OVERLAND FROM SIGNAL HILL TO VICTORIA
A sharply focused view of the kaleidoscopic pattern of a changing nation as seen from the Trans-Canada Highway
THE TRANS-CANADA HIGHWAY begins on Signal Hill high above St. John's, Newfoundland, a good starting point rich in history. John Cabot, loyal Newfoundlanders affirm, entered the narrow-necked harbor below the hill in 1497; and five hundred years earlier Leif Ericsson may have sighted the craggy summit from far out at sea. Here in the autumn of 1762 France made her last stand in America against Great Britain; and nearly one hundred and fifty years later in a tower on the hill, young Marconi received the first transAtlantic wireless signals.
We had traveled, mv wife and 1. nearly four thousand miles to reach our starting point, firm in the belief that all true journeys must follow the course of the sun.
For the first fifty miles out of St. John's the highway crosses a wild moorland of rock and pond and tundra (in Newfoundland any water less than a hundred square miles in area is a pond) — a disheveled region where the Almighty appears to have assembled the materials for a large-scale act of creation and then to have quit with the job barely begun.
In Newfoundland the Trans-Canada Highway is a footpath for pedestrians, a livestock run, a parking lot six hundred miles long and thirty feet wide, a playground for children— and lastly, a motor-vehicle traffic route.
Even where good shoulders exist. Newfoundlanders prefer to park squarely on the pavement-—often around a curve or over the top of a steep hill. All male Newfoundlanders fish (a generalization that admits of no exceptions) and any hour of the day you must be prepared to find cars parked in rows on the highway near inviting fishing streams. Numerous children. who find the highway to be the one piece of level terrain for miles around, make the fullest use of it from dawn till dusk.
The highway bypasses Gander, the great transAtlantic airport and surely the Siberia of airforce personnel. But Gander is a wonderful and authentic piece of Americana—a suburbia without a city. Rows of neat houses radiate from a neat shopping centre, and the housewives tripping along the crescents are neat and attractively well-painted, too. and do more than their share, bless them, to relieve the drabness of the world they inhabit.
From Gander to Corner Brook, two hundred and thirty-four miles, the highway passes through what appears to be all but uninhabited country. Between Grand Falls and ( orner Brook lies the Sir Richard Squires Memorial Provincial Park, perhaps the most exciting of the many parks and campsites being developed along the highway in Newfoundland. A twominutes’ stroll through the woods brought us to one of the most spectacular views in the interior of Newfoundland—the Salmon Falls of the Upper Humber River. The panoramic
effect is stunning. There we enjoyed the novel spectacle of salmon fighting their way upstream, bodies flashing silver as they strove to leap the seemingly insurmountable falls.
At Port - Aux - Basques, we found that the ferry to the mainland, the William Carson, was already booked to overflowing. (In summer, ferry reservations should be made at least two weeks in advance.) As it turned out. we were lucky. Had we been able to cross on schedule, we would have missed our finest day in Newfoundland.
The thirty-mile run from Port-Aux-Basques to Rose Blanche is one of the most spectacular in all Newfoundland. There are no trees, only rocks, ponds and peaty moss, rushing peatcolored streams, waterfalls, sea arms, superb seascapes—and at the end the village of Rose Blanche. Houses perch on a rock point and the offshore rocks and cling to the cliff faces. The village is bound together by elevated wooden sidew’alks snaking over water and rock. The fishing, we are told, is excellent. One thing is sure: if the artists ever discover Rose Blanche, a new industry will be born there. Back at Port-Aux-Basques we found space aboard the William Carson for an uneventful passage to North Sydney. Nova Scotia.
I For a separate account of a family’s exploring highway tour / continued overleaf
From The Road Across Canada, published by Macmillan of Canada
Peaceful country lanes, lakes of wild rice
continued ' through the Maritimes, see page 29 We rejoin the McCourts’ motor journey across Canada as they enter Quebec province.
The St. Lawrence is a god. No one can look upon that mighty flood, nearly fifteen miles from shore to shore, which bursts into view from the highway above Rivière du Loup and not feel an emotion more intimate than awe.
