4 Cool Spots to Camp on B.C.’s Hot Springs Route

The “Hot Springs Circle Route” in British Columbia is a 500-mile adventure through some of Canada’s most gorgeous countryside in the Kootenay Rockies region.

We did it last April in a CanaDream RV, which proved to be a great experience. The Class C RV was super comfortable and warm, which was nice during the early spring. Best of all, it allowed us to camp in some great spots along the way.

When we weren’t soaking in British Columbia’s hot springs, we explored some very interesting towns, met lots of friendly Canadians and hiked amid the beautiful mountain scenery.

Here’s a look at four excellent spots for full-service RV camping along the route:

Revy1
Leslie hangs out in our camp spot at Williamson Lake Campground in Revelstoke.

1. Williamson Lake Campground, Revelstoke

Just outside of Revy, as everyone calls it, is this clean and scenic full-service campground. The heavy winter snows were still melting, but the campground was up and running to a hardy group of travelers. Info: williamsonlakecampground.com

NakuspCamping
The snow was deep, but the camping was excellent at Nakusp.

2. Nakusp Hot Springs Campground

High in the mountains about 25 minutes away from the town of Nakusp, British Columbia, this campground felt very remote. We were the only people camping at the snowy site, which offered easy walking-distance access to the beautiful Nakusp Hot Springs. Info: www.nakusphotsprings.com

Dinner
Sunset dinner along the shore of Kootenay Lake.

3. Kokanee Creek Provincial Park

On the shores of Kootenay Lake about 20 minutes away from Nelson, British Columbia, this campsite was another full-service affair, and it offered fantastic hiking through the park. The nearby picnic tables were perfect for our sunset dinner. The campground was a short drive from Ainsworth Hot Springs. Info: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/kokanee_crk

Canadream
Our site at Fairmont was convenient to the pools and hiking trails nearby.

4. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

This resort is ginormous and has its own set of hiking trails to go along with the expansive pool. Just down the road about 30 minutes is another great place to soak — Radium Hot Springs. Info: www.fairmonthotsprings.com

FairmontHike
Within a few minutes, we were away from the resort on the trails above Fairmont.

 

 

Advertisements

Review: Malibu RV Park is AWESOME

Leslie says: I just returned to Seattle after a magical weekend in Southern California, where I visited our daughter. She was a great sport when I suggested spending a night out on the coast in a van. The experience was life-affirming.

Malibu California RV
The view from our campsite at Malibu RV Park was stunning.

Stunning Beauty

There’s a good reason the wealthy have gobbled up the available land and built homes on the waterfront in this part of the world. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Long stretches of golden sand punctuated by dramatic rock formations. Sure, the weekend traffic can be a drag on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), but the scenery’s a calming distraction. Smack in the middle of all this beauty sits Malibu RV Park, high on a hill, with views that cannot truly be described in words. Well, except maybe awwwwwesome.

Malibu_RVview

Retro Cool

This rambling park has been around for 50 years, owned by the same family, and the attention to detail shows great care. When I called to make a reservation, a live person answered, and was so friendly and helpful. Same treatment when we checked in at the adorable office/corner store. The place is laid out on a series of terraces, with tent camping available up top. Spaces are tight, but, fortunately for us, we parked next to Gordon, a friendly guy from Red Deer, Alberta. His rig, the Hymer Aktiv, was new to me, and after a tour, I was really impressed. It’s going on the wish list.

Malibu_ClaireGroceries

Ocean Viewing

I paid $50 for a site with a sweeping vista of the Pacific. (The price goes up after Memorial Day.) It was so worth it. We sat on the bluff and watched the sky turn pink at sunset. We spotted a pod of dolphins and pelicans drifted by in the sky. The WiFi didn’t really work, but that gave us the opportunity to catch up, and dig deep into important discussions, without those darned devices in hand. In the morning, an ultralight aircraft flew by as we ate breakfast. So entertaining.

Malibu Seafood
This trail leads to the incredible Malibu Seafood, a casual fish shack and pristine market.

Highly Recommended

My only regret about the Malibu RV Park is that we weren’t able to stay longer. We absolutely loved exploring the nearby trails, including one that led to the outstanding Old School Malibu Seafood. (Don’t miss the butter-poached mussels, and the fish-and-chips.) The bathrooms were spotless, and warm, there’s a laundry on site. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and offers $1 cup of coffee. Talk about a throwback! I’m definitely going to stay here again… when Our Grand Tour kicks off its cross-country adventure later this summer. Reservations are essential.

Malibu_RVview2

Van Life: Looking for the Right Rig

Maybe you’ve purchased a house. More likely, you’ve bought a car or three. Fun and exciting, but also pretty stressful, right? Imagine shopping for a vehicle that’s going to double as home. It’s essential to find the perfect fit. The process can feel intimidating. Here’s how to.

camping world ad

Research, Research, Research

We’ve been reading articles and talking to experts, studying the vans and RVs we see. We’ve done deep dives into online sales sites like RV Trader, swiping right on the photos that show features, lavish and sometimes spare. Trying to imagine what it would be like to cook or read or sleep in the snug space. But nothing beats…

The Test Drive

After renting various vehicles since we began to get a sense of what we want: Something that handles well, gets decent gas mileage and offers some creature comforts. We can’t really afford anything over the top and we aren’t the DIY types who could convert a cargo van. Or could we do something that meets in the middle?

