Mountain Passes and Small Town Experiences

With Cranbrook in the rearview mirror the rain began to drizzle down on the hood of the Tacoma and we flipped on the windshield wipers and the fog lights, too. As the rain continued down highway 95 towards Yahk, we began discussing the last road trip through this same part of the countryside.

“When was the last time we came through this valley?” Shauna asked. Starring down the road, my mind started thinking it was at least 3 or maybe 4 years ago.To be honest, the last time I think we were headed in the other direction and its when we saw those airplanes scooping water out of Christina Lake to put out all those wildfires. Do you remember that?” She nodded vaguely, smiled then laughed as she could not place the event I was talking about.

“I totally remember the wildfires being all around Canmore, and your white truck being covered in soot the morning after we woke up in that hotel. Why were we there?” An abrupt 180 on the topic at hand. “Canmorewas it to see Kate?” I said contemplating the possible other reasons we’d be in Canmore. Our anniversary, to go hiking, possibly mountain biking, to just escape the City or attend another wedding or other friendly event. My brains racked on and on but nothing was sticking. You know, you might be correct? But I feel like we were there for another reason.”

“You know, now that you say that thing about airplanes coming down to scoop water… wasn’t it helicopters with large buckets?” Reaching back in the minds-eye, I started pondering if it was helicopters and not planes. “No. I’m fairly certain around Christina Lake we saw planes. I have a photo somewhere of that too. But yeah, we did see a fair bit of helicopters with buckets. I mean, really why wouldn’t we? There was like 1500 wildfires between BC and AB. Too many for the crews we had to handle. They had to call in fire jumpers from the US and Mexico to assist with the really out of control ones.”

Slowing down to 80 then down to 60 kmph as we entered into the little bitty town of Yahk. This town houses 127 people on the boarder of Washington state and has a pretty decent provincial park around these parts. Its a place for definite R&R if you want to escape the crowds. Plus its the halfway point between Creston pop. 5,351 and Cranbrook 20,047 pop..

Turning the corner we headed over the world’s shortest trestle bridge crossing over the Moyie River continuing along the Crowsnest Highway and began climbing in elevation as we followed the roadway towards Arrow Creek and Erickson before reaching the nearby metropolis of Creston.

Creston is a farmer’s dream as it sits between two large sections of Canadian Rocky Mountain ranges. The southern part of the Kimberley’s on the eastern slope and the Kootney’s on the western slope. Due north of Creston is one of the largest lakes you will ever lay your eyes upon. Kootney Lake. The lake is 104 kilometres (87 miles) long by 5 kilometres (3 miles) wide and at its deepest is 150m (490 ft).

“Hey, you want to stop for some grub at Jimmy’s Pub & Grill in that hotel?” I asked pointing up the street to her side of the street. “Nah, I think I am good until we get to Cranbrook,” came her reply. “Do you remember the little French guy and his B&B we stayed out?” I ask keeping the conversation about Creston instead of the white elephant in the Tacoma.

“No, can you remind me of this B&B,” she says. Pulling the truck to a stop in the downtown core, I glance over at her with the are you really serious look. She just stares back blinking her cute blue eyes. Obviously not recollecting this one… “Okay. We had just come in from Grand Forks or Osoyoos and were looking for a place to stay. Someone suggested this B&B and we just rocked up to his house. We pulled into his driveway and as we exited the car, he walked up to us from behind. He spooked us both. Then we all had a laugh about it, because he wasn’t expecting any guests which is why he and his wife were out for dinner. We inquired about a room for the night. He said we were welcome. Then he recommended the pub in the hotel for dinner as they have a wide variety of cuisine.”

I stared at her to see if any of this was sinking in to the memory banks. “Hey, its a green light. You can drive now,” she says pointing out the window. Yup, she was paying attention to the driving but not recollecting the story. I continued onward hoping it would jog the memories. “In the morning the little guy brought us down the most fabulous coffees we had ever tasted followed by scones and a parfait granola that he makes himself with a fresh dollop of local yogurt. Any of this striking a cord?” Nope. She just kept looking down the road. “I think I vaguely recall this moment in time, but I just don’t understand how you can remember these types of details. Its really impressive. I love this about you.” Blushing I went back to stopping the Tacoma at another red light.

Picking up the phone, I snapped a photo of the two grain elevators kitty-corner from our position. Light back to green, she had to point out that I was busy taking photos and not paying attention, again. A total pet-peeve of hers when I am driving, as I am constantly looking this way and that way at the scenery around us taking in as much as possible.

215 Northwest Blvd, Creston BC

Heading out of town and down into the valley the rain went from a light drizzle to a torrential downpour. Vehicles windshield wipers were desperately trying to keep the water off the glass and all of them were unsuccessful.

The climb up Kooteny Pass was a mighty one as we were racing a few other vehicles up to the top at a clip of 90 kmph to 120 kmph then down to 30 to maneuver our way through some of the tight twisty areas. “Hey are you going to pay a bit more attention to the signs around here?” came a frightened shrill from the passenger next to me. “What? Did I miss something?” I replied gently applying the brakes to down shift and pull through a very tight 180-degree turn. “Um, YEAH! I’d say you missed it. Didn’t you see the flashing lights and the bright yellow sign back there?” I shook my head continuing to press the foot into the brake pedal and turn the steering wheel around the very sharp switch back turn. “It said 60 kmph SLOW DOWN! I suppose you have been driving for like nine and a half hours or so. I suppose that gives you the right to miss a really blatant sign like that. If you need me to take over just ask me. Okay?” I nodded again.

“So, you want to take over driving then?” I responded as I did a few hundred kilometres ago. “Nah, its your truck. You keep at it. We’re almost there,” she says as she points to a green sign with Castlegar 33, Nelson 43, Grand Forks 135.

~ Aaron JacksonCrabb