We pull over to park and I get us set up, gathering the bucket and backpack together and fishing Em's hat out of the back seat. He's picking raspberries from a bush next to the car, in awe at their presence, bright like shining red rubies amongst the leaves, and his luck at getting to eat them. "Come on, lets get over to the huckleberries now" I prod, and he reluctantly joins me in crossing the road and climbing the bank. The last mine in Coal Creek closed down in 1958, but remnants of the community that existed here remain. Every year the graduates from Fernie Secondary hold a grad party in the old football field. The foundations from old bridges still lay to either side of the creek. Locals hike up to the old sealed mine entrances on a trail marked with collapsed mining shacks.
When I was young I would sit in rapture, eating baked goodies off of a fancy plate and sipping sweat tea while my Grandma Grace told stories about growing up in Coal Creek: attending community football games, hanging out at the swimming hole, going in to "town" (Fernie) for a movie. As a child the stories fascinated me because it was hard for me to imagine that the wilderness I had caught my first fish in once held an entire town, but as I've gotten older I've realized that all of her stories about Coal Creek held a common theme. They all were woven together with an undercurrent of community ties running through them, and when she told them, it was as though, even with the decades that had passed between, that community was still alive and strong. She passed a few years ago, but her stories and that sense of community they build are still alive and strong, I gleefully discovered, as I listened to a few of them through headphones, a picture of a young Grandma Grace from long before I was born next to the headphone wire, at the Fernie Museum in June.
It was the week after the Feel Good Fernie and community was definitely on my mind. I was sad to see the festival end because throughout it I was wonderfully overwhelmed by the sense of community that had formed between the yogis from both far and near. And so I found myself, as I squatted on the mossy forest floor filling my bucket, my toddler next to me gleefully munching on huckleberries and naming members of his family that he wished were there with us enjoying this moment too, thinking about Grandma Grace and her stories, thinking about huckleberry picking with my Dad and other family members when I was a little girl, and thinking of ways to capture and keep that essence of community the festival created. A story seemed like a good place to start.