Transit_Vertical

Considering the Ford Transit

This van has become a favorite to transform, and Leslie’s friend, Bryan, did just that a few months ago before taking a long road trip around the holidays. He took a minimalist approach, building a wooden platform for a mattress, adding rails with hooks, draping a shower curtain between the front cab and the back. No frills, but so functional. Especially the bed, because the Transit is wide enough to stretch out sideways, leaving lots more space up front. And it drove like a car, quick to respond, on the steering and brakes. The backup camera might take some getting used to, but it sure beats having a passenger jump out to act as a guide while trying to maneuver in tight spots. The Transit has just joined our list of possible purchases.

Coming Up Next, A Big Twist

We’re heading a whole new direction next week with a three-day journey pulling an Airstream Basecamp, a newish model that was designed for the active traveler. Can’t wait!

AIRMKT Basecamp Lifestyle PRINT 16_04_28_airstream_8238

Tiny Kitchen Challenge: Making Pizza

Leslie says: I’m kinda shocked to discover I really love the challenge of cooking in a tiny kitchen. On a recent hot springs tour around British Columbia, I used the excellent setup in our  CanaDream Class C RV to grill steak, stir smoked salmon into risotto, and, my biggest triumph yet, making pizza!

cast iron skillet pizza

Prepping is Key

Before we hit the road, I spent a few hours in my home kitchen, getting some dishes dialed in. Even when you’re traveling, though, that’s such an essential part of putting together meals in a flash. Plastic containers and ziplock baggies are perfect for keeping ingredients sorted. Even if it seems obvi, label and date everything. A little trick I picked up years ago, working as an apprentice in Tom Douglas restaurants.

Making Some Dough

Adapted from my favorite pizza dough recipe from the awesome Sara Moulton, I added the dry ingredients to a plastic bag and planned on finishing the dough on Pizza Day. That special dinner came at the end of a long day on the road and a relaxing soak at Fairmont Hot Springs, with the Rocky Mountains in the background. The kind of breathtaking, Instagram-worthy setting that reinforces this kinda crazy journey we’re taking. Before hitting the pool, I added water and some olive oil and put the wet dough in a sealed container, covered in the filtered afternoon sun. Two hours later, it had doubled, and was ready to go.

Crank Up The Heat

A blazing fire is best for creating the pleasantly blistered on the bottom, yet still soft inside crust and we had hoped to try this over bunch of crackling wood, but the weather turned drizzly. So, I tried the next best thing and heat my Lodge Cast Iron grill pan in the teeny oven. Ten minutes in, the smoke detector started shrieking. Not an uncommon experience when I’m in the kitchen. Johnny removed the battery — temporarily — and we were back in business.

Lodge Cast Iron
Charcuterie from the exceptional Oyama Sausage Co., on Vancouver’s Granville Island made this pizza extra special.

Getting the Dough in the Red Hot Pan

This took some team work, and while my first attempt to fill up the skillet wasn’t spot on, it convinced me to go smaller on the second round. While Johnny propped open the oven door, I transferred the dough from one of those floppy cutting boards. There were many ways it could have gone wrong, but it worked. I added the toppings — fresh mozzarella, pesto, chopped cherry tomatoes — after about 10 minutes, and let it cook another five. Probably could have gone a little longer.

Caprese pie cooked in Lodge Cast Iron
Arugula on top this caprese pie means you can skip the salad course.

The Take Aways

Our Grand Tour has been evolving towards a pretty low key approach to breakfast and lunch, while dinner is a big deal. It’s the evening’s entertainment — followed by a round of cribbage (we’re all tied up in this epic battle!) — so, I put a lot of thought into meal planning. Going forward, I’m going to focus on recipes from some of my fave cookbooks. First up, next trip: PNW Veg by my friend, Kim O’Donnel.

Wine Pairing

You think reds when it comes to pizza, but instead I poured my current obsession, an Oregon Pinot blanc from Elk Cove Vineyards. I love how this crisp, fruity white has the backbone to stand up to strong flavors like the pesto. It balanced the richness of the creamy cheese and brightened up the dreary spring evening in beautiful Canadian mountains. Of course, because we’re in British Columbia, we followed that up with a glass of merlot from Tinhorn Creek.

Elk Cove Vineyards pinot blanc
Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot blanc is perfect with pizza.

Van Life: Time for a Test Drive

We’ve been talking A LOT about making this big move, hitting the road to live the Van Life dream… like so many others are doing right now. But in what? We’ve started seriously exploring our options.

Free Bird: A Van that Drives Like a Car

We first spotted this custom rig at the recent RV show, and it left a lasting impression. It’s a Nissan NV200 that a Seattle dealership custom fit, inspired by the owner’s love of the classic VW camper vans. So, it’s a passion project for brothers, Kurt and Craig Campbell, who own Campbell Nissan. You can tell there’s a lot of thought and care that went into creating this vehicle.