We drove across the great Quebec Bridge into Quebec City and got lost in the narrow, semivertical streets—the natives say that it you can drive their streets you can drive anywhere in the world-—and. ill-tempered, eventually reached our rooms.
In the cool of evening. we explored the outer works of the Citadel, that colossal bastion reared at a cost of many millions to defend us from the United States. But the Citadel is no white elephant; it has been splendid tourist
bait for generations, and the nation has long since got its money back.
No other city in North America is remotely like Quebec, few like it anyw'here in the world. It is the only walled city on the continent north of Mexico, but its individuality derives not from its walls but from a combination of highly distinctive elements, including that most magnificent ol hostelries, the Chateau Frontenac. the clear-cut division of the city into Upper and Lower Towns, the marvelous old grev-black houses to be seen everywhere in the Lower Town, the pretty girls who are not quite like pretty girls anywhere else, the Rock, the river, and the great dead.
Few cities on this continent contain the dust of so much greatness. There are memorials everywhere: Champlain: Louis Hébert. Canada’s first farmer: Jean Talon, the wisest of administrators; Laval, an ascetic who lived on porridge and water and for fifty years and
fought for the glory of God and the power of the church; Frontenac the ill-tempered governor. who quarreled endlessly with Laval, led an expedition against the Iroquois when he was seventy-seven, and died the same year uttering “all the sentiments of a true Christian.” And, of course, Montcalm and Wolfe.
In the late afternoon we walked Dufferin Terrace, one of the most delightful features of Quebec City—a boardwalk three hundred feet above the waterfront, commanding a magnificent view of the river and its traffic. Walking on Dufferin Terrace is a stately and complicated ritual. The dark-haired, tight-trousered young men walk singly and carry transistor radios; the girls wear their prettiest summer dresses and walk in bright-colored clusters— slowly, rhythmically, looking straight ahead and seeing everything on all sides. Soon the brightcolored clusters contact as individual parts break off in response to the mating call of the
and the thunder of the Calgary Stampede
transistors. The dark young men look like dark young men everywhere; the girls are uniquely lovely. Their beehive hairdos are monstrous, but they wear their clothes with an air that confers distinction on the cheapest dress; they know why Eve was created and they walk in that knowledge. If I could be twenty-one again, I would buy a transistor radio and walk on Dufferin Terrace.
The entry into Montreal from the east over the Jacques Cartier Bridge is spectacular. Halfway across lies St. Helen’s Island (named by the forty - year - old bridegroom Samuel de Champlain in honor of his twelve-year-old bride)—for generations a pleasant mid-river retreat for harassed urbanites and tired seagulls, now sacrificed to the needs of the 1967 World's Fair. Montreal is a difficult city for the casual visitor to appreciate because its attractions are not immediately obvious. Longtime residents are unhappy anywhere else;
those who know it for a few days only, particularly during midsummer, are usually glad to leave. Montreal is rich in historic associations but unfortunately there are few tangible evidences of them now to be seen.
The best place to establish communion with the past is the Place d'Armes. the heart of old Ville Marie, three hundred years ago a fort, chapel, parade ground, and marketplace. Today the worlds of the flesh and the spirit still share the place, their symbols half a dozen bank buildings and the great church of the Sulpicians—Notre Dame de Montreal.
The Château de Ramezay, said to be the oldest house in Montreal, stands on Notre Dame Street three blocks cast of Place d’Armes. The chateau was built in 1705, by Claude de Ramezay, governor of Montreal. Though it is ponderous and uninspired in appearance, its history is lively enough. General Montgomery set up headquarters there after
his capture of Montreal in 1775: and to the Château came three American representatives of the Continental Congress to plead for French-C'anadian participation in the war against Great Britain. One was Benjamin Franklin. As might have been expected of an old newspaperman, Franklin set up a printing press in the chateau and distributed throughout Montreal a bilingual propaganda sheet called the Gazette. It is one of Montreal’s engaging little ironies that the present-day Gazette, perhaps the most stolidly conservative newspaper in Canada, was founded by American revolutionaries seeking the violent overthrow of the lawfully appointed government.
