The Secret Life of Coleman, Alberta

It was a very windy day when we, my adventurous friend, her equally adventurous son, and I, approached Crowsnest Pass from Fernie. We pulled over when we saw a herd of elk going about their business on the side of the highway. 

The mountains rose up even farther as we neared Coleman. As its name gives away, this is coal country. We drove by teeny villages once booming in the name of industry but no longer. We arrived to our bed and breakfast in the center of Coleman and I felt like I’d traveled back in time. The building is from 1904 and it works its magic as soon as you pull up. The intersecting street is the western town of your dreams, straight out of a movie. Save a few street lights, no light came from the row of buildings making the sunset over the mountains even more eerily beautiful.

We spent the evening relaxing and chatting  in our “1920s Room,” perfect for the night. During the night we agreed that we really felt the true experience of frontier life in the 1890s or so. The wind ripped through the building and shook the windows like crazy over and over again. It was startling and exciting all at once, a little worrisome. At one point the wind howled and the windows shook and the train tooted its horn in unison. This is what it must have felt like back then. I think.

The next morning we were served breakfast on a long table to the side of the host’s fabulously large kitchen. We talk travel for a while and then inquire about Coleman-related happenings. Oh, that’s normal. She says in regard to the wind. It’s only remarkable when it tops 100 km/hr. And the street that was seemingly filled with ghosts is in fact filled with artists and yoga practitioners. We’re told that summer brings arts festivals and the like and the town is slowly repopulating. I’m glad.

Coleman fills in the summer with folks adventuring in the mountains around, one such where we headed called Castle Provincial Park. The views are that perfect combination of farmland butting up against mountains that  I’ve come to love. At “the Castle,” we participated in their annual bird counting event, something neither of us had ever done but that was nevertheless peaceful and enjoyable. We ate snacks by the fire that the park staff made up before continuing on to Allison Creek Nordic Center.

Bless my friend as a nordic skier I am not. But off we went, her also dragging along a toddler trailer on skis! The sun began to set but we paid it no mind. We sailed (sort of) through the beautifully groomed trails up to a picturesque lake before turning back. At one point she yelled over We’re cross-country skiing in Canada! Just as I was pinching myself at the thought of the same.


Country Encounters is a lovely B&B right in Coleman. The owner and host is such an interesting person and cooks a mean breakfast. She whipped up a gluten-free meal for us no problem.


Allison Creek Cross Country Ski

Castle Provincial Park

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