Take a Dip

Oh, I love that summer feeling. When the sun stays up late, and going barefoot is the walk of life. When an afternoon bevy turns into an evening beer, turns into a late night dance and a bike ride home, with the warm breeze flickering between my hair. Summer is the best time of year.

But man, oh man, can it ever get hot. Last year's summer was so sweltering the backcountry closed. Fires burned, trees died. The air was so humid and smoky it was hard to want anything but water (or sangria). The only way to find a moment of reprieve, a little respite, was to take a dip. Anywhere, anywhere possible. Immediately.

Three blocks from my house runs the Elk River, and though the river's levels turned low and the shoreline grew, the water stayed fresh, and I stayed cool. If this summer scorches the way it did last year, you might be redesigning your days to including a refreshing dip. Here are just a few select places to make doing so possible. Though, you might have to work for them.

If you're up for the challenge, Lizard Lake is a sweet reward at the end of a two-hour hike. Find the trailhead from either the Gorby Bridge or lower Island Lake parking lot. The trail's steep and not for the faint of heart, but Lizard Lake's surrounded with Indian Paintbrushes, and after feeling flushed with the ascent, is the perfect mountain dip. Beware mosquitos though, they're feisty, and remember to make lots of noise. We ran into a male grizzly bear here who kept us humble.

If nearer to town is your jam, the Elk River has some easy-access shoreline. Set up a lawn chair and lounge for the day. There's also a great swim hole behind the Fernie Golf Club. A sandy beach with water deep enough to dunk, perfect for a post-softball or dike-bike. Or, if you prefer a little thrill, buy a boat and float the river. From bridge to the boat launch at the west-end of town is my preferred after-work route. Just be sure to check river conditions before setting sail—log jams and other hazards exist.

A half-hour out of town lies Burton Lake, a round and deep-green lake in a small enclave you might miss if you blink for too long. Perfect for a shady picnic and cool-down, Burton is superb early summer. Nearby Surveyor's Lake is another option, where you can spend the afternoon looking for lake turtles and sunbathing.

For a more beachy vibe head to the Koocanusa Campsite & Marina. Turn left off Hwy. 3 onto Kikomun Newgate Rd. just after the 3&93 Dairy Bar (ps they have deep-fried pickles here). The marina has a beautiful sandy beach, and is equipped with floating docks, boats, hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream. Sometimes the girls just needs a day at the beach.

Further outside town and along a committing hike is Cliff Lake. So cold it'll take your breath away, Cliff Lake sits in a glorious bowl in the high-alpine. Drive the Bull River Forest Service Rd. until the 32 km marker, and turn left onto Van Creek Rd. Follow to the 41 km marker and park roadside. The hike involves some technical rock ascent adjacent to a waterfall, but is worth every step. 

There's no greater feeling than meeting with a fresh water, stripping to your skivvies, and diving in. This summer, however you choose to enjoy it, I challenge you to find your own perfect place to take a dip. Just remember; wherever you happen upon your solace from the sun, be sure to leave these sacred (and secret) places as you find them—pack out what you pack in, and maybe even a little extra.

Savour that summer feeling. Goodness knows it won't be around for long.