The Full Nelson

24-28 July 2017


random trip report

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Photo credits: Y

Y is staying with her parents in Nelson BC for a week or so, and I arrange to visit there, with the purposes of spending time with Y, meeting her parents, and doing some touring and outdoor rec.

Monday 23 July

I get up at 6:30 AM, drive to OAK, and fly to GEG (Spokane), rent a Subaru standard sedan - nice, and it gets 39 MPG on the trip; I should buy one of these.

I forgot the nav device, so I have to do some complex surface-street driving in Spokane while reading off a printed page of Google directions. Eventually I'm out in the forests and rolling hills of Eastern Washington, heading for Nelson. At the border they look at my passport, make a joke, and wave me on. A helluva lot more pleasant than my recent detention in Kelowna.

The drive is beautiful and untrafficked; it goes by quickly. I stop for a hamburger at a gas station. In 3 hours I'm pulling into Nelson.

I locate the parents' house, greet her mother Joanne, and chat with Bob, who's in the basement watching two TV sets at once. We watch an A's/Blue Jays game. Y is out for a run.

Y returns. We sit with her Dad on the patio and look at Elephant Mountain on the other side of the valley. There's a big outcrop (Pulpit Rock) and then a Canadian flag about 2/3 of the way up. We decide to go there the next day.

We check in at the Gingerbread House B&B, which is around the corner. The proprietress, Gloria, is a vivacious and talkative woman of 74. Her husband of 50+ years, Glenn, died a couple of years ago after 8 years of Alzheimer's. Gloria takes her breakfasts seriously (eggs and meat, Belgian waffles, pancakes, or yogurt/fruit bowl), and we place our order.

Y and I drive to downtown Nelson and walk around. We eat at 'Red Light Ramen', which has OK food and cocktails but beyond-terrible service. We sit - as we often do - on the same side of the table, looking directly at a young couple done up in tattoes and piercings. They run out of things to say to each other halfway through dinner. One nice thing about Y and me is that we enjoy analyzing minutiae, and thus never run out of conversation.

Nelson is a groovy town. There are lots of draft-dodgers from the 70s. Lots of tie-dye. 'Moses' is an archetype: blue jean shorts, no shirt, bandanna, sunglasses. People are outdoorsy, and slim and fit. The aesthetic on the lake is more SUP and kayak than motorboat.

On first impression, I like Nelson a lot more than Berkeley. It resonates with me. Realistically, I probably couldn't live there for any extended period; too isolated and culturally limited.

Nelson has a lot of history for Y's family. Her Dad grew up and went to high school there. Y lived briefly there as a kid. Her grandma lived there, and Y has lots of memories with her. Y shows me the old houses.

Tues 25 July

I sleep poorly because of an excessively thick pillow and lack of memory foam. We meet the other two guests on the veranda for breakfast. Mel is a stout 60-ish Canadian, and Lana is his slightly younger Russian wife - possibly a mail-order bride. Mel is a talker, and soon we're hearing about his career as an Elvis impersonator. He has video on his phone. Actually he was pretty darn good. Lana looks bored. I find out she's from Moscow but that's about it.

The breakfasts are indeed impressive. Gil has two big pancakes, about 1' thick, and he can't come close to finishing them. Y and I have cheese omelets, home fries with onion and garlic (good, but hella greasy), ham steaks, and 4 pieces of lavishly buttered toast.

We drive across the pink/orange bridge to Elephant Mountain and hike up, first to Pulpit Rock and then to the flag pole. There are various trails, graded by difficulty. We take the black diamond on principle, and it's hard in places: steep, loose dirt. It's hot - upper 80's maybe - but not bad. On the way down I slip twice, skinning my lower leg and hand a bit.

We go to the beach at the base of the bridge, swim a bit in the lake (Y finds it cold, I think it's very comfortable) and sunbathe a little - 'crisping', as Y calls it.

I forgot to pack any underwear. We go to Walmart and Y picks out a 3-pack of silky-smooth Hanes briefs.

We have dinner at the Pitchfork, which is slightly upscale - their menu names executive and pastry chefs. I get a fancy hamburger, and Y gets a dish that includes smoked trout, potatoes, greens, a soft-boiled egg, and lots of olive oil. I have the local IPA, which is a disappointment - ~35 IBU. Visit Gyro Park at night; wading pool, lookout point. Y recounts the story of getting stung by a wasp there as a very little girl and having to be taken home by her granny.

