Canada's Mountain Playgrounds

M. D. GEDDES May 15 1924

Canada's Mountain Playgrounds

M. D. GEDDES May 15 1924

Canada's Mountain Playgrounds


IF ANYONE had told you twenty-five years ago that Canada’s natural wonders would one day prove one of her greatest assets from a financial point of view, you would have felt inclined to laugh at him as a visionary sentimentalist. That you know is true, yet to-day, although we have scarcely begun to grasp the possibilities of our scenic heritage, our “export sale” of scenery, (wnich means money received from tourists other than Canadians) ranks fourth amongst our exports, according to the Parks Branch report of 1921-22. Last year’s income from tourist travel is estimated at $136,000,000.

Prior to the Great War, tourist travel in Europe was worth annually something in excess of $1,000,000,000. France had an income of from $500,000,000 to $600,000,000 each year from the “sale” of her scenery. Switzerland and Italy, from $100,000,000 to $150,000,000 each, and the Rhine, the great show river of Europe, was worth, at the very least, $100,000,000 annually to Germany.

But we must not forget that Canada, being a new country from the standpoint of tourist interest, lacks the lure of history and romance. It has not yet that imaginative background which is the most powerful lure for tourists. Scott’s “Lady o the Lake” and Moore’s “Killarney” represent the kind of publicity that made Scotland and Ireland famous from a tourist standpoint. Let our artists weave for us a rich fabric of romance and add the glamor of artistic feeling to the beautiful places of our country as has been done in the land of Evange ine, and they have added in the most tangible way to national prosperity.

Each province, from Atlantic to Pacific, is endowed with a wealth of natural beauty. The misty, surf-shaped coast, undulating, tree-clad slopes and pastoral valleys of the Maritime provinces; the mighty rivers, waterfalls and wooded hills of Quebec; the Thousand Islands,

IVIuskoka Lakes, Niagara Falls and vast inland seas of Ontario; the sky-bounded prairie reaches, sunken rivers, immense park-like areas and gorgeous sunsets of the prairies; the awe-inspiring grandeur of the sovereign white-robed Rockies; the marvelous forests, fertile valleys and peerless inland passage of the Pacific coast together weave one balanced whole—wellbalanced because of its endless variety.

Canada thus possesses the lure of many lands rolled into one, and to-day in pro-

portion to population has larger areas set aside for public recreation and the conservation of wonderful and beautiful regions, than any other country in the world.

The Switzerland of America

TN SCENERY Canada contains all that is required to A satisfy the varied tastes of humanity, lacking only some method of conveying this information to our own people,' as well as to outsiders. It is common knowledge that Canadians do not take enough vacations. Longer outings amidst the charming natural wonders of our own country is one of the things we Canadians, as a people, could cultivate with profit.

In all, Canada has twelve National parks, seven of them in the Rockies, four in eastern Canada and two animal parks in Alberta. These comprise some 10,000 square miles, which is equal to two-thirds the size of

Switzerland or almost the size of Belgium. Nine-tenths of this immense area is in Western Canada and this article deals only with the parks in the Rockies.

Jasper Park, our largest National park, alone covers 4,400 square miles, an area almost twice the size of our smallest province, Prince Edward Island. In that mammoth park, seemingly designed by the Great Landscape-Architect of the Universe for the perpetual pleasure and enjoyment of man, we have already more than 100 miles of roads and 400 miles of trails. There are also many miles of roads and trails in other parks and new ones are being opened annually. Necessary camping facilities are provided to enable riding and walking tours to be undertaken at reasonable rates.

One strong point in our favor is that we border the wealthiest nation in the world, a nation with the reputation of spending more than $500,000,000 annually on foreign travel. Since the war we have tapped this important reservoir, and as it is justly claimed the Canadian Rockies are the logical playgrounds of the North American continent, as Switzerland is for Europe, we may expect rapid expansion in this important source of revenue. Minerals can only be sold once, grain crops, although produced annually, demand work and draw upon the ferti ity of the soil, whereas our “crop of scenery” increases in popularity and will last as long as the everlasting hills, provided we can preserve and conserve our forests. Fire is the on’y demon against which we have to safe-guard. In a few short hours it transforms sylvan glades of marvelous beauty into valleys of desolation.

Canada’s t'mber loss by fire s appalling and the sad part is that a considerable portion of this heavy loss is preventable. The thinking person knows that were it not for trees we should have no National parks, no natural water reservoirs, no human habitation, as we understand it, on this planet.

A National Parks Association has been formed to assist in safe-guarding in perpetuity the National Parks of Canada. We have reached a stage in our national development when certain interests, for commercial or economic purposes, are likely to desire concessions within park areas, and the purpose of the newly formed association is to assist in educating our people that this generation can pass on to

future generations no greater gift than these parks in their unspoiled, primitive condition.

