“Well there’s no wall yet!”
“Yea and let’s keep it that way!”
And so ended my first Canadian conversation with a couple passing through the rest stop that would be my campsite for the night. The friendly stereotype had already become apparent.
The day before I had been fly fishing the Yellowstone river in Billings with my aunt and uncle before they loaded me down with everything I would need for my first week in Canada including bison sausage, home grown zucchini/ tomatoes, eggs from the chickens, and a complete fly rod setup. When I passed through the border crossing that connects Glacier Part to Waterton, I was expecting the gruff border agent, tattooed and grapefruit biceped, to give me a rough time. He was more perplexed as to how I didn’t have a gun and was going to Alaska more than anything else I was bringing into his country. “So you’re telling me you don’t have a gun? Has there ever been a gun in this vehicle? Do any of your family members own a gun?” I can’t say I’ll answer those questions with the same responses 10 months from now once backpacking season starts again.
My first full day in the maple leaf country was a Monday, meaning I needed to find a good place to start work. It just so happened that I rolled into a small, hip, ski town named Fernie and I didn’t leave it until Thursday evening. It suited my needs much too well: many coffee shops with solid internet connectivity, plentiful forest roads to camp on, streams nearby where I could go for a run up the forest trails in the afternoon and then rinse off, and to top it all off there was a brewery. If I wasn’t on a time schedule of sorts I would have stayed for a month.
When you hang around town for a while, especially one as small as Fernie, people tend to recognize you. The barista, Gary, at Freshies cafe was a former software developer and enjoyed greeting me in the morning with gems of how things used to be in the tech industry. An old gnarled dude who simply said “people call me ‘G Money’ “ told me stories about his snowboarding travel back in the heyday of the sport. And the lady who tipped me off to the campsite location I would stay at for the week would wave at me as I sat by my van eating dinner after she had fed and taken care of the communal “therapeutic” ponies for the night (who knew there was such a thing).
My initial attempt at getting my bike onto the road as a sort of “scout” vehicle quickly came to an end about 2 miles into the ride as the decade-plus aged tires came apart. I somehow managed to find a pair of treads for $20 CAD and when all was said and done, the repairs were no more than $40 US. It’s kind of nice when everything you buy has a built in 20% discount.
I left Fernie that Thursday making a personal promise to come back some day. Even though it wasn’t exactly as gritty as I would have liked (I didn’t see a single homeless person, not one dive bar, and the wifi networks were all suspiciously password-less) as I write this from the back of the van camped out in Jasper National Park I’m smirking at how I turned out to be such a sucker for small mountain towns.