“Is it Radium or Radium Hot Springs?”, I was asked after being caught using both names interchangeably. “Both...sort of....I guess.”, I replied hoping that would suffice as an answer. That was pretty much the theme of our drive en route to Radium as, once again, we were socked in by smoke leaving us visually unoccupied for most of the journey.
Radium is a quaint village straddling the South Western entrance of Kootenay National Park in British Columbia. Boasting a population of just 776 residents, a poorly timed blink under our current weather conditions and you would have missed it. Having reached the junction for our campground, we passed three Big horned sheep mulling over some grass beside the tourist information center. Considering the severe drought in the area, it was the greenest grass I had seen in sometime, and was no surprise to find our sheep friends in the same spot as we later sought out information from the tourist center.
Approaching the entrance we were met with a sign posted on the door reading “Closed for maintenance”. As I peered through the window into a pristine maintenance-less interior, I came to the conclusion that the village could ill afford such an inconvenience during a more favorable winter season. With our guidebooks paying the limited but necessary homage to the hot springs, we carried on with our search for information by walking Radium’s main artery. Five minutes later we were able to deduce that the local bar runs their own courtesy shuttle. No further in our progress, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly handy that type of service would be in a mainstream city.
Returning to our campsite, we resided to the information leaflet Parks Canada provided about the surrounding area. “Hey, there’s some hot springs here!”, pointing to the map sarcastically. Natascha, not willing to entertain my witty observation, uncovered some information via our travel provider about a trail known as Radium’s best kept secret. This secret trail, aptly known as “1” on the Parks Canada map, just so happened to bisect the infamous hot springs of Radium. Whilst one might think how a trail leading to the signature of the village could remain such a secret, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly convenient this all was.
The secret trail, also known to the locals as Juniper trail, is a short hike within Kootenay National Park, taking in the depths and upper escarpments of Sinclair Canyon. From the beginning, formed stairs and groomed switchbacks guided us down to Highway 93 and then deeper to the tranquility of Sinclair Creek. Switchbacks from the creek then lead us up to the opposite rim of the canyon where we enjoyed smoke filled views and the minuscule, but ever so present sound of traffic from the highway below. Following the trail as it hugged the lip of the Canyon, it wasn’t long until we found ourselves at the overflowing parking lot of the hot springs. To be fair, we saw four people throughout the entirety of the our hike, which lead me to believe that this trail was somehow living up to its namesake or, it was just blatantly obvious that no one wanted to partake.
Although Koen and Natascha weren’t game, Jules and myself decided that no trip to Radium was complete until one had submerged themselves in the geothermal heated pools. Scoffing at the idea of a cooler pool we headed straight for the main event, the 43 degree [celsius] “large pool”. Wading towards a free spot in which to relax, we reminisced about the trials and tribulations of the previous hour’s hike. As the pool began to fill with an inordinate amount of DSLR touting tourists, the sounds of the highway serenaded us and we gave into healing properties of the mineral water. It didn’t really matter in the end as I couldn’t help but think how incredibly hot this pool was.
Next stop, Banff.