IMG_1268

Pros/Cons

Johnny jumped behind the wheel — “because, let’s face it, I’ll be doing most of the driving” — and he was instantly impressed by its solid feel on the road. It drives like a car, and gets incredible gas mileage. Before we take the leap, though, there are some issues to consider.

  • Space is tight: The table breaks down and becomes the roomy, very comfy bed, but where does ALL our stuff go? There are some interior storage bins and the option for a rocket box on top, but this van almost feels more like a weekender than a viable housing alternative.
  • But wait! There’s also the option to add on a fairly large awning. AND panels can be added to that setup, effectively creating another “room.” Very cool.
  • Cooking challenge: The kitchen setup is out the back end, and it includes a one-burner setup heated by butane. Not as efficient as propane, and lots of waste because those cartridges are not refillable. So, you’d probably need to get that portable Coleman stove, or bring the trusty Jet Boil into the equation.
  • Powering up: Unlike the Westy, you can’t pull into an RV spot and plug in to power up. The battery runs the “fridge” (which is a small drawer, so you’d need an additional cooler, too), and a couple USB outlets, but there are no plugs to power up a laptop or other gadgets.
  • No riders: This is a two-person vehicle, period.

 

Lots of Thoughtful Touches

There are nice special features, including:

  • Screens on windows
  • Custom-made privacy curtains
  • A ceiling fan
  • The table has cup holders
  • It’s compact; we could park this in our teeny garage
  • It’s easy to convert it to a cargo van; everything slides out!

SimpleVan

The Price is RIGHT

Most of the camper vans we’ve looked at come with pretty hefty prices, including the spectacular Sprinter outfitted by Airstream that rings up at a cool $217,000. The Free Bird is around $35,000. We’re still shopping. As much as we’d love to DIY an empty, high roof, that’s not gonna happen, so this nifty ride is at the top of the list right now.

IMG_1256

Considering Van Life

IMG_0332

She says: Everywhere I go now, I see vans. Class B recreational vehicles. Our potential future home on wheels. It’s thrilling and kinda terrifying.

The Road Not Yet Taken

I’m not exactly sure how we got to this place, strongly considering buying a van and hitting the road for at least a year. I think the seed was planted when we went to a recent event celebrating the Peace Van fleet in Seattle. We started to see the exciting possibilities of exploring the country, especially the National Parks. We’re not exactly “retired”, but as freelancers, we’re also not tethered to a traditional office job, so…

IMG_2440

The Long To-Do List

Before becoming part of the Van Life world, there are a daunting number of hurdles to clear, starting with what type of vehicle would we choose? Are we going to go for a minimalist approach, or build in some creature comforts because living in a van is challenging, right? We’re both doing a lot of searching and researching right now, and would love any suggestions/advice. Until then, I’m sure I’ll continue to see vans everywhere!

IMG_0341

 

Hidden Among Giants, a Few Gems at Seattle RV Show

Our Grand Tour hit the Seattle RV Show at the opening Feb. 8, looking for a #vanlife vibe.

By and large, it wasn’t there. Most of the CenturyLink Event Center was filled with ginormous rolling homes masquerading as vehicles.

But there were some gems among the giants. For those of us looking for something a lot smaller, here are some highlights.

Tent
Rooftop tents at the Adventure Ready display.

Rooftop camping

The James Baroud Rooftop Tents offer nice, spacious sleeping chambers for folks who want to keep it simple. Prices are super-reasonable, particularly when compared to RVs. Seattle’s Adventure Ready has them and will customize your vehicle.

Ebike
E-bikes from Seattle’s PIM Bicycling.

E-bikes on the rise

They’re everywhere in Seattle these days, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. PIM Bicycles has an excellent display, with eager salesfolk who want to tell you how great the bikes are. We’re not sold on motorized bikes yet, but here’s your chance to  check them out.

Airstream.JPG
One of the smaller models at the Airstream display

Don’t miss: Airstream

OK, they are ridiculously expensive and out of reach for most of us. All that said, the  Airstream Adventures Northwest display is fantastic. We had our eye on a Class B+ Sprinter Van. How much? Oh, just a paltry $200K. Who doesn’t love that fetish-worthy stainless-steel look? From the smallest trailer to the largest RV, everything is top-notch.

SimpleVan
The Caravan Outfitter model of a Nissan NV.

Affordable #vanlife

On the other end of the spectrum, we found a highly affordable camper van in a Nissan NV body. Campbell Nissan in Edmonds sells the Caravan Outfitter model. It’s basically a (very) simple camper with a stove/refrigerator and a large awning. Hey, simple is good. Price: Under $35,000 and it gets 25 miles to the gallon on the highway.

Retro
The Riverside Retro has a clean, old-school style.

Retro cool

We’re suckers for old-time travel-trailers. It was nice to see the 2018 Riverside Retro at the RV Country display. We won’t be spending the $19,000 asking price, but it was cool nonetheless, particularly the wrap-around dining area.

Overall
That’s a whole-lotta RVs on the floor at CenturyLink Event Center.