After a three-day marathon at the Calgary Stampede, we spent a final night at Cochrane’s Bow RiversEdge RV resort to rest and unwind. Then we headed west, over the Canadian Rockies and back to British Columbia. Our destination was the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.
The drive led us back into Banff National Park before we split off on Highway 93 and drove south through Kootenay National Park. Much of the highway follows the Kootenay River and its glacial blue water. The mountains rise dramatically on both sides of the valley. Sections of the forest has been burned from fires of the past few years. Fortunately, this summer has been a whole lot cooler with an abundance of rain.
Fairmont Hot Springs
I had no idea what to expect at Fairmont Hot Springs. Its RV resort is very highly rated and, from the website, looked like a large, nicely manicured, level park. I was quite surprised when we arrived how mountainous it was. I made reservations back on November 2 and was very disappointed when I got an email on April 30 saying they would have to park me in one of the new, non-landscaped spots. The new area was a little rough around the edges, but the sites have majestic views, and once completed, will ultimately be the best sites in the park.
The resort and town are pretty much one and the same. It has four hot spring pools of various temperatures and three golf courses. It was the middle of July, but in the four days we were there, the temperature never reached 70ºF. The pricing structure for the pools made them an all-day event: $23 whether you spend one minute or 12 hours. We are Arizonans. We don’t swim in Arizona in December when it is 65ºF, and we didn’t swim in Canada in July when it was 65ºF.
The Columbia River
The time at Fairmont Hot Springs turned out to be a golf vacation with a couple of surprises. We played the Riverside Course first. They never mentioned it was the Columbia River. This summer, we have been proximate to the Columbia River or its tributaries eight different times.
We were in the Salmon and Snake River basins in Idaho, both part of the Columbia system. Then in Washington, we viewed the Columbia where it enters the US from Canada as Lake Franklin Roosevelt behind the Grand Coulee Dam. Afterwards, we drove along its banks down to the town of Wenatchee. In Canada, we parked right next to it at Revelstoke. I never expected that here at Fairmont Hot Springs would also be the Columbia.
In fact, the river actually starts just a mile south of the course as it flows out of Columbia Lake. It continues a couple hundred miles northwest before u-turning back south above Revelstoke. The Columbia quickly builds into the largest river to flow into the Pacific Ocean in North or South America. The dams on this one river system produce more than 40% of all hydroelectric power in the US—enough to power more than 23 million homes for a year! So here, on the Riverside Golf Course, to be able to easily chip a ball over the Columbia River is quite a thrill.
Explore. Discover. Grow.
We explored and “risked blossoming” on our second full day at Fairmont, visiting Radium Hot Springs, Invermere, and Panorama Ski and Golf Resort.
I was asked to be a real Canadian and join a curling club, and I took in the aura of an Inukshuk. Back at the Fairmont RV Resort, I marveled and played photographer as a rainbow hovered over BAM for nearly an hour.
Golf at Mountainside Golf Course
On our final day, we booked an early tee time on the Mountainside Course. I am not much for golf in the morning, so when I approached the first tee this morning, with absolutely no warmup, I was not prepared to be greeted by a very chatty starter. I was just trying to get my mind right before my first shot and didn’t need to know which holes had bathrooms or how many holes went in what directions. You see, Fred was all about data. How do you tell a guy who is excellent at his job, doing exactly what he was hired to do, to just shut up? Well, Deborah is a very polite person and an excellent listener. Fred took this as encouragement. I zoned.
The mountainside course was built in the ’60s and is not a long course by newer standards. From the back tees, it was just the distance I normally play. It has large trees and incredible views. It has the quietness of a parkland course and the hills of a highland course. It’s truly a beautiful course.
The First Tee
When I walked to the blue tees, I knew I would get the “OHHHH, you gonna play from back there” monologue from Fred as he scurried over. He was now standing right next to me—like a caddie, not a starter. I also knew I wasn’t ready to pipe a long one down the middle on my first swing. After one, and then the second ball hit well over the trees and the houses on the right, I made some comment about missing the driving range this morning. Fred indicated the driving range was down the hill, on the right, at the Riverside Course—near where I hit my first two shots.
The third time was the charm as I hit it long and straight down the middle. Fred complimented my effort while I secretly hoped I would never see this wonderfully nice, chatty gentleman again.
I hadn’t even pulled out a club to hit my second shot when Deborah started quizzing me. Fred had thrown out a lot of facts, and she was testing if I heard any of them. When I correctly answered that the first drinking fountain was on the fourth tee, she accepted that I had paid some attention.
The Fourth Tee
By the time we got to the fourth tee, we had stripped down to short sleeves. But, during the next three holes, we put our sweaters back on and watched rain fall in the valley to the north of us.