Ontario is traditionally monolingual and loyal to the Crown, but the border between Quebec and Ontario is a long way from Toronto, and for most of the one/continued overleaf
Sudden views of soaring mountains, the cool beauty of the Pacific coast
continued / hundred-and-twenty-five-mile run to Ottawa we arc still in French-speaking Canada. Ottawa is an easy city to drive into — and through. From the east, alternate Highway No. 17 runs into Wellington Street, which leads past the heart of the nation—the Parliament Buildings which sit high and brooding above the Ottawa River.
In its role of capital city, Ottawa has much to commend it. Since most of its public buildings are concentrated in a relatively small area, it is admirably convenient for sightseeing. An area less than a mile square encompasses all the obvious sights—Parliament Buildings, War Memorial, Chateau Laurier, Supreme C ourt, Justice Building, Bytown Museum, National Mint, Ottawa University, Dominion Archives, and the National Gallery of Canada (which is well worth a visit because of its excellent collection of Canadian paintings).
The traveler driving west from Ottawa must choose between two Trans-Canada routes—
the Ottawa Valley route via Highway No. 17 to North Bay and Sudbury, or the Central Ontario and Georgian Bay routes to Sudbury via Highways Nos. 7, 12, 103 and 69. (I quote these numbers to suggest the confusion they must create in the mind of the traveler who finds two Trans-Canada highways bearing five different numbers.) The Ottawa Valley route is to be preferred. For one thing, it is one hundred and fifty miles shorter, and for another, the scenery is consistently more exciting.
At North Bay, a busy town which has fattened on the tourist trade ever since the hirth of the Dionne quintuplets in nearby Callander, a further choice of routes confronts the tourist: he may drive northwest to Sudbury and there be reunited with the regular Trans-Canada Highway coming up from Orillia, or he may choose another route and go “over the top” on No. 11, which will take him through Cochrane, Hearst and Longlac, rejoining the regular
Trans-Canada at Nipigon.
North from Sault Ste. Marie the traffic intensifies, for we are now on the popular international “circle” drive for which Sault Ste. Marie is the entry and exit at the eastern end. We turned off the highway, found primitive but adequate accommodation in a cabin overlooking a magnificent horseshoe bay, and spent a long sun-mellowed afternoon at ease on the five-mile crescent beach. The water was wonderful; and after an eternity of forest it was a joy to get our eyes laid out straight and watch lake steamers drop out of sight over a remote horizon.
The one-hundred-and-sixty-five-mile stretch of highway from the Agawa River at the south entrance of the Lake Superior Provincial Park to Marathon cost forty million dollars. The builders, working the year round, drove through w'ild terrain where virtually no trails existed. They blasted through forty miles of rock, bridged twenty-five rivers, surmounted hills rising to sixteen hundred feet.
The l.ake Superior Provincial Park will no doubt some day be a model of its kind, since it is the intention of the provincial authorities to preserve the unspoiled wilderness and rigidly limit commercial enterprises within its boun-
daries. So far the intention has been fully realized; the park at present provides excellent accommodation for campers and not even a gas station for the orthodox tourist.
Nipigon, at the junction of No. 17 and Alternate Route No. 11 coming down through Longlac, is one of our favorite Trans-Canada Highway stopovers. We have found a charming hideout tucked away on Nipigon Bay, and the view from the terraced residential streets of the town embraces the great red cliffs rising up from the water’s edge.
Seventy miles west of Nipigon, the Lakehead cities, Port Arthur and Fort William, sit quietly awaiting their destiny. Fifty years ago they were boom towns, feverishly determined to grow up in a hurry. Later they accepted the seemingly inevitable stagnation imposed by isolation from the rest of Canada. But the St. Lawrence Seaway has revived old dreams. A mighty port for ocean-going vessels two thousand miles from salt water—such is the Twin Cities’ vision of a not-impossible future. We spent a pleasant night beside Kakabeka Falls, eighteen miles out of Fort William. The picnic area at Kakabeka Falls is enormous and beautifully cared for; it seemed to us the finest we saw all the way across Canada.
Kenora on the north shore of the Lake of the Woods is the centre of a tourist-resort area covering thousands of square miles. Roads in the Lake of the Woods country are few. It is a world of water and rock and forest, a wellbalanced combination of the main elements of the Laurentian Shield. It is a world that is a microcosm of roughly one third of all Canada, and it is better approached from the west than the east. For the visitor from the great plains, tall trees and great sheets of clear water exalt the spirit and accelerate the blood flow because they are a combination seldom seen in his own land.
