Nelson an easy getaway

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If you're looking for a quick weekend road trip - a little getaway to break the routine and forget daily stresses - and have already done Seattle, Ellensburg, and Glacier National Park, consider heading north. Just over three hours away is Nelson, British Columbia, deeply nestled in trees with the lakeside charm of Coeur d'Alene and the conveniences of a tourist economy. Last weekend marked the hubby's and my fifth trip; we practically have it down to a science.

Visually, Nelson is stunning. If you go the short way (up Highway 41, through Newport, then a straight shot through the border crossing at Metaline Falls), so is the view. Think Silver Valley meets Flathead Lake, Mont. Mountains hug the road's easy drive. The Pend Oreille River follows along. Trees - evergreens and deciduous - keep the scenery soothing. This is actually half of the scenic International Selkirk Loop; I'll get to the other half shortly.

Nelson sits on the arm of lovely Kootenay Lake, has a quaint shopping district, and is 22 miles from Ainsworth's hot springs. We start summer Saturdays at Cottonwood Falls market; don't miss the falls' mini-Japanese garden and crashing water. Favorite eating spots include the lesser-known Sage, with its balcony view, excellent tapas, and chocolate mousse; Baba's Indian for exotic; and the Outer Clove for fresh, creative, and locally grown. Shops abound, including a hardware store-come-curio shop and far more unusual perusals.

Try tasting Canadian Pinot Noir at BC Wine Guys. We missed the streetcar trolley, but it's antique and still operating. There's an unusual personal art collection in nearby Ymir we haven't yet seen, but heard is eclectic and impressive.

Oh, and we've seen bear and coyote along Highway 6.

Accommodations are plenty, but we recommend the charm, comfort, and chef-quality breakfasts with a view at Cedarwood Cottage B&B. Owner/hostess Marika Korompai keeps an immaculate home, plush gardens, and separate guest quarters a few miles south of town and slightly up a hill. We've grown to love her, as all her visitors seem to, evidenced by the comments in her 15-year guest autograph collection. Cedarwood is also a good value; at about $80 per night peak season it's a better bargain and more scenic than most places in town.

We've never had delays crossing the border. We bring passports (and driver's licenses for the U.S. side) and don't carry weapons, fruit, or other agricultural products. If you keep cash and purchases under $10,000 - no problem for us - the process is simple.

Back to the Selkirk Loop, it goes a tad farther than Nelson to the top anchor at the Balfour Ferry which crosses Kootenay Lake.

The free, half-hour ride is pleasant and lands at Kootenai Bay and Crawford Bay, which hosts a colony of artisans. Watch blacksmithing, broom-making, weaving, glass-blowing, jewelers, leatherwork, and copper enameling. The loop continues down Highway 95 through Creston and Bonners Ferry, with its southern tip near Priest River. This half is longer than the Newport-Nelson half, but worth the experience.

For more information see Selkirkloop.org and Discovernelson.com.

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at sholehjo@hotmail.com.

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