Trails to Two cities

(Sod’em and go for more)

Austere and foreboding this abandoned smelter sits at Wardner on the banks of the Kootenay River. Like many towns it met its demise when a new highway was built two kilometers upstream.

For the summer seasons this year I’m living and working for Sunshine Houseboat Rentals and Marina. It’s located on the West side of Lake Koocanusa at Gold Bay. We are located only a few kilometres north of the border with Montana. Although I desperately miss the ocean it is beautiful here. One of the things I enjoy is its remoteness. The two nearest communities where you can buy groceries and the things you need are Fernie and Cranbrook. They are each about an hour away on paved roads, longer if you choose to admire the scenery and also watch out for the copious herds of deer and elk.

If you meander northeasterly from here you come to Fernie. An hour and a few minutes to the west is Cranbrook. Both are nice friendly places with their own personalities. Cranbrook is the larger town with plenty of box stores and industrial suppliers. It has an airport regularly served with flights from both Vancouver and Calgary. (well, it used to in pre-covid times) The railway, mining, logging, ranching and tourism appear to be the mainstays of the local economy. The lakes and ski hills draw people year-round.

Here is a photo essay of the two communities (I don’t know whether to call them small cities or large towns) I used to worry about what I’d find to photograph but I doubt now there’ll seldom be a cold camera.

The Elk River just downstream of Fernie from the west. It’s stunning country even in early spring.
Catholics! A grand edifice built in a small town. It seems a bit vain with glistening mountains towering all around.
The church and then the law. Across the street from the mini-cathedral an imposing courthouse.
Passenger rail service has gone the way of the Dodo bird. This old station has been converted to shops and a museum of sorts. It would have once been the center of the community.
In Cranbrook the former train station from Elko has been moved and reinstalled as part of a large rail museum.
Enough said
Not today
I remember when these locomotives replaced steam power; a lifetime ago. It makes me feel old.
Old like this. It reminded me of a favourite childhood book ‘The Little Engine That Could’   “I think I can, I think I can.”
I’ll be back, it’s quite a museum.
Just look for the old watering tower
Closed. Definitely! Manana. Not today.
The Tin Elephant
I had to cross the highway and check this out.
The rest of the story
Trust me to head into the back alleys of downtown to find the pulse of a place.
I found this sitting in an older neighbourhood filled with beautiful little old homes
The Sammy
Clearly a residential hotel
The drama of life, an emergency vehicle tends an alley crisis.
A cosmopolitan brunch on the street at the Mt. Baker Hotel. At first glance, Cranbrook appeared to be little more than a monster strip mall, but it has depth, culture and lots of friendly, helpful people.
“Eat here and get greased” I couldn’t resist the unintentional humour of this sign.
Across the street, town deer have a fully organic lunch. They appear to be completely oblivious to the traffic whizzing past.
Back to Wardner again. This photo shows the old bridge in use shortly before a new one was put into service. The information is displayed on the location of the remaining footings about where the Texaco sign once stood.
Posted beside the photo is this excellent map of the Kootenay/Columbia Rivers and dam system. It is an amazing balancing act, conserving water for winter use yet addressing the needs of various fish stocks and sometimes using calculations for flow rates of millions of cubic feet of water per second.
There’s no math required to see what a beautiful place it is living on the banks of the Kootenay River
A peek upstream from the footings of the old bridge. More fresh snow is on the mountains beyond the roll of low cloud. 
Back to the old smelter for a few final shots. This corner with the chain left me with a sense of a former prison.
The walls have stories
What wonderful childhood memories must come from this place.
The Wardner’s wife?
A Kootenay window


Discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

… Marcel Proust

Author: Fred Bailey

Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor / writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer. He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs. His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lives aboard 'Seafire' the boat he is refitting to go voyaging, exploring new horizons both inner and outer. This blog is about that voyage and the preparations for it. In spite of the odds against it, the plan is to sail away this fall and lay a course southward. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey. Namaste Contact him at

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