Under the advance of civilization natural conditions are disappearing with such rap'dity that already animal and plant life has been lost that can never be replaced.

John Muir, the wellknown naturalist, a few years ago declared: “The continent's outer beauty is fast passing away, especially the plant part of it, the most destructible and most universally charming of all.”

As civilization advances it seems probable that the day may not be far distant when 'only in our National Parks will the people have opportunity of seeing what this country was like when white men first touched its shores. The National Parks will then come to be the Nation’s Museums of primitive America where many forms of wild life will be studied under natural conditions and in natural descent.

Man’s Best Medicine

NATIONAL Parks are to a nation what local parks are to a city. The life of a nation consists of more than dollars and cents. Material resources alone cannot make a country great. It is the quality of her citizens, their industry, intelligence, integrity and virility which make a country great in the long run.

The fundamental purpose behind the establishment and upkeep of National Parks is the development and maintenance of rugged, forceful, intelligent manhood and womanhood, and mountain-climbing, hiking fishing and camping all play their full part in health-building.

The most common and most successful treatment a physician prescribes for a patient suffering from many present-day ailments is an order to go to the mountains, the seaside, or the country. Get near to the mighty heart of Mother Nature and obey her health-giving laws—sunshine, fresh air, pure water, early hours, wholesome food, less worry—and new vitality is unconsciously absorbed.

By instinct all people have the desire for, and recognize the necessity of recreation. By observation and experience physicians and students recognize that recreation is nature’s means for restoring health and the mental and

physical alertness and efficiency that go with it. In addition, man is, by nature, an out-of-doors animal ; the nomadic instinct is inborn from generation to generation, so the oftener he can get away from the stone and mortar that civilization has built around him and from the monotony and nerve-wrecking conditions industry has harnessed him to, the better he becomes physically, mentally and spiritually.

After a season of getting and spending, of soot-breathing, and financial or other worries, we need revitalization; the whiff of strong air that comes health-laden from pine forests, flowering valleys and snow-clad mountain peaks, is at this stage man’s best medicine. Brawn and brain and nerve have been depleted, and there is no remedy for “city-itis” like air and sunshine and exercise, the merry stream, the agile rod, the swift canoe, the enticing trail, the untrod peak and the smoke-flavored meal. If the vitality of the race is to be preserved we must treat the toxins of our cities with that great anti-toxin, the healing balm of the wilderness.

And thus it is our government has set aside jarge areas to be handed down from generation to generation as the people’s heritage. In our mountain parks, hallowed by history, by Indian legend and by the romance of the pathfinder of the fur trade one can revel in the enduring grandeur of our unspoiled Alpine kingdoms. Nearby are majestic peaks, snow-capped and glacier-scored; rugged, forest-clad slopes; flower strewn passes; impressive solitudes; beautiful lakes; vast snowfields; great glaciers; dark canyons and the headwaters of many rivers. How truly can it be said:

“To those who know thee not no words can paint, And those who know thee know all words are faint.”

Glimpses of Alpine Life

'T'HE photos accompanying this article give some idea A of the majesty and sublime grandeur of our National Parks. No true conception can be formed, however, until one sees them in their natural colors and in the setting in which they were left by the hand of the Creator.

One of our foremost Canadian writers, Miss Agnes Laut, vividly pictures one’s first impression of the

“Rockies” when she says: “The thing is so exquisitely beautiful and so vast, you are simply dumb. First the majesty stuns you. Then the beauty steals in on you, like the dawn of a great love, with cords round your heart and a tightening in your throat and thoughts too deep for tears. Then you know the mountains have accepted you and taken you into their sanctuary, and you will never escape their haunting memory and will go out from them purified in body and soul.”

To stand on the crest of a mighty mountain is a privilege man has a right to prize. There the mystic spell of the “delectable mountains” creeps in upon one. Giant valleys lie in the hush of sleep and their tempestuous rivers of foam seem like tiny white ribbons winding in all kinds of fancy shapes as if tangled by fairy fingers a mile or more below. All around, “Hills peep o’er hills and Alps on Alps rise.”

The soul-uplift and satisfaction of accomplishment fully recompenses for the dangers and exertions of the trip. The poet who wrote:

“0, puny man, would’s thou atone For years of swelling ego heart?

Go, tread the mountain top alone

And know how very small thou art,”

knew in a peculiarly real sense how insignificant man is. and I think frequently feels when compared to our everlasting snow-crowned mountains.

Those who know full well the value of spending a short holiday in such surroundings, annually put on strong clothing and hob-nailed boots and fill their lungs with mountain air in a scramble up the snow fields to see how the glacial machinery is working, machinery that thousands of years ago shaped almost the whole surface of Canada.

