Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day Four: A Welcome Transition

One of many windmills near the AB/BC border
Distance: 839 km
Time on the road: 9 hours
Highlight: Crowsnest Pass

We were off to an early start again, but this time we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast at The Holiday Inn Express before hitting the road for Moosejaw, which is less than an hour from Regina.

Moosejaw downtown, although small, holds much history and is charming in its own right. It has connections to Al Capone in the 1920s, the time of prohibition and high crime, and the city also has links to Chinese immigration of the early 20th century; men who were hired to do the dangerous task of building the railroad for the CPR; families seeking refuge from a time of political turmoil in the Far East. The Tunnels of Moosejaw tour covers the history of the town, and although we did not have time to take a tour, we did hear great things about it and at least got to enjoy the black and white photo museum depicting the early days of the town.

The drive was monotonous prairie for a long time, but when we approached the Alberta/B.C. border the view started to shift from wide plains topped with sky to rolling fields framed by the Kootenay mountains. I was somewhat overwhelmed by all of the new things to see: valleys, rivers, windmills upon windmills. Even the hay bales seemed artistically arranged by this point.

We were heading into Crowsnest Pass, a well known area to west coast dwellers, and a beautiful drive most cross country travellers miss because they usually pass through Calgary. However, we were headed south to Fernie, B.C., approximately 30 minutes from the Alberta border.

Crowsnest Pass features winding roads and mountains both green with trees and grey with impressive rock. We paused for a snack at Leitch Collieries in the pass, and learned that the NWMP were stationed there over one hundred years ago to patrol people illegally hiding cattle there on the way to the U.S. It also served as a coal mine, one of the most important resources in the area.

Once we entered B.C., very inconspicuously as the provincial border is not well marked, we paused for a pit stop in Sparwood to witness the World’s Largest Truck. Its tires doubled my height, and oddly enough, it looked like it was even road ready. One thing to note for travellers heading west – most provinces provide free road maps, which vary in specificity, however in British Columbia you have to pay for one!

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