The Memorial Bench
On the fifth tee, sitting on a highpoint, with a view of Columbia Lake, was a bench. There was a memorial plaque attached to the backrest. It seemed like a peaceful place, and I thought, what a great idea. A bench, on a golf course, honoring a loved one. I even sat down and enjoyed the view for a couple of minutes while we waited to play. I wondered, would I ever be honored with such a bench?
The Ninth Hole
On the last three holes of this nine, we started putting on our waterproofs and by #9, the rain had come south to the course. There was some light rumbling in the clouds, although it seemed to be coming from high in the mountains. The twosome we were paired with were locals. They quit when it began raining in the middle of #9. After we putted out, we pulled under a nearby tree to assess the situation. Within 30 seconds, Fred pulled up and declared, “These storms always go north. You should be good to go.”
Making the Turn
We hesitated for a moment, but with Fred’s encouragement, we teed off on #10. While we were putting, the green became covered with white, pea-sized hail. We jumped into our cart, and while driving toward the 11th tee, I left the cart path slightly to park under some trees by a condo. Located about 10 feet from a large window that had a mirror-like effect, we sat and looked at ourselves, making faces and attempting some comic relief. It was when Deborah was adjusting her hair while staring into the mirror window that she noticed people staring back at her.
There was an entire family behind the window, having lunch at their dining room table. We gave them a kind of cute goodbye wave as I put the cart in reverse. It moved about three feet before we centered on a tree root. Now we were teetering, unable to go in any direction as I commanded Deborah, “Don’t look in the window.” Fortunately, we both leaned forward at the same time and somehow got traction.
#12, Par 3
Soon it cleared a bit and we proceeded. Number 12 is a par 3 with a lake and is the signature hole on the course. While I stood on the green waiting for Deborah to chip, I started looking around. I counted 21 benches in this one area with memorial plaques. They were everywhere and in every direction. Twenty-one benches and not a live person in sight. It was like playing through a cemetery.
The quietness around this green evoked spirits watching from every angle. Out of nowhere, there was a brilliant flash and a giant boom as lightening struck seemingly close. We hightailed it to the cart to get out of there.
Just as quickly as the storm had come in, it left. Thankfully, there was a Telus phone booth on the next tee where I called in to report we had survived the hole of the living dead. Telus is a major cellular provider in Canada. Apparently, their coverage is spotty enough that they still provide pay phones in the dead spots. This area certainly qualified.
There wasn’t a soul around as we walked off 18 green. But suddenly, Fred popped out from behind a singular tree with a big grin on his face. “I told you the storm would go the other way,” he proudly proclaimed.
“Eventually it did,” I agreed. “But when I was out on 12 green, there was a boom. For an instant, I thought I might get my own bench.”
I laughed, Deborah laughed, but I didn’t get to see Fred’s reaction as he was already headed back to the first tee to host the next foursome. Here’s to you, Fred, for a job well done!
Fairmont Hot Springs and the Columbia River Valley were a complete surprise and delight for me. When Tim let me know that the resort had a spa, I was quickly arranging for some pampering and personal care. I envisioned myself being pampered amongst the grandeur of the Columbia River Valley.
One surprise was that the spa was in the basement—not quite the atmosphere that I had envisioned.
But the other surprise were the wonderful times we experienced on the Fairmont Hot Springs’ beautiful golf courses.
The Thing About Tim
The first time I fell in love with Tim, he tried to introduce me to golf. At first, he would take me out on the course and I would ride along while he played the game. Then it evolved to him trying to provide me some lessons on the driving range. There, quite honestly, he would overload me with advice, techniques, and swing thoughts. Then we advanced to actually playing a game on the course. More tension was created when his overzealous enthusiasm for the game would provide me with mid-swing corrections and repeated advice.
So 24 years later, and after a seven-day vacation in Ireland, where we played 144 holes of golf, we decided to divorce and go our separate ways.
The Thing About Golf
The second time I fell in love with Tim, we agreed that golf was his thing. I recognized and respected how much he enjoys it. We also discussed that I had no desire to be a regular or a competitive golfer, and golf would never be central to my life. I explained that if I did play golf, I would consider it completely a social thing. This second time around has proven to be so much better!
Tim is a golfer. I play golf. And on vacation, in beautiful locales, I love to golf with him. Like this time at Fairmont Hot Springs, it makes for a special and memorable occasion. We enjoy the outdoors, we talk, we plan, and we laugh.
On the rare occasion I pipe a long one down the middle or make a great putt, I can sense that he thinks I can improve and be a better golfer. He gives me kudos and all is good with the world.
And to be completely honest, that piped long one down the middle or that great putt – makes me want to come back and do it again.