Manitoba is always spoken of as one of the three prairie provinces, but the Laurentian Shield does not terminate tidily at the border. The highway continues for a hundred miles more through rock and forest muskeg, skirting the Whiteshell Forest Reserve, a recreational area now being developed as a vast provincial playground and tourist attraction. Falcon Lake, alongside the highway just inside the eastern border, is so far the showpiece.
Some miles westward, the highway emerges with shocking suddenness onto the limitless prairie. The sky billows out to twice its former size; eyes accustomed to looking down a green tunnel are unblinkered, and the horizon slips away to a point so remote that it is hard to say where earth ends and sky begins. Some people find the change so abrupt as to feel acute physical and mental upset—like a diver getting the bends from surfacing too quickly.
A pall of smoke obscures the horizon ahead. The highway signs warn us that St. Boniface and Winnipeg are at hand. And with Winnipeg the true west begins.
Of Winnipeg it is hard to say more than that it is bright and lively, with wide streets, handsome public buildings (many of them faced with local Tyndall stone), an admirable motel strip on Highway 75, an expanding university. and many /
continued on page 37
OVERLAND TO VICTORIA
continued from page 24
“It can’t happen here”—'but north from Indian Head it does
pleasant public parks. The truth is that most Canadian cities—particularly
those of the w'est—impress us, if at all, by reason not of intrinsic qualities but of location.
The highway follow's the most direct route from Winnipeg to the Saskatchewan border. Headingly, about fifteen miles out, is the centre of the old White Horse Plain, at one time Métis country and a starting point for the great buffalo hunts that provided the Métis with winter food.
Between Portage la Prairie and the Saskatchewan border the highway passes out of the old Ice-Age Lake Agassiz bed through the Manitoba Escarpment, a line of broken ridges running from the Pasquia Hills in northern Saskatchewan, through the Porcupine Forest Reserve and Riding Mountain National Park to Turtle Mountain near the American border. The escarpment once formed the western shore of Lake Agassiz.
Saskatchewan’s welcome to the tourist is reserved. Only a modest sign informs us that we are now in the Wheat Province. The highway is excellent. Many prosperous farm homes crouch secure behind squat caragana hedges and towering evergreen windbreaks. But deserted farmsteads make the greater impact; they offend the eye and depress the soul.
The sense of depression is unjustified; the deserted farms are not symbols of the triumph of hostile nature over man, but of the fact that farming is fast becoming big business. The homesteader who half a century ago reared a family on one hundred and sixty acres is gone now. The farms with crumbling barns and houses are probably units of a single enterprise spreading over thousands of acres.
Indian Head comes as a pleasant oasis, for it is the centre of the first prairie Experimental Station (established 1888), and the gardens and trees of the town have benefited from the association. Even those of us who, irrationally, love almost everything about Saskatchewan admit that the tourist won’t be tempted to linger on the eastern stretch of the highway. Somewhere ahead lies Regina, with the usual tourist amenities—shower haths, air-conditioning, wall-to-wall broadloom, and cool dark taverns. But the wise tourist will eschew the temptations of the flesh; he will leave the Trans-Canada at Indian Head and drive north lor twenty miles over Highway No. 56 into a region that seems no part of any familiar world, a region so vast, incongruous, and incomprehensible as to compel the exclamation, “It can't happen here.”
Part of the fascination of the great valley of the Qu’Appelle lies in its total unexpectedness. One moment, we are driving through typical south Saskatchewan landscape; the next, we are hanging on the lip of a miniature Grand Canyon, the floor of the valley as far as the eye can reach a necklace of sky-blue lakes.
Fort Qu Appelle s buildings are nondescript and the wind funnels
eternally down the dusty main street, which seems about half a mile wide. But the valley ramparts rise steeply just behind the town and the lakes stretch into the far distance. Whatever sins abide in the town itself are atoned for by the magnificence of its setting. The Fort Hotel is worth a visit for its cuisine. In most western
small-tow n hotels and restaurants food is served to sustain life; in the Fort Hotel it also titillates the appetite.
