I haven't been out exploring in a while, with a few days remaining on my Christmas holidays, I needed a mountain retreat. Myself (and fiance) and 4 other friends decided to make for the mountains and pull a solid day trip. We headed for Canal Flats BC to hit up the Lussier natural hotsprings. None of us had been there before and we knew the terrain there would provide us with ample opportunities to explore some other BC logging roads while we were at it. We met at 6:30 on the West side of Calgary near Canada Olympic Park ready to head for the hills.
Westward bound on Highway 1 towards Banff AB, amidst a frenzy of skier traffic headed for the lifts. The highway was like a marching line of vehicles headed for the mountains in the horizon - almost an extension of the line up at the lifts. Too early to battle traffic to make 5 minutes in the end, we basically just set the cruise control at 95km/hr and road the traffic wave. One of our party lives in Canmore, AB. He strategically planted himself in a pullout and jumped into our convoy as we rolled through town without the slightest reduction in speed. Now our group was whole and continued to the more desolate Highway 93, headed for Radium, BC. Immediately the traffic dropped off and the road conditions turned awful. Blowing snow and black ice taunted us as we headed for our destination. Keeping the Toyo MT's within the lines took more mental power than desired that early in the day, but we all held it together and wound our way through the passes without incident. Chatter on the radios was constant, providing some good humour for the morning. Cody (from Canmore) knows this area better than most, and suggested we hit some gravel early in the day and take Settlers Road to wind through and towards the back end of Lussier Hot Springs and Whiteswan Provincial Park. We obliged, only eager to get off the pavement.
Shortly after, we pulled over for a break to let the dogs run around and catch some video.
We continued on the unknown road (to us) while Cody took the lead. It was desolate, we saw only a handful of vehicles on this backroad the entire day. Which was a good thing considering the 'hooning' that was going on. Drift after drift we egged each other on to get the truck to hang out sideways. The short wheelbase 4Runners had no problem, while the two 80 series had trouble with their constant AWD system. A great safety feature for regular driving, but unfortunate in a game of drifts, which I know only too well! The Tundra with a slightly longer wheelbase than the 4Runners could still play the game, especially with the V8. With the 35's and almost no lift, I polished the frame at opposite lock several times attempting to real in the sideways motion. Soon after, we came around a bend just as the turquoise Kootenay River merged with Settlers Rd. A sight to be seen as the sun battled to fight through the low slung clouds. A truly picturesque scene, we stopped for some photos and a couple video shots.
The roads seem to become slicker and slicker as the packed snow turned to polished ice. Several of the regular roads proved difficult to ascend, given the waterslide like texture to their surfaces. We rounded a corner to a gorgeous bridge crossing over the Kootenay River.
The view continued to inspire and often had us commenting on the radios about how no matter what happened next, this day was one of the best we've had in a while and furthering our interest in the area for future Untitled Offroad Official runs into this region. Several interesting off-shoots taunted us throughout the drive but we continued to remind ourselves of the end goal - Lussier Hot Springs. This spring is natural and actually signed and monitored by the BC Provincial government. The direct road is well maintained (for a backroad) and cars and minivans can drive there. However it still remains a gorgeous site and one that is still more off the beaten path than the resorty tourist traps such as Banff and Radium. Winding along a cliff face with a 500 foot drop to our right, we emerged onto the grounds of Lussier. The parking lots showed us how un-original our location was due to the 7-8 vehicles already situated. We decided to press on to Whiteswan and check out the lake and come back in the late afternoon. Whiteswan is a gorgeous site unto itself, especially with the tall pines covered in fresh snow. (Somehow I neglected to grab any photos of the area... duh) We found an interesting logging road that looked to gain elevation over the valley. We proceeded but were eventually denied by copious amount of snow and our highway-inflated tires. Despite the multiple redline attempts to overcome the snow, we just couldn't stay on top.
We decided it was either air down or turn around and head to the hot springs. Luckily deflating the tires was the outcome and we were instantly rewarded with forward progress once the tires were dropped to their snow-show-esque 10psi. We climbed with relative ease, only relying on the double locked, geared, and 37's of Ron Burgundy (HDJ81) to decimate the odd snow drift in our path. Soon, we came upon a relatively large clearing on the side of the mountain, which granted us an amazing view of the valley below. Photo dump:
We arrived at Lussier and headed down the trail to the springs. A gorgeous pool has been formed with boulders to capture the natural hot water flow in multiple levels and pools. I neglected to bring my camera down with me, so you'll have to let Google be your eye or wait for my video in a few weeks. There was a handful of people in the pool all with good spirits. We made quick and easy conversation with everyone while enjoying the health benefitting qualities of the pools. Despite our lack of "hotspring-beer" (just ONE would have been nice!) to quench our thirst, we had an excellent and relaxing time. We will definitely be returning with a larger group for a more "quiet" early morning or late-night dip with a larger crew. Relaxed and soothed, we switched on the compressors and brought the tires back up to operating pressure. We took the shortest route back to the highway as it was getting late. We rolled into Radium around 7pm with a 3 hour drive remaining back to Calgary. With empty stomachs we stopped for a pint and dinner at a local Pub and Eatery, discussing the success of the day. We walked outside to start heading home and were hit with a flurry of snow and cold temperatures.
The drive home was slow and edgy as the light and cold snow meant dust like trails of snow coming up off the rear of each vehicle. At some points the visibility was so poor that we had all lost track of the road. A good reminder how even the best drivers and well-kept highways can be dangerous in the winter. We all kept our cool and drove smart while chatting on the radio to keep one another attentive. A long but slow drive home and I puilled into my condo around 11:30pm. Tired but with a smile still on my face, our mission was successful.
We will return and keep an eye for some video edits coming soon!