Calgary to Kelowna through the Rockies
This amounted to a day long coach ride with opportunities for stops along the way. We travelled in reasonable weather with good views from the coach, until about lunch time at Rogers Pass when rain set in. Our first stop on the TransCanadian Highway was Lake Louise in the Banff National Park. Tom Wilson, a White outfitter was camping and heard an avalanche in the summer of 1882. The Stoney Indian guides told him the noise came from the Lake of Little Fishes. He investigated and on seeing the lake called it Emerald Lake. Its name changed two years later to Louise in honour of Queen Victoria's daughter Louise. The area, affords in season from November to May a multitude of skiing possibilities. On the shore of the lake is a huge 500 bedroom Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) owned hotel with corresponding high tariffs for rooms in summer with a view at the back of the lake of the snow capped Mt Victoria, 3,459 metres high. 10,000 visitors per day make the trip in summer. We were more fortunate, just a German-speaking bus tour and ourselves. Back on the highway, we made for Kicking Horse Pass, 1,647 metres high, named after an incident to the geologist, Dr James Hector of the Palliser Expedition of 1858. Whilst leading his horse, on the start of the descent of the pass, he was kicked and for two hours lost consciousness.
The Rockies are a relatively narrow mountain supported by other ranges on either side. In a way, they are difficult to comprehend on account of their height and the vast distance. From time to time we caught glimpses of the CPR and huge, long freight trains. Canada wanted to incorporate British Columbia into the Confederation States. They held out for a link to the rest of Canada and so the Canadian Pacific Railway was conceived as an inducement. One of our members had once worked for the Bank of England. Friday was bond day, when armed with lists they were sent to the vaults to remove with scissors appropriately numbered bonds from bound volumes, which would be redeemed by the Canadian Government. Little, I imagine, did she ever expect to see for herself the end product of her labour.
Major Rogers was a surveyor for the CPR and the section of the railway named after him completed the transcontinental railway line in November 1885. It was an extremely steep section, vulnerable to avalanches and during the next 30 years some 200 workers lives were lost. The line was re-routed in 1916 with a tunnel under Mt Macdonald and the pass. With the thrill of the summit of Rogers Pass denied to passengers, ironically, their numbers dropped, despite the safety improvements.
In 1950, following a decision to open a transcontinental highway, the road took the route of the former railway line thus enabling us to share the wildness experienced by former travellers. The issue of safety was met by constructing concrete snow sheds through which the road passes. At appropriate times of the year, the risks of avalanches are closely monitored; when necessary, sections of the road are closed and an avalanche is set off by firing mortar bombs from strategically placed concrete stands at the roadside with their blue painted mortars. They evoke memories of weapons seen at the Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth.
Our driver was skilled, knowledgeable and pleasant. He had clearly driven for parties before and we benefited. The journey of some 600 plus kilometres was far from tiring; we were alerted continually to information and views. We stayed the night at Kelowna, moving off around 1.pm next for a short journey to Penticton, a town on the shores of a lake, much favoured as a holiday resort in summer and at other times of the year on account of its climate. Kent is often referred to as the Garden of England and Canadians look to Penticton as their Orchard, for it is a highly developed wine and fruit growing region.
to be continued
page last updated 31 JANUARY 2002