The study of glaciers is most interesting. Remembering that ice is a hard and brittle solid, it comes as a surprise to find that it can flow like a plastic body under thé pull of gravity. This of course, is easily proved by placing a row of stakes in the ice and marking the rocks on the side, and although the flow of most of our mountain glaciers is only a few inches a day, yet some of the great Alaskan and Greenland glaciers move from a few feet to more than seventy feet per day.

At a sudden descent where a river would leap as a waterfall, a glacier simply breaks across into crevasses perhaps several feet wide and hundreds of feet long, going down to blue-black depths appalling to the inexperienced climber.

These broken masses below the steep descents will again be welded by pressure and frost into solid ice.

Glacial streams are capricious. On a frosty morning scarcely any water flows and one can with reasonable safety explore ice caves, but in the late afternoon of a clear, warm day there is a raging torrent loaded with mud and stones spreading into many channels, if the valley floor is reasonably flat.

Out-Door Friendships

/^\NE of the splendid ^ features of the big out-of-doors is the friendships that are formed on the trail around the campfire, fishing, hunting, climbing or just picnicking. To do justice to this aspect of mountaineering would require more space than is at my disposal. I must content myself with brief descriptions of two Alpine picnics it has been my good fortune to enjoy.

One of these was held on an easy s ope of Mount Towers facing that great glacial amphitheatre behind which stand Mounts Assiniboine, Eon, Aye and Gloria. Our location commanded one of the most magnificent panoramas of the entire Rockies. About

2,500 feet below us were three lakes, of most exquisite hue, Gloria, Terrapin and Marvel, the upper and middle ones being of a delicate turquoise shade and the lowest a deep azure. “We live in moments, not in years,” says an English poet,and many moments of that memorable day can never be forgotten. The enduring mountains, the peerless lakes, the delicate tints of shrubs and mosses, the curling smoke from our little fire, the intense blue of the sky and lastly our own gay company—these are details of a scene which must live forever in the minds of those who saw it, who had learnt to know and appreciate the glorious beauty of Nature, the visible manifestation of God.

On another occasion we picnicked at Sunburst Valley. Here we skirted the edge of a charming lake and lunched beneath the trees by its placid waters. On our right towered a lofty mountain, densely wooded on its lower reaches, with many a huge, craggy boulder quaintly peering through the foliage. In front of us, lake and woodland vied in beauty, blending in quivering splendor as each gentle breeze played among the foliage or stooped to kiss the sparkling tremulous wavelets. Far to our left stood Cave Mountain, high up on the south face of wh:ch is a giànt cave, the mighty portals of which, so far-as is known, have never been entered by man. Not far distant on the south side of Assiniboine Pass are Cascade Rock and Gibraltar Rock, mighty facades rising 2,500 feet above the valley floor in sheer rock precipices, with a

waterfall dropping from the sky-line between the two. Oh, the charm of those silent, sun-lit spaces where the thunder of the avalanche, the roar of the waterfall, the soothingsong of the happy brooklet or the age-long whispering of the trees, when awakened by the roving breath of the homeless wind, are the only voices that give utterance.

For those who love fishing—and who doesn’t?— many streams and lakes in the mountains are a veritable paradise. There are a myriad tantalizing tarns to tempt the lover of sport to try his skill against a gamey mountain trout. Many of the ’akes and streams are well stocked with rainbow, cut-throat and salmon trout from Government hatcheries. In some of the larger lakes, such as Waterton, Minnewanka and Kananaskis, lake trout up to fifty pounds have been caught.

And, oh the canyons! Have you ever heard one whisper “Come and see what water and time can

do in the way of natural carving?” If you haven’t, there is another thrill awaiting you. Then there are fossil beds, lakes to explore or perhaps a long, snow slope ready to test the skill of the glissader, yet all the while one is communing withNature in her grandest forms and most sublime moods.

Amid such surroundings, congen al souls are knit together and friendships,, from the far ends of this cont nent and1 overseas, are formed that will stand any test which life can impose.

Wild Flowers and Wild Life

THE massive rugged grandeur of our vast National Parks beggars description, yet there is another glorious surpriseawaiting the intimate lover of naturo who penetrates to the many flower-strewn valleys, sheltered nooks and upper alplands. We lovers of the strength and majesty of mountains are equally lovers of the fragile beauty and inexpressible coloring of the amazing variety of our wildflower inheritance. The air is perfumed by them; thetang of new growth and the freedom of the clean out-ofdoors add a zest to life that can never be found in the manmade city. Photographs can give no true conception of the wealth of beauty that annually blooms, mostly unseen, in our far-flung Alpine parks where more than 500' varieties of wild flowers, making in places a perfect spring carpet of marvelous coloring, have been identified.

