At the end of August we had the opportunity to stay at Back 40 Outdoor Events in Brisco, BC. Back 40 is on a 600+ acre piece of land just over 20 km north of Radium Hot Springs. The camping area features a secluded trio of bell tents, with other amenities, nestled between two epic mountains ranges and views of the luscious Columbia Wetlands below.
Owners Katherine and Adrian are not only "glamping hoteliers" but avid outdoors-people who can help you plan almost any type of outdoor adventure you desire, suited to your experience and activity level. The Columbia Valley has many outdoor opportunities, from hiking and paddling the river to more advanced excursions like paragliding and heli-skiing. Choose your own adventure and go! Both Katherine and Adrian have an assortment of outdoor guiding and leadership experience and a ton of exciting adventures all over the world under their belts. Oh, and they were lovely and informative hosts, too!
We arrived at Back 40 on a cooler afternoon and had travelled to the highway turn off through intermittent torrential downpours. Once we turned off the highway and followed the signs up to the camp, we had dry roads and clear skies. The dirt road to Back 40 is easy to get to and navigate, but if you choose to drive all the way to camp on your own, a higher clearance vehicle is recommended. The last 1.2 km was a much rougher road. We hit 4x4 and wound our way up through the alpine. (PS: If you want to check out Back 40 and don't have access to a backcountry-ready vehicle, don't worry! You can arrange to park and then shuttle up.)
We pulled into the parking area and eagerly exited our truck to take in the view below us. We were greeted by a clearing in the tress, riddled with wildflowers, and charming canvas tents staggered across the space. Each tent had their own small deck and bright red Adirondacks chairs beckoning us to hurry up, unpack and take a load off!
We hauled our gear for the weekend down to the grounds and chose our home for the next 2 days, the aptly named Kootenay tent. Each tent sleeps 4 and has single raised beds with mattresses. Low-maintenance with a little extra comfort is definitely how we roll.
Aside from the tents, camp also had a large covered cook shack with a non-potable water station for washing up, picnic tables for eating, local area information, 2 camp stoves, and supplies for cooking and lighting a fire. Just beyond that, a washroom (there are two outhouses) and shower (as in cold, glacier fed water shower). In the center of camp was our favourite hangout, the campfire, of course.
After exploring our immediate area and feeling satisfied with how we'd set up our bedding in the tents, we were ready for dinner. This was when the covered cooking area came in really handy, as we were suddenly pounded by one of the downpours we thought we'd left behind. Dressed warmly in our Kootz toques, we ate in our shelter, sipped red wine and watched the beauty of the short-lived storm blow by. Once over, we were left with a dewey and misty scene that was calm and beautiful. That night, we had a campfire to warm up before bed and then scurried into our tent for a few games of crib before dozing off to the warbling cries of coyotes traipsing through the backcountry.
The next morning we woke up in the clouds. Low hanging white mist was dancing through the camp and we couldn't even see the wetlands below. It was eerie and magical all at once. We had a busy day ahead so we immediately got to work on coffee and hearty bowls of camp oats to warm our bellies. Once fuelled, we did a scenic hike on the trails around camp. We then had to prepare to head down and drive to Invermere (about 40 minutes away) to check-in for our guided paddle down the Columbia River.
We arrived in Invermere to meet Adrian (yep, he was our paddle guide too!) and gear up at Columbia River Paddle. Adrian gave us a brief rundown on where we would be travelling, some landmarks to look out for, and basic kayak/paddling rules and safety measures. Then we were off! Our guided paddle tour was a 4 hour, 17km trek through the stunning Columbia Wetlands; from Invermere to Radium. We honestly could not have had a better day. The weather was warm, the breeze was light and the water was absolutely calm. As soon as we cleared the first bridge we were greeted by two bald eagles and a kingfisher and that was it, the both of us were in bird-watching heaven. We saw so many birds that day, at least 6 eagles, 5 osprey, 2 herons, ducks, and too many kingfishers to count. We even got to watch a heron fish from the shore directly in front of us, deftly stabbing a fish for its lunch and ogle an eagle and osprey having a scuffle in the sky.
Adrian knew every corner of the river and anticipated seamlessly what birds we could expect to see, where in the river it got more shallow, and every rock crag and mountain by name, with some colourful Canadian and Columbia Valley history thrown in every which way. On our scenic voyage we had a couple of chances to stop for a break, grab pictures of all the gorgeous flora and fauna and bravely dip our toes in the cool water. Rounding the final bend and arriving at our pick up location in Radium after hours of floating and paddling was bittersweet. We were tired, but so relaxed and filled with happiness after a perfect day on the water.
Growing up in Trail, we were obviously familiar with the Columbia River, but had never experienced it in this way. The wetlands are such an important part of the areas ecosystem, it was an honour to be experiencing it and learning about the way the river has changed and been impacted by growth and industry over the decades. We have also done many river trips up the Kootenay River, near Creston, and though there were some definite parallels in the natural environment, our Columbia River Wetlands trek was definitely the most up-close and immersed we've ever been to the wildlife.
We were shuttled back to Invermere and then quickly back on the road returning to camp for a late dinner. We ate on our mini deck staring off into the Bugaboo range towering beyond us across the valley. Now that the cloud cover from the day before was completely gone, we were treated to a stunning golden glow cast across the horizon. Once the cotton candy skies started to fade, it was campfire time. As it got darker, a wonderful show of stars appeared and the hooting of a nearby owl set the mood for a perfect night in the wilderness. We stumbled exhausted into our beds after a long day of sunshine and activity and got some much needed deep sleep.
We spent the next morning lazing around camp. We drank coffee, had a campfire, and slowly started to clean up and pack up. We met up briefly with Katherine before checking out and then we were off. We decided to make a quick stop in Spillimacheen before going home to stock up on some fun honey-laden goodies at the Beeland Market. We bought local mead, jam, honey and pie and Americanos to go from the cafe inside the market.
We were eager to get home to see our families but also really, really didn't want to leave the quiet solitude of our camp on the slopes of the Brisco range. For two busy moms like us, the short time away felt restorative and our nature-loving cups were filled. We would absolutely go back and would love to plan a retreat with a group of people (who's in!?). We definitely felt we could spend more days there to get more hikes in, another epic paddle, and definitely some more stories from Adrian.
If you'd like to check out Back 40 events, visit their website here. They are also on Instagram @back40outdoor
If you have specific questions about our stay there and amenities in the area, send us an email at [email protected] or a DM on Instagram @kootzcollective or inquire directly through the Back 40 website at [email protected]
Our must-haves for this trip:
- Bear spray: we didn't come across any bears while hiking, or in camp, but better safe than sorry. It's bear country and they're out there. Back 40, like many campsites and retreats, has strict rules on food storage and sets you up with convenient bear bins and hangs. We are passionate about the leave no trace mantra and made sure that everything we packed in was packed out.
- Extra blankets: It gets chilly in the mountains so aside from our sleeping bags, an extra cozy blanket is a must for sleeping as well as for hanging out in the tent or curled up on a deck chair.
- Water: Back 40 supplies non-potable water so be sure to pack your own drinking water. (A good red wine is always our second beverage of choice for campfire chats.)
Kootz Toque: We slept in our toques night one because it got cold! Our beanies are perfect for this chilly morning at home or in the mountains.
What's New & Upcoming
SALE - Join the Kootenay Collective. Our end of season sale is on now. Everything in the shop is marked down 20%, even sale items! Make way for Fall/Winter 2021!
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Fall/Winter Apparel - We have new looks in the works as we speak for the colder months. Stay tuned on social media for launch announcements.