August 23, 2015

Leaving British Columbia

By: Rob Lowe

Featured Picture

As we drove the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Kamloops we were awestruck with the sharp peaks and rapid increases in height that typifies the Canadian Rockies. We’ve travelled through many mountain passes on this trip, but this was one of the most striking. Slide 1 is a picture of a mountain that caught us off guard. While the mountain peak is sharp the side is a gradual flat plain rock spreading across the full side of the mountain. No loose rocks or vegetation on this section of this mountain.

After leaving the Coquihalla Highway in Kamloops, we rejoined the TransCanada Highway (#1) that we had departed from in Hope, BC. Along this stretch we took in a historical place, one that became a defining point in Canadian history: the connection of the east with the west by railway. This event occurred officially on November 7, 1885 when the last spike was driven to connect the rails. The location is Craigellachie, British Columbia, just off the highway. There is a large monument, various plaques, a gift shop and of course, the location denoted on the rails. The official spike was made of silver and it was bent while being hammered into place. It was replaced and the original is in the National Museum in Ottawa. Slide 2 shows a sign that many stand beside to have a picture taken with a small axe that simulates the one used. In addition to many other tourists, bus load upon bus load of Asian people arrive all day long. It is a must see on their tours. The reason for this is that a large number of people from China came north from San Francisco to Canada to work building the railway. Various storyboards at this location tell of the hard work and substandard treatment of these Chinese workers versus the ‘white’ workers.  From the pay scale (which was half of the going wage paid) to the poor quality food they were mistreated. Slide 3 shows the official ‘Last Spike’ plaque and it is accompanied by a large billboard photograph depicting the actual driving of the spike into place. Slide 4 shows a plaque with the story of how the pass became known as Eagle Pass, while Slide 5 shows the location of the Last Spike on this track. This is a busy, well used rail line with trains passing many times per hour. How do we know? We decided to stay in this rest area overnight. An interesting (and noisy) way to celebrate this event personally!

The next day as we drove, we just had to stop to take photos of the sharp peaks along the way. Some (Slide 6) even have glaciers near the tops. We were climbing most of this leg of the trip. As we approached Rogers Pass the glaciers became larger and more distinct (Slide 7). In Slide 8 the mountain was cut (using explosives) to create a channel through which the road passed. After we crossed the summit, it is "all downhill” and Slide 9 gives you an idea of the scenery and the steep slope on the way down from the summit. We passed through Revelstoke, a pretty town that we’ll have to plan to come back to spend time in. We drove through Golden, then approached Kicking Horse Pass and entered the Yoho National Park where we visited the Park’s Visitor Center and one for Alberta Tourism information.  We decided to go to a nearby campsite for the night. Across the highway was a couple of interesting sights: Slide 10 shows Cathedral Mountain which has a distinctive look depending on where you look up at it from. Slide 11 adds a new dimension to ‘driving through the mountain’ even if it is a rail track. What this photo does not show (because I zoomed in on it) was that this tunnel was halfway up Cathedral Mountain. The track is a long way up from where we were.

The next morning we drove up a mountain opposite Cathedral Mountain and came to the signboard shown in Slide 12. We could see the spiral tunnel (not the one shown earlier) which leaves the vast majority of the spectacle inside the mountain. The graphic is not well defined however the upper portal is 14.6m (48 feet) above the lower portal and the climb is mediated within the mountain using a total of 992m (3,255 feet) to do this. Just imagine the work involved to create a tunnel in this mountain over 100 years ago! We went further up the mountain to view the Takakkaw Falls (Slide 13), which free falls 260m (853 feet). The outward projection of water and the loud sound really only show in a video, which we took of the water gushing out from the mountain and falling into the river created below. We were across the valley and we noted a fine mist in the air and on the ground. On our way back down the mountain road, we saw the location where the silty Yoho River meets the Kicking Horse River. While both are glacial rivers, the Kicking Horse River flows through some settling lakes, thus clearing its’ water. At the junction, visible through some rather heavy spruce trees, we could see the water color change as the silt mixes, making the combination of waters silty again. It is a dramatic "meeting of the rivers”. With the trees interrupting our view, we could not take a suitable picture.

Back on the TransCanada Highway and driving for just a few minutes we saw the glaciers on the mountains shown in Slides 14 and 15. We had forgotten that Glacier National Park is located just off the Highway in this area. Since we had seen enough cold glaciers on this trip, we passed on the opportunity this time and crossed into Alberta.

Part of this experience traveling through lower BC was the feeling that there is still lots to see here and we decide that we should plan a trip back to take in the area in a more in depth way.

In our next message, we’ll talk about travelling through Alberta.


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