Nowhere is this earth so graciously gardened, I think, as in that strip of mountains, or alp-land, where the trees have ceased to grow and the perpetual snows have not yet begun. Here, color, fragrance and delicate loveliness add the last touch of enchantment. Here, at the very verge of eternal snow the “dauntless flag of flowers” will still be found waving, the plants crowding their full life-cycle into a brief season of perhaps six weeks. Here we find the White Heath and Red Mountain Heather, the latter first-cousin to its famous Scotch namesake. To lovers of gentler beauties let me commend the thousands of green upland valleys rich in their blaze of harmonious color. No mountain area, so far as I know, has alongwith its grandeur so many aspects of an engaging softness as these, our Rockies.

Every true lover of the wild game of Canada must strongly approve of the splendid policy of the National Parks Board in making our National Parks sanctuaries, for wild life. Their 1922 report states that the increasein bighorn sheep and mountain goats in all of the mountain parks is very apparent. This, many of us know from personal observation to be true, as it is not uncommon for motorists in the vicinity of Banff to be forced to slow up to allow bighorn sheep to get off the road.

Although hunting is not allowed inside park areas, the Continued on page 64

Canada’s Mountain Playgrounds

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natural overflow of wild life is gradually re-stocking adjacent districts and many hunters of big game, knowing this, have little difficulty in getting their full allotment during the hunting season. Thus the big game surplus is a larger asset than many of us have any conception of. South of the International boundary big game have been depleted and hunters from far and near cast longing eyes on

Rocky Mountains territory adjacent to Canada’s National Parks.

Banff-Windermere Highway

THIS new motor highway crosses the central Rockies from Banff via Vermilion pass to Windermere Valley, passing through the Banff and Kootenay National Parks and giving access to the famous resorts, Banff, Lake Louise

Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine’lLake and Paradise Valley. It is the last link in a 6,000 mile circle tour known as the “Grand Circle Tour” linking three Canadian National Parks with twelve Americàn ones. The western section of the Grand Circle is known as the “California-Ban f Bee Line,” the eastern as the “Grand Canyon Route.”

This nev/ road has opened up a hitherto unknown section of the Rockies, rich in both scenery and big game. It crosses two passes, the Sinclair and the Vermilion. The latter pass is the higher with an altitude of 5,660 feet, 1,000 feet of which is made in four miles by a series of loops or “switchbacks.” This roadway is a great engineering feat, as it had to be carved in places through the huge walls of Sinclair Canyon (see accompanying illustration). Of the whole wonderful

scenery of the Sinclair Canyon, nothing is more astonishing or bewildering than the sudden view of the “Iron Gates,” consisting of a stupendous escarpment of red brick-colored rock on both sides. For a considerable distance the road bed has been made from the pulverized reddish rock and this represents a most unusual feature.

(From the eastern wall of the Rockies to the Columbia valley on the west this new route covers a little more than 125 miles and every mile is a surprise and an enchantment. The splendor of the mountain ranges and the immensity of the scale on which they have been laid out refuse to be put in words.

Along this new highway there are countless invitations to linger—it may be only a garden of exquisite wild flowers, the tantalizing glimpse of a deer, moose or bighorn, the sound of some nearby waterfall or the sudden beauty of some vista which startles to breathless wonder. Then as the shades of evening begin to gather, the play of light and shade on the great peaks and somber valleys is amazing. Spectacular shafts of light, at times like a searchlight, travel across the valleys. The mountain-tops are crowned with gold and hung with royal purple. Then the quiet colored end of evening, slowly fades away, and the peaks like dim immensities crouch about in the darkness, whilst the stars foregather seemingly around their mighty heads. Asleep and vast and still the restful hush and balm of evening enfolds and holds them till the Master Painter, at earliest dawn, again transforms them.

For the west-bound motorist this route provides direct communication, via Windermere, B.C., with Spokane, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Portland (Oregon), ;San Francisco and Los Angeles, returning

via Grand Canyon, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone and Glacier (Montana) National Parks to Waterton Lakes, Calgary and Banff.

There is within Canadian territory a smaller circle—the noose in this great scenic lariat—which is known as “the Canadian Rockies Circle Tour.” It makes use of the Transprovincial Highway over the Crow’s Nest pass to connect the two and completes a circle of 600 miles.

Our Full Heritage

LIFE is made up of more than food and i raiment. The poet tells us “the dreamer lives forever.” It is regrettable that more of our own people have not had the opportunity of feasting eye and soul while drinking in health at our National Park shrines, for then they would have a broader outlook on life, a stronger faith in our country and have stored within them day-dreams to lengthen life and add to its enjoyment.

Out of the dreams of a few far-visioned men have come the National Parks and national highways. We who have seen them believe that the final outcome will far exceed the sum total of their rosiest imaginings. Both these undertakings have only entered the grey dawn of their possible service to humanity. That they will in the end prove, for countless thousands, to be roads back to a healthier and fuller contact with nature, to a wider and deeper love of country and a richer and more joyous life is the fixed and abiding faith of all who have a true conception of Canada, her people and her unspoiled scenic heritage.