A day of ghost towns and yesteryear vibes
With a 400+km drive ahead there was no dilly dallying as we packed up and left Field. Our route would take us south-west, north-west, south-west then south-east and if we had the option of a straight line it would have been a mere 170km. Far less interesting though; this was a day crammed with fascinating stuff, and even better, fascinating OLD stuff.
Our ultimate destination was the town of Kaslo where we’d be setting out on another bear adventure the next day. Being the theme of the trip, we were always on the lookout…
In the heart of Glacier National Park is Rogers Pass, a narrow valley discovered in 1881 which helped provide a route through the Selkirk Mountains. Today there’s a discovery centre with information and displays. There were other facilities here in years gone by, but I guess businesses are hard to sustain here year-round.
Rogers Pass gets up to 10m of snow per year!! Canada’s worst avalanche disaster was here in 1910 when 62 people died, the majority being workers who were trying to clear the railroad from an earlier avalanche. Three years later, a 9km tunnel was opened through the mountain which avoided about 24km of surface railway.
I was really looking forward to the next stop. Two of the Rockies’ grand ladies, the Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs Hotel, were preceded by Glacier House which in its day was one of western Canada’s premier tourist destinations. It had been located near Rogers Pass and we were off to see its ruins.
Glacier House was originally just a dining hall to save trains having to carry the extra weight of a dining car. Chalet rooms were added for the occasional overnight guest and within a few years it had become a fully fledged luxury hotel.
Although the glacier was receding, the main factor that brought the axe down on Glacier House was the construction of that tunnel I mentioned before. With the railway no longer going past Glacier House visitor numbers dropped dramatically. It managed to stay open for almost another decade, by which time the allure of the property was fading with the newer grand hotels in Banff and Lake Louise.
Another relic of the abandoned railway was a little further down the road.
In about a week’s time Parks Canada was due to come through and remove the information signs ahead of winter.
Onward. We stopped in Revelstoke for lunch and a poke around the main street – it was Sunday so not much was open. Revelstoke sprouted up as a railway town and remains one, though today has many other interests including tourism from winter sports and mountain biking. I enjoyed its heritage aesthetic.
Today’s journey required a short ferry journey and we timed it perfectly, a few minutes later and we’d have been waiting an hour.
Quiet scenery interspersed with wee towns, bear warning signs and one bear sighting eventually led us to another short planned detour.
Sandon sprung up with the mining boom in the late 1800s. Silver was the name of the game here and a thriving wee metropolis was built upon it. Sandon’s fortunes like many places like it took a dive when the precious metal did. A large fire and a couple of floods almost erased the town. Few structures remain, but Sandon isn’t quite done yet.
We were on the home stretch!
We rolled into Kaslo, another town that grew with the mining boom but which managed to stay intact. It has been maintained very well with plenty of gorgeous heritage buildings. We wouldn’t have long on the ground here so we headed out for a quick foot patrol before dinner.
Tomorrow we were off to the Grizzly Bear Ranch.