Wed 26 July

Y and I head out on an overnight car trip. We drive to Six Mile, rent kayaks, and paddle across the lake. My kayak keeps pulling to the right, until I figure out how to use the rudder, and after that it's great.

We paddle a ways up the lake, looking for a beach. We find a perfect one: small, secluded, with a concealing rock. There are unexpected delays, as well as swimming and sunbathing.

We paddle back, spending some additional time on Six Mile Beach, where there are both dogs and asses.

We get in the car and continue north. We stop at the ferry landing, and go to the Old World Bakery there for veggie rolls and peanut butter cookie (note: bakeries are sort of a theme of this trip).

Kalso is a tiny historical town. It has the last of a particular type of paddleboat, which has been pulled out of the water and made into a sort of museum. We talk with an articulate teenager working at the visitor center.

There's a beautiful pyramidal rocky summit with a bit of snow. This is Mt. Loki, and I'd like to return there and climb it.

We peruse the restaurants and settle on a pizzeria which is very good. Y gets beer consultation from an intense wiry guy. We get a artichoke/zucchini pizza, which also serves as lunch the next day.

We continue to New Denver, which is on the shore another big lake (Slocan Lake), across from Valhalla Park. We check in a a motel-ish place where everything is done through envelopes.

We take stairs down to the shore, and meet Sally, a radiantly aging hippy. I tell her I'm from Berkeley, and she gets excited and tells me about Bob Inwood, from Berkeley (actually, it turns out, San Jose), who moved to Nelson and organized the restoration of historical brick buildings there.

Sitting in silence in the dusk on the shore of Slocan Lake is magical.

Thu 27 July

We get coffee and pastries at Sanderellas, a combo cafe and crafts store. We continue down to another cafe where Y is hoping for blueberry muffins, but they're sold out.

We backtrack a few Km and visit Sandon, the remains of a silver mining town that once had 39 hotels and 85 brothels or something like that. It was washed away by a creek that ran underneath main street. There's a wonderful museum, with a surfeit of pianos from the town's many saloons. We tour a cool hydro generating station.

On the way back we stop and do a run on a railroad-grade trail that runs 12 Km down into new Denver. At about the 2 Km mark there are the spectacular ruins of an ore-processing facility. Just past there is a cable gondola across the stream. We cross and run for another half mile or so.

We drive back through Slocan. I encourage Y to text her parents, who are making dinner for us.

The dinner turns out to be great: Tenderloin steak, corn, salad, baked potatoes, garlic toast (which I make; Y eats 3 pieces), coconut cream pie for dessert.

Y and I perform clarinet/piano music for Joanne.

Y and I do a slow post-dinner walk up the hill to the RR bed trail, then continue and sit on a low wall.

The Subaru has a slightly separated front bumper. Huh? Do I have some kind of curse? Anyway, I return it later without anyone noticing.

Fri 28 July

Last day. Y and I do a 'cafe crawl'. First we go to the AM Radio cafe, which is a bit remote, and have coffee and a muffin. Y admires the blue tank-top of a handsome, slim 50-ish woman. Then we drive to Gyro Park, walk downtown, and go to the Oso Negro cafe, which is modern and beautiful and has a nice outside garden.

We sit on a bench next to a wiry 50-ish man who is talking earnestly to a 20-something woman about mantras, Dharma, reincarnation, blah blah. Y wonders why he doesn't cut to the chase and ask her if she wants to do it.

We walk to the Kootenay Bakery Cafe. The skirt of a young woman running in front of us has somehow flipped up, revealing a pale, squishy, and underwear-free ass. After a while she senses this and straightens the skirt.

We get two cinnamon rolls and a veggie burger, and eat the latter. At the next table is what looks like a first date - strangers meeting, earnest conversation. A tattoed man in a tank top, pretty handsome actually, and a slightly frumpy plus-size blond. Y thinks it seems like a social worker and client. Hard to tell.

I say goodbye to Y and parents - a bit sadly, since I had such a great trip and feel a bond to them.

The drive back to Spokane is wonderful, except for the very end where I'm looking for a gas station to fill the damn car. There is absolutely nothing within several miles of the airport. I head down a side road an eventually find a place.

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