Situated in a glacial valley, Fernie is a little town in the Canadian Rockies that is almost ringed by rugged mountain peaks. It is a renowned ski resort, having over 10 metres of snow each year.
We reached here from Nelson via Highway 3, spending much of the day driving through broad valleys that supported sheep and cattle grazing. Some sections were still alpine and a very impressive part of today’s trip was to drive over the Kootenay Pass where the road was only finished in the late 1970’s There is a pretty little lake at the top that used to be called Summit Lake, but has since been renamed Bridal Lake as the meeting of the road across the pass symbolises the marriage of the east and west Rockies.
As we travelled down the western side of the pass, the road suddenly opened into a broad valley. By lunch we were in the large city of Cranbrook. This city in southeast British Columbia, is located on the west side of the Kootenay River at its confluence with the St. Mary’s River. It is the largest urban centre in the region of East Kootenay. As of 2011, Cranbrook’s population was 19,364, There doesn’t seem to be much going for the city other than the large Canadian Pacific Railway Museum on the main highway through the town. They have a considerable collection of carriages and locomotives, but a very strange way of presenting their exhibits. You cannot just walk around – you need to go on a guided tour where the guide says very and just switches on a series of CD players that tell a brief story about the carriage in which you are currently sitting. Nevertheless, it does show something of what railway traffic was like in its heyday from the 1920’s to 1940’s.
Thgere must have been a lot of wildlife along our route today as there were very frequent signs warning of the dangers of encounters with moose, caribou, big horned sheep and deer. We were specatularly unsuccessful in seeing anything but a fleeting glimpse of a couple of deer and some small ground squirrels cavorting in the grass by a lake. Maybe we’ll have better luck further up the road.
It seems that a lot of our route today passed through old mining areas. There were a couple of little towns named Yahk and Moyrie that had certainly seen better days. They were made up of a shambolic collection of little houses and rather derelict buildings like this old pub in Moyrie. It has been for sale for quite some time judging by its appearance. Perhaps in their heyday these towns were vibrant metropolises, but now they are just names on a map.
While Nelson, where we stayed last night, had an obvious alternate future reminiscent of the hippy days, Fernie is very different. It is clearly a centre of active sports. In the bar where we had a drink before dinner, TVs were showing an ice hockey game, a rugby match where Canada were playing ireland and a cage fighting match between two rugged looking men with shaved heads
We keep finding that Canadian Wait Staff are effusively polite and overwhelming in the relationships that they establish with their customers. Tonight, our drinks waiter was named Clay and the meal was served by Melody. They both continued tis tradition very successfully.
Clay was pretty much a ‘down to earth’ sort of guy. He was well grounded in serving drinks and it is obvious that over time, he has been cleverly moulded and shaped into his work role. He served drinks without a glazed look and must have told us that we were welcome on 27 occasions.
Melody was a young woman with whom we immediately struck a chord. I tried to joke with her, but every attempt fell flat, so eventually I had to scale back my humour. However we finished our meal on a high note when she recommended the apple crumble. She was very vocal in singing its praises. However, she stayed far short of big noting herself.
I’m worried that all these puns will get me into ‘treble’ with Jill! Really, who on earth would name their kids Clay or Melody??
We are just in town for one night and tomorrow, we plan an easy drive to Calgary. This is as far east as we plan to travel on tis trip.