Out There: Pecking Along the Crowsnest
I do enjoy a good road trip. Getting out of Dodge is not only good for the soul every so often, but changes of scenery and the sense of adventure I get on the road is always rejuvenating and inspiring. I do most road-tripping with my dad, since he’s the one that has the vehicle, and we both like stopping along the way to our destinations for snacks and meals at different places. It’s all part of the experience.
Mainly we head west, and over the last few years we’ve come to enjoy some regular haunts along the Crowsnest Highway. Last week we went to the coast to visit family that recently moved down there and so that I could see some friends, and as usual, Dad and I planned a couple of stops around places that are our usual watering holes, along with some new places recommended to us by others who’ve made the trip to Vancouver lately.
First along the route is always, always the Copper Eagle in Greenwood, which has got to be one of the best bakeries I’ve encountered in my Kootenay travels. Located on Greenwood’s main drag, the Copper Eagle serves a great coffee and always offers up delectable baked treats, the most popular one in my family being their cream cheese-smothered cinnamon buns. Being a baker myself, I tend to be fairly critical of baking and bakeries, and one thing I usually judge a bakery on is their cinnamon buns. I also like mochas and I judge a coffee shop on its ability to make a luscious mocha. On my cinnamon bun scale, I give the Copper Eagle a 8.5/10, and on my mocha scale I give their mochas a 8/10. I walked away from this visit with an additional five goodies to munch on along the road.
The next stop is legendary–legendary, I tell you! In fact, it’s so legendary I overheard people talking about it in the gym the week before I left. Yet it’s also surprising and unassuming–and it’s in Rock Creek. This little village, which used to have a bustling gold rush population in the late 1800s and now has a population of approximately six people, boasts a road trip gem: the baked cheese stick. Made fresh daily at the Petro Canada station and sold there for about $1 each, these humble treats burst with cheesy goodness.
You should get there early, though; they have been known to sell out, much to our chagrin when we pass through Rock Creek on our way east on the way home from a road trip. My dad, who is the king of whole grain stuff and a cheese snob, loves these things to bits even thought they are made from a basic white bread recipe and probably don’t contain any fancy cheese at all. This snack usually lasts us until Manning Park.
As you can imagine, the pecking is getting pretty intense at this point, but it gets even more so at Manning Park, where my dad refuses to eat at the restaurant there. The food is “too touristy” and he had a bad experience with an overpriced grilled cheese sandwich once. Instead, after using the facilities at the restaurant and gift shop and taking some photos of the wildlife carvings the buildings at the park are adorned with, we pecked away at the Copper Eagle baking in the parking lot. We nearly got pecked ourselves, however, as our snacking attracted a group of very interested crows. It seemed appropriate given the name of the highway, but these crows were anything but underfed despite their best efforts to appear otherwise. We fed them nothing, but couldn’t escape the distinct feeling that they were holding this against us…
On our way home, heading east, we stopped at Cobs Bakery in Chilliwack so my dad could buy a truckload of whole grain breads, and I treated us to some baked goodies from there as well (cinnamon bun rating 7.5/10). This time, our first stop was Manning Park. Dad purchased a mediocre coffee from the gift shop, and I contemplated buying a Crowsnest Highway t-shirt but managed to refrain (I love the logo, but the price wasn’t right). Again, we snacked in the parking lot, and again we were surrounded by fluffy crows whose girth indicated they were anything but starving. I perceived some hostility on their part as we ate. Giving in to a malicious look thrown his way, my dad chucked a crow an errant raspberry from a very tasty danish to one bird, who pecked at it but in the end turned his beak up at the offering. What utter cheek!
After eating way too much sugar, we needed something substantial and preferably with a bit of protein in it, so we decided to stop at a place in Keremeos we had a great lunch at in 2008. It was called the Trading Post, but we were disappointed to discover, upon arriving there, that it was closed and for sale. So, we found a little bistro instead and I enjoyed a clubhouse sandwich there. As with the cinnamon buns, I also judge little cafes and restaurants on my own personal clubhouse sandwich scale. Currently, our own Sunshine Cafe is at the top of my clubhouse scale for the Kootenays with a perfect 10/10. The Riverbed Bistro in Keremeos gets a 7.5/10 because they use real, actual roast turkey on their clubhouse sandwiches. That impressed me.
Finally, our epic pecking-fest ended where it began, in Greenwood. The Copper Eagle closes early, but a family member of mine recommended the Deadwood Junction, a relatively new place on the western end of Greenwood’s main street. They are open until 6:00 PM, and we arrived there at 5:30. Cinnamon bunned-out, we decided to only order coffee and a mocha. This was a great find in the end; it was very atmospheric and prides itself on having, according to our bowler hatted barista, over 60 local artists’ works on display. On my mocha scale, they score an 9/10, perhaps because they use Oso Negro coffee, which comes from Nelson. The staff were very friendly and charismatic, and at the end of a long day on the road, it was a great spot for a break.
Incidentally, I had a cinnamon bun at Ikea in Coquitlam on this trip, but it only scores a 5/10. It was a little bit too commercial and lacked sufficient cream cheese icing.
What are your favourite places to peck at while road tripping? Please let me know in the comments!