The 2012 year, 7th Avenue Revitalization Project was a huge success in Invermere, British Columbia, Canada.
A major and tragic traffic fatality accident near Dry Gulch between the Town of Invermere and the Village of Radium Hot Springs will delay return from the hike at Windermere Lake Provincial Park for several hours.
Time to explore this quaint tourist town begins with no-charge angle parking on the 7th Avenue main street followed by a short walk north past spectacular roadside flower gardens for a walk around immaculately maintained Pothole Park which includes a large, now densely forested, glacial depression (pothole or kettle) surrounded by attractive architectural terracing and memorial statues honoring early explorers and developers in the region including David Thompson and Charlotte Small.
The exterior wall of the accompanying clean, modern and well-maintained public washroom hosts a large sign with descriptions of urban walks or runs within the Town of Invermere Trail System (ITS) clearly mapped and documented. This is too easy. There are brochures.
Route 1 of 6 will provide the opportunity to learn more about the rich historical significance surrounding the south end of Windermere Lake which also hosts Kinsmen Beach. Windermere Lake is actually a massive widening of the Columbia River to create a shallow lake seldom more than about 5.5 meters (15 feet) in depth.
The Downtown Historical Route 1 (green) can vary between 1.6 KM (1 mile) and 4.0 KM (2½ miles) depending on chosen route features. The walk begins south on 7th Avenue from the impressive David Thompson and Charlotte Small statue in Pothole Park, past the Pitts and Hanky Buildings for a peek around the 13th Street corner at Bud's Bar / Invermere Livery.
This impromptu walk navigates past impressive, potted flowering plant displays until the 7th Avenue jog at 15th Street continues downhill along 7th Avenue past brief residential development and another major glacial kettle towards Kinsmen Beach along the shore of Taynton Bay at the south end of Windermere Lake.
The view which opens up on the approach to the railway crossing is spectacular. Tiny Dorothy Lake dominates the view left with towering mountains providing the backdrop. Straight ahead the Pynelogs Cultural Centre precedes the trail heading left towards the historic CPR Lodge. Nearly mirror water on Dorothy Lake, only slightly compromised by a very light breeze and the oxygenating fountain at the lakes center, is a powerful foreground to new residential development on surrounding hills and the Rocky Mountains in the background. Brightly colored wetland plants provide a dramatic border around the lake.
Interesting interpretive plaques along the shoreline route lead towards the Pynelogs Cultural Centre constructed by Robert Randolph Bruce, one of the first pioneer businessmen to arrive in the area. His success attracted many others from the United Kingdom before he became the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and built Pynelogs in 1914 for his bride. Lady Elizabeth Bruce died tragically shortly after her arrival in the Columbia Valley. Her memory is enshrined on the Pynelogs property in a grave marked by a monument located under a small gazebo. Randolph Bruce donated Pynelogs to the District of Invermere in the 1930’s.
The short wander to Kinsmen Park Beach on the Taynton Beach inlet of Lake Windermere reveals hordes of people of all ages enjoying the cool refreshment of the water. Shade from large trees over manicured lawns, hosting multiple benches, picnic tables and barbecue pits, provides relief from the hot sun. There are washrooms, playgrounds for the children of all ages and plenty of parking to service the legions of boats, sailboards and beach craft of every type imaginable. The grounds host a well-equipped water sport rental facility.
At the rental facility, there is a prominent sign welcoming people to the Lake Windermere Whiteway. This is the incredible winter recreation facility over the frozen surface of Lake Windermere Four progressive figure 8 loops provide an incredible winter opportunity for skating on maintained ice, classic cross-country skiing on groomed track or skate skiing on manicured apron for a nominal donation fee to support the cost of this incredible recreational enterprise.
There are four loops arranged in a figure-8 sequence which allows length-of-trip or time planning. The loops are:
Windermere Loop of 12 KM (7½ miles)
James Chabot Loop of 5 KM (3⅛ miles)
Indian Beach Loop of 6 KM (3¾ miles) and
Rushmere Loop of 8 KM (5 miles)
for a total experience ranging from 5 KM (3⅛ miles), or less, to a combined total of 31 KM (19⅜ miles) or more. WOW!
Imagine the recreational opportunity of combining skiing with skating on blades which attach to cross-country ski boots for variety along the loops without the need to change footwear. Zandstra blades for XC ski boots are available at Norseman. Alberta needs a facility like this for winter recreation, perhaps on mountain-surrounded Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, the Bow River in Banff or Abraham Lake. Imagine the possibilities.
The return hike into Invermere downtown enjoys repeat views of the pristine beauty across Dorothy Lake. Many of the historic buildings along 7th Avenue host modern business ventures but the important ITS brochure and brass plaques at each site provide insight into their historical significance.
Periodically, a couple of angled parking spaces have been commandeered to provide comfortable wooden decks near dining or confectionery locations to serve as places of rest while consuming excellent food or ice cream and enjoying a 360° people-watching experience.
Gardens, style and cleanliness amplify the colors and architectural style along the main route. Invermere has class, style and significant historical significance. This impromptu visit, motivated by tragic events, has been a gift. There is definite need to return to Invermere because there are five more ITS trails that beg for investigation.
World-famous Fairmont Hot Springs is not far from here and many more adventures are close-by.
There is an excellent hiking trail guide called 'Hikes around Invermere and the Columbia River Valley' authored by Aaron Cameron and Matt Gunn which describes a wide range of fascinating hiking opportunities from short and easy to difficult hikes and scrambles in spectacular mountain, lake and glacial terrain. Note that many of the trailheads are accessed via old and un-maintained mining and/or forestry roads that will quite likely require high clearance and/or four wheel drive vehicles for safe and reliable access, particularly following inclement weather.