Ride the bus to the top of the mountain with bus driver Bill Anderson

Take a trip on the hot springs express

Ride the bus from Nakusp to the top of the mountain with Bill Anderson, and soak in the hot springs.

Change, the nature of all things, is announcing itself again these days. A chill is now in the air that bites at fingers in the mornings, and snow dusts the tops of the mountains in reminder that winter isn’t long away. Now is the season of raking leaves and hunting mushrooms, of snow tires and wood fires, insulation and other preparations in advance of the true cold.

What a perfect time to drive the winding and colourful road up to the hot springs and dissolve a day’s labours away in those warm waters. Here, we are blessed to have a variety of places to choose from, as if one weren’t enough.

Last Monday I met up with public transit in front of Overwaitea at 3:15 p.m., loaded my bike into the carrier on the front of the bus, and chatted with driver Bill Anderson as we made our way to the top of Hot Springs Road. A man carrying his groceries climbed on board and joined us for a portion of the trip, but the majority of the ride was just the two of us talking about bike trips and local hot springs.

It was the perfect day to go; we drove into a blue sky lined with green mountains dotted with yellow and red trees. Even the yellow centre line against the asphalt seemed to blaze its way up to the springs.

Anderson has been in these parts for decades now, moving from Saskatchewan after not finding enough work farming. He loves it. Like many transplants, he is in awe of the beauty of the Kootenays, really feeling like he’s living the dream.

We talked about biking up and down the sizeable hills you’re bound to encounter here, and conversation drifted to the late Kit Irving, a regular rider on the hot springs route. Daunted by the tricky curves in road, the Irvings preferred to relax and leave the driving to the professionals.

Mrs. Irving, as I knew her when I was working up at the Nakusp Hot Springs, would come every Monday with her husband and occasionally their daughter. Each week, they would arrive with the first bus around 1:30 to soak, and she was always cheerful and happy to chat. They would spend their time enjoying the pools, and were combed, rejuvenated, and ready to go when the bus returned to collect them, at about 3:30 p.m.

When I ask what other passengers he’s had, Anderson mentioned that there were three Asian ladies who came up on the earlier bus. Generally, the hot springs route is pretty slow, with the largest group he’d ever had topping out at eight people. That would still leave plenty of empty seats in the bus.

As we rounded the corner to the entrance of the building, I could see the three passengers waiting in the lobby for their post-soak ride down the mountain. What a delight, not to have to worry about the drive home after a relaxing soak.

Unloading my bike from the front of the bus, I waved good-bye to Bill Anderson and his passengers, and headed in to have a dip in the pool myself.

In the lobby I ran into manager Pat Farish and convinced her to let me take her picture next to the tiles painted by the kids at Nakusp Elementary. Farish was soon surrounded by the bright colours of ice cream treats, divers, rivers, and even more abstract curios and delights that decorated the hallway between the change rooms and the pool.

Then it was time to suit up and get relaxed, already! Lying in the sun in my bathing suit wasn’t something I thought I’d get to do again this year, but the hot springs make it easy. I bobbed and floated buoyed with the styrofoam noodles until all my worries had melted away and the marrow of my bones was warm.

After that, all I needed to focus on was balancing on my bike all the way down back into town, and soon I was back by the lake, having had my fill of fresh air and warm water on a fine autumn day.


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