Tuesday, 22 September 2009

On a busy few days

Well, as previously mentioned, I didn't do the Gray Creek Pass. Consequently, I took Hwy 3A South along the shores of Kootaney Lake. That road has seen some landslides and the road surface bears a surprising number of scars from it. They ain't kidding in B.C. with their Look out for Falling rocks signs.The latter put me in mind of one of Granny's silly stories that featured the origin of said signs. Why do I mention it? Well, the only other time I was in the area was during the road trip from Calgary to Vancouver I went on with Granny, Granpa, Mummy and my brother Philip when I was 10. While I am currently off the route we took (I'm in Fernie now), the previous several day took me through Nelson, Ainsworth Hot Springs, the Kootaney Ferry...
Waiting for the Kootaney Ferry
...Creston and Cranbrook, all of which I went through. Furthermore, ads for Fort Steele heritage town and Radium Hot Springs were all over the place in Cranbrook, which were other places I went to on that trip. For the most part, I didn't actually see that many places that I actually remembered, but a lot seemed somewhat familiar. The Arrow Lakes and Kootaney Lakes were also weird as they reminded me of landscapes that often occur in my dreams. It makes me wonder if the dreamscapes were derived from buried memory.

Sunday was a very long day, made longer by confusion over the time. My map indicated that Mountain time stared when you crossed Kootaney Lake. This proved to be false. It turns out there is a strip of B.C. that never changes time, and moves from Pacific to Mountain time with the seasons. Instead of starting at 7:30 as I had thought I was, I was in fact leaving at 6:30! It was only after that I left Yahk, that I changed time zones.

I spent Sunday night in Yahk at the Moon River Lodge. I didn't seen any sign of association with Audrey Hepburn, Henry Mancini or Tiffany's. I made my own supper for the first time this trip. Luckily, I had planned for this eventuality, but the results were only nourishing, not gourmet.

It was quite chilly on Monday morning. For a while I felt little a bit of a wimp for wearing both a merino jersey and the soft shell that Margo and Chris gave me. Then I saw that there was frost on the ground in shaded areas! For the last few days it has been brilliantly sunny, but often very cool in the mornings. On Tuesday morning, I threw fashion to the wind and biked in my wool socks until lunchtime.

A little past Moyie Lake, I first saw something tan-coloured, possibly a deer, crossing the road ahead of me. Then as I got nearer I saw that it was a predatory animal. I looked ever more closely, anxious about whether it was a cougar i.e. potential trouble, but way cool! The creature turned out to be a good-sized wild canine. I couldn't get a great handle on its size as it was in an area of sun and shade. I think it was probably a coyote, but might have been a wolf. It was a tan colour and seemed fairly bold yet retiring. It was also, apparently, alone which makes it more likely to have been a coyote which are more solitary than wolves.
I stayed at the Mount Baker Heritage Hotel in Cranbrook. This is a town center hotel from the old days that has been renovated and has very reasonable prices. Unfortunately, it has kept the bar on the ground floor. The owners/operators appear to be an Asian family that don't appear to have quite grasped the opportunity they possess. The hotel could be very attractive, but they really need to do something about keeping the noise of gunk music from the bar out of the rooms. The facilities were very good, the price was very reasonable and the location away from Cranbrook's strip was great. However the music kept me awake. If you do stay, ask for a room on the top floor.
In Cranbrook, I spent an agreeable couple of hours at the Canadian Museum of Rail Trail which concentrates on restoring historic passenger cars. These included a couple from the 1930's Royal Visit to Canada, one of which was also used at various times by Churchill and JFK, before being sold to a circus!

Near the end of the tour of the cars, one of the other people on the tour asked for a suggestion of a restaurant in town. The guide suggested Heidi's as it that catered museum functions. I had seen it on my way to the museum from my hotel. As the name suggests, it featured Central European (Austrian mainly) dishes. While it was a bit on the expensive side, I figured you only live once. Also, the previous night's meal had been third rate. I had a flash on Monty Python's Bavarian restaurant sketch from one of the German episodes when I couldn't pronounce "Geschnetzeltes," the name of the dish I wanted! Luckily, neither could the waiter! It consisted of beef slices in a mushroom sauce over spƤtzle which are basically lump-shaped flour and egg noodles. I have often made them myself, but not for a couple of years. However, these ones were much better than my efforts and were utterly delicious. Combined with some B.C. wine and some sublime apple strudel, the meal led me to waft happily back to the Hotel.
Biking today was very nice. I zoomed along and got to Fernie by 3 PM, despite starting quite late and stopping to take a number of photographs, especially between Elko and Fernie. I eventually put my camera in a jersey pocket to make it more accessible. My speed was particularly surprising as I have apparently gained 500 m from Cranbrook despite the fact that today seemed mostly down hill. I guess the South wind helped me from Elko to here. Good news for tomorrow as the Crowsnest Pass is only about 300 m higher than Fernie!
Fernie is an odd place. The place seems very quiet, but friendly. There are a lot of bikes (mountain mostly) in use which of course is very good. The HI Hostel seems rather empty as well as being in the midst of renovations. I spoke to one of the staff who confirmed my suspicion that the place is most heavily used in the ski season.

I am not sure how I will compensate for having lost a day by not taking the Gray Creek Pass. I have been working on a number of ideas, but frankly, I think I am going to wait until tomorrow when I can hit the Alberta tourism info booth in Crowsnest. Plan A is to take a bus from Fort McLeod to Calgary on Saturday, and spend some time in Calgary. However there are other possibilities. Anyway, it is time to end this blog entry for now.

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