Fishing and Mountain Fun Beckon from B.C.’s East Kootenay Region
From my perch on a outcropping near the summit of Castle Mountain, a dizzying serpentine network of hiking and bike trails stretches wide below me. Above, an easygoing breeze slides puffy misshapen cumulous clouds past the sun. Looking south across the verdant Elk River Valley, the jagged peaks of the Lizard Range rise 7,000 feet. In the fading afternoon light, the quaint picture postcard town of Fernie, British Columbia, dressed in summer’s finest colors, is visible across the valley floor. The berg, nestled in the East Kootenay region, about 250 miles northeast of Spokane, is known to ski and snowboard enthusiasts as the home of Fernie Alpine Resort. From May through October, it transforms into a mecca for hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, whitewater rafting and just plain chillin’.
Elk River Fishing and Floating
Like the best trout-fishing towns in the lower 48, Fernie has its own “river that runs through it.” Fly fishing enthusiasts from around the globe angle for pure-strain wild westslope cutthroat in the crystal clear waters of the freestone Elk River. A number of local outfitters offer guided fishing excursions on secluded portions of the river and its tributaries. The calm stretch through town, between the North Fernie Bridge and Dogwood Park, attracts inner-tube floaters on hot summer days, while outfitters such as Mountain High Adventures offer guided rafting and kayaking trips on thrilling upper and lower portions of the river.
Summer fun at the ski resort
It’s a snap to find the pace that best suits you in the mountain air at Fernie Alpine Resort, which offers chairlift access for hikers, mountain bikers, backcountry travelers, and families looking for an easy way up the slopes. Breathtaking views of the Lizard Range reward you on your way to the top. If you are up for the challenge, the high flying Aerial Park offers three levels of tree-top thrills (beginner to advanced) guaranteed to keep the adrenaline pumping. Test your skills and resolve on ziplines, suspended bridges, and climbing ropes as you move through the trees on a 3-hour adventure. Professional guides are on hand for instruction and provide the latest in safety equipment. (Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.)
Cool downtown fun
Back on terra firma, a stroll through historic downtown Fernie (above) is a throwback to another era. Century-old heritage architecture of rose gold–colored brick and stone buildings frame funky storefronts, hip brew pubs, eclectic eateries and outdoors outfitters. On Main Street, the Bean Pod keeps the “art” in artisan chocolates. The bean-to-bar chocolatier, known locally as “the Pod,” uses 100-year old antique chocolate making machines to swirl, churn and blend rare South American fair-trade cacao beans into exquisite bonbons and truffles.
Polar Peek Books & Treasures carries a trove of books by local authors, unique gifts and toys, trail maps, guide books and more. In the 1910 Home Bank building in the center of historic downtown, the Fernie Museum offers visitors interactive exhibits, innovative displays and an excellent information center. Close by, the Brickhouse Bar & Grill, promises “great food and great people,” and delivers both.
The Legend of the Ghostrider
North of town, the flanks of Mount Hosmer (above) advance the legend of the Ghostrider. When the light is just right on a summer’s evening, a darkened shadow of horse and rider will appear. According to local lore, the visage represents the curse of revenge placed upon the city’s founder for reneging on his promise to marry the daughter of the First Nations chief who led his expedition to area coal deposits in 1887.
—Written by Michael Hamilton