The Great Canadian Road Trip: Day 13 of 20

If you find yourself in this neighbourhood, stay awhile and take it all in as there is much to see and explore.

By Laurie Izzy Wheels.ca

Nov 6, 2021 5 min. read

Article was updated 6 months ago

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The Crowsnest Highway: Castlegar to Medicine Hat

If you're new to The Great Canadian Road Trip series, please click on my name, Laurie Izzy, and it will link you to the page where the previous 12 installments are located. Or, if you would like to take a step back to remember where we left off last week, you can click on Day 12: Whistler-Vancouver-Castlegar before you ride along with me today.

  • Castlegar, BC to Medicine Hat, Alberta

  • Distance: 7.5 hours, 700 km, Crowsnest Highway 3

  • Favourite Song: Truck Got Stuck, Corb Lund

  • Quote: “When I'm in Canada, I feel this is what the world should be like” Jane Fonda


Castlegar to Fernie


After a fantastic night’s sleep and a belly full of scrambled eggs and toast I was back on The Crowsnest Highway eastbound. The town of Castlegar and the highway were both fairly deserted, but then again, it was only 8am on a Saturday morning.   Right off the bat the highway began to climb in elevation and I was able to pull off the road on my way out of town to capture this shot of it. The mountains in the distance are the Selkirk and Monashee Mountain ranges, and the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers merge here as they flow northward.

Selkirk and Monashee Mountain

As I sipped my coffee and marvelled at the backdrop, it was hard to believe I’d been on the road for nearly 2 weeks already. Although the odometer on my nearly new Chevrolet Cruze said I’d travelled over 6000 km, I didn’t feel like I’d been away from home very long. I’d be back to Barrie, Ontario in a few days and the entire experience would soon be but a dream.

Laurie Izzy in her car

Familiar Fernie


After several hours on the highway I was thrilled to see the signs for Fernie up ahead. I’d driven through it a few times before and I always liked the way it felt there:   Peaceful, small town charm, and a world class landscape. Although I hadn’t driven across the country before, I’d flown into Calgary and road tripped between Alberta and BC in 2007 and again in 2013. Best known for its fantastic ski resort, this town also comes with lots of folklore and legends.

Fernie

The Three Sisters Mountain peaks provide a majestic backdrop to the quaint mountain village down below, and legend has it, the name of the peaks came from a story of unrequited love, times three.

Three Sisters Mountain

THE LEGEND OF THE THREE SISTERS According to legend, many years ago a young Indian Chief found great difficulty in choosing a bride. There were three very talented and beautiful maidens to choose from. The older Chiefs asked the gods to aid them. The Indian gods considered indecision a grievous sin; therefore, the punishment dealt out was severe. The young Chief was turned into a mountain where, each day, he could look at what he could never have. The maidens' grief was so great that all three maidens prayed that they might also be turned into mountains. Their prayers were answered, and today we look to the North to see the young chief slumbering as Mount Proctor, with the Three Sisters standing proud beside him. (Source: Tourism Fernie: Legend of The Three Sisters)

The Biggest Truck in the World


Not long after I left Fernie I came upon the town of Sparwood. The sign said it was home to the biggest truck in the world, so if nothing else, I could add to my growing inventory of road trip photos. I drove around a little, got lost, and never did see the truck. Guess it’s not that big after all? Sparwood is a small town with a population of just over 4000 people, but its got a lot going on. According to Tourism BC, it’s one of the highest elevation towns in Canada, open pit coal mining is its largest industry and is the most easterly town in British Columbia.

Sparwood

The Continental Divide


The Great Divide, aka The Continental Divide is a hiker’s paradise, and plays host to amazing geological formations that run along the Alberta-BC border as well as the Yukon-Northwest Territories border. In essence, it’s the place where the rivers and waterways decide whether they are flowing north to the Arctic, west to the Pacific, or east to the Atlantic. If you have been along for the ride since the beginning, I wrote about The Canadian Shield while I was driving through Northwestern Ontario in Episode 2 of my Great Canadian Road Trip. Believe it or not, the shield is part of the great divide’s lower formation, that spans east to west. Magnificent in statistics and in beauty, you can see more on the Canadian Geographic Website.

The Continental Divide

Crowsnest Pass and The Frank Slide


I waved goodbye to BC as I entered the scenic Crowsnest Pass region of Alberta. I was used to the annual display of bright fall colours in Ontario, but I wasn’t familiar with the brilliant shades of yellow and gold that played contrast to the rugged grey granite walls of the Canadian Rockies.

Crowsnest Pass alberta

About 30 minutes beyond the provincial border I drove into an area marked with signs of The Frank Slide. It’s hard to miss, as remnants of the deadly rock avalanche of 1903 (that buried the town of Frank along with 90 members of its population) remain on both sides of the highway.

The Frank Slide

If you find yourself in this neighbourhood, stay awhile and take it all in as there is much to see and explore. The area is home to a mountain peak of the same name as the region, and although Crowsnest Mountain stands alone, it is so enormous that you can see it in the distance for miles. (2785m/9138ft)

Crowsnest Mountain

Bound for Medicine Hat


I took my time leaving the Crowsnest Pass region for several reasons; I was enjoying the flood of good memories from past visits, I was nearing the end of the spectacular Highway 3, and it was a breathtaking September day with incredible scenery. I was headed to Medicine Hat for nothing more than a good night’s sleep, and the plan was to drive straight through Saskatchewan until I reached Manitoba the following day. As the Rocky Mountains became a fading vision in my rear view mirror, the tears caused by the ache of separation were replaced by a laugh out loud giggle when I heard the song that I’ve linked at the top of the page come on a local Alberta radio station. (The singer/songwriter, Corb Lund, is from Alberta)

I love Canada.

Highway

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