Once a year we go camping. On the August long weekend we spend the weekend trying to be campers, and although we tend to not be great at it we struggle, we fight a bit, we make mistakes, but mostly we have a lot of fun.
Some people are great at camping, I try to show you here on the blog what I have learned from others and I think we as a family do pretty good for people that don’t really make it out into the wilderness as much as we would like.
So this past weekend we drove 4 hours or so out of Calgary out to Fairmont Hot Springs and spent time in a river, a lake, in the rain, and especially in the really sunny hot weather.
Driving to Fairmont Hot Springs
The drive out to Fairmont is nice from Calgary. We go out to the main Highway 1 and take it just past Banff to Highway 93. Highway 93 is an interesting road as it goes North up to Jasper Alberta (as Highway 95) and also down south into Eastern BC in the Columbia Lake area and even farther south to Kimberley, Cranbrook, and on to the US border.
The drive along this highway goes from Snow and glaciers in the Winter to Okanagan type thin trees and desert like rolling hills in the hot Summer in the south. This weekend though the road was nice and dry during our drive up.
Fairmont and Spruce Grove Campground
Finally we arrived late in the afternoon at Fairmont Hot Springs. Our campground is Spruce Grove and is just a kilometer, or a half mile, south of the turnoff to the hot springs.
The Spruce Grove Campground is nice and tree filled, has a pool, and some pretty clean bathrooms. The great feature to me is that there is a river running along the eastern part of this little campground that even has a bit of beach and some mud for kids to play in (yuck).
We setup our big tent and met up with our friends and cruised around the campground, made a bit of dinner of hot dogs and then spent time in front of the fire. Oh and of course we had a swim too. The weather was hot on the Friday afternoon. We had a great sleep, my wife said that it was her best sleep in months and when my daughter got up to pee I got to see an awesome show of stars in the sky since we were so far from a town.
Saturday at Fairmont Camping
After the great sleep on the Friday night we got up and drove down to the Tim Hortons in Invermere. This was good for a couple of reasons. We needed coffee and breakfast and didn’t feel like cooking in the morning and in the end there was another reason. My wife, who was in charge of clothes packing (two people packing never seems to work), seemed to forget to pack me any shirts or shorts. So I had the clothes on my back and no extra shirts, She ended up buying me a cheap shirt in the local store.
After we got back to camp we wandered around and had a great time looking at the river and the rest of the campsite but what I really wanted to do was go to the Lussier hot springs. Lussier Hot Springs is a natural hotsprings area that just flows out of the mountain and then goes down through three pools that have been constructed from rocks by people at some time in the past.
My buddy from work Terry, his girlfriend, and I went out to try and go to the Hot Springs but sadly there was no chance to get there as the forest fires had come too close and the road was closed.
When we got back from the unsuccessful hot springs trip I took the opportunity in the early afternoon to try and drown my kids in the river at the Spruce Grove campground. The river flows pretty hard but is not too deep. I walked across and the water was nearly to my waist. I thought it would be great if I could get the kids across and as we made it across with my holding Taylor and Jaiden’s hands I was having some trouble keeping my balance while holding a 10 and 14 year old trying to keep me going.
We made it ok in the end and there was a little stream that was a bit warmer than the river, colder than we expected though so we tried to make a muddy way back through the river. I sure wish I could have gotten video because the kids were trying not to panic, my son was having trouble keeping his feet on the river floor, my daughter almost had a dead fish run into her.
All in all this was a great story and we all got across without a problem but with lots of drama. I still laugh thinking about it.
We went back to the site and brought Michele back so that we could show her the river and we got lots of pictures, told our story again, and reveled in all the great stuff to see by the river.
It rained off and on in the afternoon but got really hot so we decided to go to the town of Invermere.
Invermere is a tourism based town and is about a 20 minute drive from the Spruce Grove campground. Invermere has a very distinct downtown main street with lots of shops and a beach at the end of town. The beach was very very busy with all of the long weekend visitors.
We always travel with some food in the car in case the kids or I get hungry so I thought I would take it on our walkabout. The heat was a little unbearable and we looked around, browed and bought nothing but had a great time as a family looking around at stuff.
Back at the campsite we finally had dinner. I had been eating a fair amount of trail mix and my daughter had a great easy recipe for Taco in a bag and they worked out great for us. I loved it and it was easy to make
Taco in a Bag
- Cook up ground beed with taco seasoning
- Put in a plastic baggie once it has cooled
- Add cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes
- Close the bag and shake it up!
