Radium Hot Springs Lodge hovered above Radium Hot Springs between 1925 and 2014 within Kootenay National Park.
Near the subterranean entrance to Radium Hot Springs, a sketchy gravel trail angles its way uphill past intriguing rock wall and brush-covered reminders of elaborate structures from the bygone era towards an elaborate and isolated gazebo dwarfed by massive rock cliffs in the background.
The gazebo, which was never part of Radium Hot Springs Lodge, was given by Ruth Armstrong Horsey in October 1986. The sturdy hexagonal structure features a central pedestal hosting brass plaques engraved with images and descriptions of indigenous wild flowers and plants of the area. Sturdy wooden benches around the interior perimeter provide sheltered seating above the rock floor with relaxing views over the hot springs and surrounding spectacular mountain terrain.
This intriguing advantage point on lofty, spacious terrain provides hints of past glory in the form of sweeping grassland supporting remnants of previous fame with memories of laughter and relaxation among snippets of rock walls and ghosts of roadways gone.
From the razed, rock wall base of the main lodge, a faint path through luxurious grassland leads to a pair of bright red chairs where fragrant breeze accentuates the view of Radium Hot Springs pools below on the opposite side of the highway.
The iconic red chairs provide mesmerizing views below over the top of the gazebo and beyond, where content visitors enjoy the relaxing warm waters of Radium Hot Springs. An interpretive plaque joining the two bright red chairs informs of the plentiful but wild Big Horn Sheep indigenous to the area. Although they seem comfortable with human presence, Big Horn Sheep are powerful, wild animals best provided safe separation.
Time diminished hints of obsolete roads and trails provide the opportunity to roam the cleared land which fires the imagination of former grandeur and glory. Portions of foundations remain and past cellars have been filled with rock and covered by forest debris. Curiosity rules to search out hidden enclaves within spectacular surroundings mellowed by the earlier soak in the hot springs. Early day sense of urgency and the need to achieve is mellowed to a glow of content ambivalence. Relaxation may not get much better than this.
All roads eventually lead to the main gravel road route which departs the property on a gentle, downhill sloping road passing the trailhead for Juniper Trail. Other hikers are struggling to locate the intersection denoted by a small sign and a large boulder. An old and overgrown gravel road leaves the main road to another parcel of open grassland hosting mysteries from the past.
As the road morphs to paved surface curling down to the gates at the large, west parking area for Radium Hot Springs, all that remains is the decision to choose one of three main alternatives for return from Radium Hot Springs to the Village of Radium Hot Springs just outside the south boundary in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Choices include return via the Juniper Trail, an alternative, less dramatic return over the opposite top of Sinclair Canyon on the Redstreak Trail or the least ambitious route along sidewalk adjacent to the Banff - Windermere Parkway through the bottom of Sinclair Canyon. Apathy created by a fully relaxed body and mind chooses the least ambitious alternative along the highway where old foundations from previously removed structures lie testament to the ongoing Parks Canada initiative to divest the wilderness of commercial development in favor of a more natural visitor experience for reduced wildlife stress. The issue remains contentious.
The walk along sometimes fairly good and other times older concrete sidewalk through the narrow canyon towering above is dramatic. Soaring rock and a highway crossing lead to viewpoints over rushing water tumbling into Sinclair Canyon. The highway can be, and usually is, very busy but patience will undoubtedly encounter polite drivers who will stop for pedestrians
The sidewalk adjacent to Sinclair Canyon opens up into expansive views over Sinclair Canyon and beyond to mountains in the mist beyond the Village of Radium Hot Springs and the expansive Columbia River Valley. The return route passes the trailhead for Juniper Trail and the Parks Canada entrance/exit for Kootenay National Park kiosk on the return, short walk past Conrad Kain Park into the village.
This day has featured an excellent canyon hike, a relaxing soak in the warm water of Radium Hot Springs and fascinating exploration through unique terrain. From the Village of Radium Hot Springs there exists a broad range and variety of local hiking opportunities with multiple accommodation and dining options.
Photographs for this post were captured on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada.