Banff National Park was everything people said it would be and more. And yet, somehow, Kootenay National Park was better. Maybe it just seems that way because no one talked Kootenay up before we left and so our expectations for it were not that high. Or maybe Kootenay really is better, but nobody knows that because fewer people go there. Or maybe folks are bragging up Banff over Kootenay the way early explorers did Greenland—so everyone will go there instead of Iceland.
Among the many wonders in Kootenay, our favorite was Marble Canyon. Situated between Lillooet and Cache Creek, the canyon is what the experts call a collapsed Karst formation, which basically means it’s a cave whose top has washed or worn away. The word ‘marble’ in the title apparently refers to the color and texture of the rock forming the canyon walls rather than the type of rock itself, which is not marble but limestone—and which explains why it’s washing/wearing away.
Before we headed up the trail that runs along the canyon, I was just another curious tourist wondering what there was to be seen further up the hill. Well that’s not strictly true. I was also—and still am—a victim of osteoarthritis, which is why about halfway up the trail I was wondering if I really cared what there was to be seen further up the hill.
It was at about this point that we encountered another 40-ish couple making their way back down. “Don’t give up now,” taunted one of the sadists as I paused to rest my knees. “You don’t want to miss the falls.” Hoping she meant the naturally occurring geographical feature in which large volumes of water flow rapidly over rock formations as they make their way downhill and not the naturally occurring gravitational event in which middle-aged arthritis victims roll rapidly over rock formations after losing their balance, I decided to push on.
I probably would have done so even without the promise of the falls since I knew the Jarhead wouldn’t have continued up the trail without me, and I wouldn’t have wanted to deprive him of the experience of seeing the entire canyon. Nevertheless, her words were the boost I needed to get me moving again, and soon I was back on my feet, gritting my teeth, and praying I had enough cartilage to make it back down.
In the end, the view was definitely worth the walk, as well as the cortisone flare I experienced a few weeks later after my first consultation with an orthopedic surgeon—but more on that later. The falls were beautiful, and thanks to the brilliant engineers who work for the Canadian park service, you can stand close enough to the water to feel its misty kisses on your face. It was truly awesome.
After seeing the falls and the canyon, plus several other natural wonders in our path, we headed south toward Idaho. Then, after a brief stop at the duty-free shop (where we picked up a t-shirt and some cigars for the Princess, and a scarf and maple syrup lollipops for El Noble—I’m kidding, of course; but wouldn’t it be funny if I wasn’t?) we crossed the border at Kingsgate and officially checked the 50th state off the Jarhead’s list.
That evening, we decided to make camp at Bonner’s Ferry, ID. I use the phrase “make camp” a bit loosely since we actually stayed at the Kootenai River Casino & Spa Best Western. I will remember this visit for several reasons, not the least of which was the two mile distance between our room and virtually any of the facility’s fine amenities.
It bears mention here that the hallways in this section of the facility were not air conditioned. This is significant because despite the shower and the other heroic measures I took toward making myself presentable every time I left the room I couldn’t make it halfway to my destination without breaking into a sweat and leaving my fellow patrons to wonder if I had been walking in the rain or showered in my clothes. Thank goodness we were only there for a night. If we had stayed any longer, I may have been forced to wear my swimsuit to play the slots.
That’s all we really saw of Idaho since after a big dinner and several drinks, we hit the casino. The jackpots eluded us, but it took me two whole hours to lose the twenty bucks I started with, and the Jarhead came out sixty bucks ahead, so we went to bed happy—and looking forward to spending Saturday in Montana.