- Get out a fork and eat the Taco in a bag
After dinner we had a nice time talking, playing with the fire, hanging with our friend Terry and then went to bed and read on the iPads and phones. Things in this way have changed a lot since I was a kid. Usually we would tell ghost stories in the dark but my poor son is a bit frightened of the murderers in a campsite as we noticed on the Friday evening so there was no talk at all of ghost stories 🙂
Sunday – Last Day Camping
Sunday came and my wife and kids woke up late. We were going to make french toast but out little breakfast maker Taylor didn’t feel like cooking so it was another run down the road to Tim Hortons for coffee and breakfast sandwiches.
Once back we had a great time talking to Terry and the folks next door to him (I tend to be a little overly social and it drives my wife and kids a bit crazy. We went for a nice swim in the campground pool, walked by the river and then decided to find a beach!
Just a few minutes south from Spruce Grove is the town of Canal Flats. Canal Flats has a boat launch and although I thought it was only $3 to park there I found out when we got there that it was in fact $12 for the family to just use the beach. I have never paid to go to a beach but we did this time anyway and spent the afternoon there.
We brought food (as we always do) and ran around in the water, saw lots of little fish, and sat in the grass just off the sand.
I think we all loved this part of the trip, maybe the best, because we really had a great time as a family talking and playing in water.
Fantastic few hours that I have to think was worth $12 for us even though I still am not sure why there was a charge.
In the evening we had sausages and a pot luck dinner with our friend Terry, his girlfriend, and the people in the next site over and sat and talked about the weekend, the rest of the group went out to Radium Hot Springs which is about 35 minutes from the campground and we stayed back.
I was getting a bit nervous because my wife and daughter were both not feeling well so we decided after looking at out plans to drive back that night to come home instead of staying the night and then packing in the morning and driving.
This ended up being a bad idea maybe…
Coming home from Fairmont Hot Springs
We had a bit of a drive ahead of us and we were looking after one of our fellow campers dog as well so we made our plan. Pack up, drop off the dig, drive back home.
Packing took only about 45 minutes, we are pretty organized and even though we have a lot of stuff we were able to get it all packed up better than how we came. I was able to text our friends at Radium Hot Springs and since that was on our way anyhow we met them on their way back to the campground to do the doggy drop. Now just through Radium and the highway home.
Or so we thought.
Radium is quite a ways from the next town on Highway 95 and there are no gas stations in between. I should have thought of this earlier but I had plenty of gas. The real trouble is that the highway is very mountainous and hills up and down and speeds up and down as well make for terrible gas mileage.
Around half way down the highway I was watching the gas gauge very closely and things were looking worse and worse. I could picture our family sleeping in the minivan in the middle of nowhere and then my walking for a few hours in the morning to get gas and come back.
Eventually we made it to a gas station but it had been 20 kilometers since my gas tank started dinging at me that the tank was empty. And….
Gas station was closed.
Worst thing now was sleeping in the van at a gas station until they opened in the morning but of course my wife came up with a better idea – drive another 25 kilometers to Lake Louise where the closest gas station was. Well again I could picture myself walking in the morning but at least it would be closer than my walk looked like an hour ago.
I have no idea how but we made it to Lake Louise but we somehow rolled into town. Two gas stations both closed, we even tried the police station to see if they knew where there was gas but they were closed too.
So we went to sleep in the gas station parking lot.
Around 4:00 in the morning my daughter woke up and had to go pee. Michelle said to pee in front of the truck but Taylor was a bit scared becasue there was a guy staring at our truck and he had a big dog. I hear Taylor and Michelle fighting about the guy with the dog and wake up and was about to get out to find out what the heck he was doing there. But there was no guy with a dog. My daughter was seeing things (bless those 14 year old imaginations) and she was still too scared to go out so we drove across the street to a hotel to use their bathroom
Now if we run out of gas we will at least be only across the street to push the minivan
We made it back and fell asleep again. I woke at 6:00 and we were the first customers of the day for the gas station and then just before heading home we took the quick 5 minute drive to the Lake Louise and my son and I took the walk down the path to see the lake, his first time there we will need to go again sometime for sure.
The rest of the two hour trip was uneventful. Thankfully. We got home around 8:30 in the morning and have a ton of stories to remember about our trip.
All in all I have to say that preparation was the worst of our trip. We tend to be really organized thanks to my wife and her lists but this time not so much. I know that this trip was one of our funnest, funniest, and crazy trips but I love how it worked out.