kept climbing out of his booster seat and into the trunk of the landcruiser where I sat. He would then proceed to pile heavy objects on top of me, so there was room for him to imitate my cramped car-trunk posture. But once the dad warmed up to me a bit, I got to move up the front seat and zip over rolling hills all the way to the quaint town of Nakusp.
A Czech massuese was the next to risk letting my wet and smelly figure into her car. The rain has started to pick up, but it wasn’t unpleasant. She seemed to be feeling the pressure of the recession keenly, but also looked on the worst case scenario with a wan sort of optimism. “You can always get by in this area. You can always grow things.”
An autism therapist drove me the majority of the way, as she searched for her husband. He had been rained out on a motorbike trip, and had called her for a rescue. We had a delightful chat that rolled seamlessly from South American politics, to Malcolm X, journalism, social change, and lobbying the Alberta goverment for grant money. The truck rolled with a similar seamless rhythm, hydroplaning on the odd highway puddle.
Just getting home, it took me a day. Just getting home, it was an adventure. Just gettting home, it kept me smiling on the shoulder of the rainy highway, my thumb curved imploringly into the splash of sporadic mid-day traffic.