Revelstoke, 6:30am. I’m standing in the parking lot of a trucker’s diner. Craggy November mountains, heavily dusted with snow already, are stencilled blue-black across gray morning sky. There is a steady rumble coming off the Trans-Canada Highway, as trucks finish the long descent off Rogers Pass, thunder across the Columbia River bridge, and then start the long climb up Eagle Pass. Massive neon signs on towers surround this parking lot, and call out to the truckers. Chevron. Dennys. Sgl. Bed $79. Open All Night. I’m standing almost directly underneath one of these neon towers and yet the mountain backdrop is taller, indifferent to our puny commerce. A skinny, twenty-something kid came into the diner while I was having breakfast. Told the waitress he’d just gotten off the Greyhound from Calgary, and could he have the three-egg omelette plate, but could the cook add two more. Ah, to be able to eat like that.

Gave a book reading here last night. It was a long drive to speak to twenty people, but I gave honest weight. Had time after the reading to catch the tail end of a climate change meeting. Local Revelstoke folks, most of them older, discussing changes they might expect. The talk turned to forest insect invasions, and one lady described a tent caterpillar invasion in the 1940’s. There were so many of them that they coated the railroad tracks, and the trains could get no traction on  squashed and greasy caterpillar bodies as they tried to negotiate the Rogers Pass. Desperate, the railroaders put men on each side of the locomotives cowcatchers, and gave them each a bucket of sand to drizzle on to the rails.

Breakfast over, it’s time to head home, back through the narrow slot of Eagle Pass, through the Monashee Mountains toward the Okanagan. Legend has it that the Chief Surveyor of the Canadian Pacific Rail Line was stumped on where to lay trackage westward through the Monashees until one day he saw five eagles flying out of a narrow canyon, and then he knew that would be the route. The pass is so narrow that the highway has to be on one side of the creek, and the rail line on the other. I’m sure the eagles lived to regret that particular flight.

Stop to stretch my legs at Craigellachie, where the last spike was driven, joining railroad trackage from east to west across Canada. Craigellachie might be a measure of British Columbia’s geographical fractalization: the CPR’s eastern leg went seven-eighths of the way across the country, while the BC side managed only a few hundred kilometers. The famous last spike photo has the CPR President driving the spike, while a group of dignitaries and workers look on. In the middle of the photo is a young kid, about twelve or thirteen, who has wormed his way unnoticed through the crowd, to stand just behind the President. The faces of the crowd are all somber and grave: they know this photograph will be historic. Not the kid. His face says crashing this party was duck soup, and I’m already thinking about my next adventure.

There are more lasts on this trip home. The last beehive burner at Malakwa. These were once a   fixture at every sawmill in every BC town. Instead of being cut up for scrap steel, this one has been turned into a restaurant. And then near Enderby, the last drive-in movie theater.

I’ve always liked visiting Revelstoke, a railroad town that is morphing into a center for back-country ski tourism. Mountain towns have their own urban energy, partly because they have no available footprint for suburbs and strip malls. But the main source of that energy channels directly from the peaks to the people.