In, Out and in the Rockies A GEOGRAPHY LESSON (Kettle Valley)Lester Patrick, the hockey coach, said the best thing about the Rockies that anyone has ever said about them, for his words cover the case so completely. The grizzled mentor declared he had been through the Rockies half a hundred times, and he had never seen them twice the same. Me too Lester.
Published 31 August 1932
I found them in a dreamy haze this time, their snowy slopes taking a half orange color as they emerged from the heavy though sun-drenched atmosphere, appearing like something in a mirage, uncertain in outline and tantalizingly half-visible. Meanwhile, roaring flood-tune river caught the ears and yanked one's eyes and senses from the quad-ethereal heights to the fact that the floods had prettily inundated the mountain yalleys, and here was a sight indeed.
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I'll never get anywhere if I start to warble the charm or springtime in the Rockies, and I want to get on. The newsy pointed out the famous sights to folk whose up-turned mouths gave their tonsils a rare sunburn, and soon the train had snorted up past the hoodoos (queer, wind-eroded cones) and was slowing down as it passed buffaloes and gnus in the Banff zoo.
Nor is it for me to add more paeans to that heavenly resort, Banff. For, while I have no definite ideas about the next world, there lingers a wistful hope in my innards that heaven will have a little of Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise about it. They can keep their gold streets give me a view of the Bow Valley from a seventh storey window. They can keep their harps I'll take the open air sulphur water swimming tank.
Gilbert Ghewy, old Star desk-mate, drove me around in one of the Brewster Packards, a red-leather affair that in itself made me feel important. We saw Banff from above and below, went past trout farms, water hazards, conifer-clad cliffs, grazing gnus and dawdling deer, till all too soon No. 4. blew round the bend, and I had to come back to the station.
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Alaska was the objective, and so I could only give Banff two hours. An hour later the train was heading out toward the foot hills, and I arrived in Calgary just in time to enjoy a scorching June afternoon. At my cousin Alice's I had the only home-cooked meal In two weeks, and then about midnight, the Kettle Valley Express No. 11 took off for Lethbridge with me aboard. The car's name was Nakusp. in case you are interested.
I awoke about 6.30 In Lethbridge yards, facing a row of box cars, and with the feeling that my mouth had been open all night (pure habit!). I got off in my dressing gown on Lethbridge station platform, and to judge from the snickers and wide-eyed looks it must have been the first one outside an Eaton s catalog they ever saw. I learned later it is considered effeminate for men to have dressing gowns down in the Wilf Eggleston country - southern Alberta to you.
We then headed west, the little 2534 starting out manfully to pull us through the Crowxnest and over the Great Divide. Contrasted with the main line, the grades hereabouts are easier, and one locomotive - the type they use on the North Shore run to Lachute and Montreal will do the work.
Thus, that day offered a strange contrast in mode of travel to the day before. Yesterday, it was the crack Limited, with a fashionable passenger list. Today, most people carried their own lunches. Yesterday it was an observation car, today it was the rear steps of the sleeper Nakusp. where I absorbed my lifetime quota of dirt in two nours - one peck. The dust yield was four towels full of grime when the tocsin sounded for the middsy calories.
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But before I get ahead cf the story, for here I am at Fernie and I really haven t passed Pincher Creek yet. I would like to say a word about the Kettle Valley route. It is certainly the crookedest, and I think the most interesting railway line in Canada. It defies altitude, crosses heights of land and mountain ranges as women drivers traverse Sparks street on red lights. and soars over a 4,000 foot level one minute to drop into a gloomy gulch the next. It boasts of more curves than a Hedjaz harem, andfrom Calgary to Vancouver there are 185 stops!
Leaving Lethbridge. the train crosses Old Man river on a bridge that is almost 400 feet high. The C P R. keeps an engineer there all the time. I reed not emphasize how far down the ground looks from the sleeper window. The Quebec bridge is less than 200 feet high double that figure and you get some conception of the altitude. I the company that built it worked with men in little cages suspended on cables. More than one hard-boiled steel worker asked for his time when his heart him after walking the steel at that height.
The Battle of Waterloo and the Frank slide to me always have thisiln common I cannot recall either of them. The great slide at Frank, Alberta, took place In 1903, when one night almost 100 million tons of earth slid down, killing 64 people and laying waste a huge countryside. Boulders as big as penthouses still strew the ugly terrain; heaps of stones as tall as Eddy's pulp pile limn themselves jaggedly against the sky. Even today, the C.P.R. tracks are six feet higher than they were before the slide, the company has dug down deep for its second roadbed. The Frank slide covered countryside deeper in places than Vesuvius ever buried Pompeii. A funny thing about this Frank slide- the Indians would never camp under the montains from which the rock fell away. I say today that what went for the redskins in 1903 goes in 1932 for me too. That big patch, miles square, and visible an hour away by train, still loose and still a dirty white, has a treacherous look about it. I wouldn't camp hre for the cash surrender value of Kreuger's liabilities.
It is only after leaving Frank that the last climb Is made, and the train slides round from Alberta into British Columbia at Crowsnest. There is a place on the street there. Just at the outskirts, 4.444 feet above sea level, where if you emptied a bottle of pop, part of it would ultimately end In the Pacific, part in the Atlantic, but most of it in yours truly.