There are some things in Regina worth seeing. The splendid Museum of Natural History is quite properly a source of civic and provincial pride; the RCMP barracks, the western training centre for recruits to the
force, draws thousands of visitors during the summer months.
Between Regina and Moose Jaw the great plains stretch uninterrupted to the horizon. This is the authentic wheat country, the original breadbasket of the world.
Moose Jaw squats in a tangle of ravines and valleys at the confluence of the Thunder and Moose Jaw creeks. The immensely wide main street is lined with substantial, reticent. Old World buildings. But the stolid.
dignified appearance of the city is at odds with its reputation—in the roaring twenties Moose Jaw roared louder than any other town in the west. River Street was an internationally celebrated criminal hideout, half the city police force were arrested for various misdemeanors, and the Ku Klux Klan — whose Saskatchewan membership in the twenties is said to have numbered forty thousand—made
Moose Jaw the centre of its prairie activities.
To the traveler weary of elevators and grain fields and the black ribbon snaking its way forever around low buttes and over sunburned ridges, the attraction of the land now lies to the south. Incredibly, a range of hills has come into view.
The Cypress Hills rise to nearly five thousand feet, the highest point in Canada between Labrador and the Rockies. An island in the last Ice
Age—so some geologists theorize— the hills constitute an unglaciated area which has preserved species of fauna and flora found nowhere else in Canada (many of them indigenous to regions hundreds of miles farther south), such exotic and alarming specimens ol wildlife as solpugids (a species of scorpion), hog-nosed vipers, kangaroo rats, and black widow spiders. Fortunately they are all retiring creatures that live far off the beaten path.
Fort Walsh, named in honor of an
early commissioner of the Mounted Police, was built in the valley of the Battle in 1876. None too soon, for 1876 was a bad year in the hills. The great buffalo herds had all but vanished from the plains, and hunger drove the Indians into the hills where a few herds survived. Here the red man made his last stand in the west for the way of life he knew and loved. Here in 1876 came Sitting Bull and his fierce Sioux warriors, fresh from their triumph over the cream of the U. S. Cavalry at Little Big Horn; and here a handful of men in red coats fed the hungry, proclaimed the Queen's law, and compelled white man and Indian alike to accept it.
The obvious way to enter Alberta is by the Trans-Canada through the border town of Walsh. But travelers who long for a few hours' escape from gas fumes, asphalt and high speeds should do as my wife and I did—make the crossing by way of the winding municipal roads and rutted private trails that haphazardly link the Cypress Hills Provincial Park on the Saskatchewan side with Elkwatcr Park in Alberta, twenty-five miles south of the highway.
The route—unofficial, mostly unmarked—takes you past Fort Walsh and up on to high bare ridges from which immense vistas open north and south, including on a clear day the Bearpaw Mountains in Montana. It gives you a chance, too, to meet authentic ranchers anil cowpokes, for you are sure to get lost several times and have to ask your way. (“Just take that trail over the hill,” one weather - beaten cowhand told us. “She'll drop you down the other side into so-and-so’s backyard.” She did, too. Literally—our faithful car leaning back like a well-trained mustang and digging in her heels all the way down. )
Medicine Hat is a name and a story. Sprawled along the South Saskatchewan River in the middle of a vast semiarid region given over mainly to ranching. Medicine Hat is a cowtown in spirit and in fact, and an industrial centre of some importance because of its unlimited supply of natural gas. But the name and the story are what matter.
In 1907 Rudyard Kipling stopped off in Medicine Hat on a trans-Canada tour. Members of the Cypress Club, mostly old-timers, took Kipling in hand and saved him from the horrors of an orthodox civic reception. The great man showed his immediate appreciation by coining a catchphrase used ever since to describe Medicine Hat: “the city with all hell for a basement.” But the really grand gesture was yet to come.
A few years later, dull-spirited newcomers denounced the town's name as an embarrassing absurdity. The city council ordered a plebiscite. Those stout upholders of the ancient ways, the members of the Cypress Club, knowing the outcome to be a foregone conclusion, were disconsolate until at a wake in the clubrooms a member raised from his beer mug a face suddenly illumined with holy joy and said, “Kipling should know of
this—he'd flay the hide off those blighters.”
The local postmaster. Frank Fatt. wrote an eloquent plea to Kipling, “the Father Confessor of the Empire,” to save the town's name. Kipling's reply was a devastating combination of sentiment, logic, and invective: “Believe me, the very name is an asset, and as years go on will become more and more of an asset. It has no duplicate in the world: it makes men ask questions . . . draws the feet of young men towards it . . . What should a city be rechristened that has sold its name? Judasville.”
The Cypress Club saw to it that Kipling's letter was given nationwide publicity. The advocates of a change of name were silenced. They have remained silent ever since.
Northwest of Medicine Hat, thirty miles off the highway from the town of Brooks, lies a natural wonder which the traveler who relishes the unexpected and spectacular should explore. The road to the Steveville Dinosaur Park cuts through irrigated farmlands—then the badlands of the Red Deer River burst upon you without the slightest warning. Steveville Dinosaur Park is a Dantesque nightmare. a wild eerie region of eroded hoodoos, fantastically distorted monstrous shapes of earth rising from the valley floor between towering walls.
Four miles off the highway and three miles south of the village of Cluny is a spot splendid to look at, rich in history—the old Blackfoot Crossing. Here from time immemorial the Indians of the Blackfoot Confederacy crossed the Bow' on their north-south journeyings; here they rendezvoused, plotted war against their ancient enemies the Crees, and sometimes smoked the pipe of peace. And here in 1(877 they signed away the land of their ancestors. On a high bluff overlooking the crossing a cairn commemorates the Blackfoot Treaty Number Seven. On that day in 1877. four thousand Indians of the confederacy—Blackfoot, Blood, Stony, Piegan, Sarcee—met with the commissioners of the Great White Queen. Nearly a hundred members of the North West Mounted Police added to the pageantry. The great Chief Crowfoot, in return for a few scattered reserves and five dollars a year of treaty money, surrendered to the Queen, “for as long as the sun shines and rivers run,” the land which is now' southwestern Alberta.
I he Trans-Canada sideswipes Calgary along her northern flank and it is easy to bypass the city. Few' are likely to do so, for Calgary is one of the two glamour cities of Canada. (The other is, of course, Montreal.) Her history is prosaic—a record of steady, sometimes spectacular, growth from Mounted Police fort (1875) to cowtown to oiltown. But the great Calgary Stampede, Canada’s most celebrated annual show, has given the city worldwide publicity. (Incidentally, ( algary women are among the most beautiful in C anada, and. outside oí Montreal, the best dressed.)
( algary enjoys perhaps the finest scenic location of all our cities—only Quebec, Montreal, and Vancouver offer serious competition. The Bow
and Elbow rivers join near her heart, the foothills roll away in great humpbacked swells on three sides, and on the fourth the wide valley of the Bow' reaches back to the mountains sixty miles west, abrupt, massive, snowcapped, a stunning backdrop to the wide sky.
The plainsman like myself is likely to find his first plunge into the mountains on the Calgary-Banff run an alarming experience, because of the sudden feeling of being separated
from all familiar things. Before we are aware of what is happening the beautiful but sinister Three Sisters and assorted kinfolk have slipped in behind us and cut off our retreat.
Even the most jaded sophisticate must acknowledge that Banff is one of the loveliest spots on earth. Indeed, looking at the town and its environs from the summit of Sulphur Mountain you get the curious impression that in creating Banff, God assumed the role of a farsighted parks
superintendent and designed the area with a view to tourism in the future.
It is a tribute to those in charge of the park that even in the height of the tourist season Banff is a tranquil place. Nightlife is almost nonexistent —high altitudes and long walks (which can hardly be resisted) conspire to early and childlike slumber. The smell of evergreen overpowers the gas fumes, and you go to bed nearly everywhere within sound of running water—nature’s ultimate soporific.
Lake Louise, forty miles west of Banff, is a place familiar to all Canadians and most Americans even (hough they have never visited it, for ii is surely the most photographed heauty spot on the continent and it looks exactly like its photographs.
“And what is so great,” my wife said, “about the Rogers Pass?”
“What is so great about the Rogers Pass,” 1 said, “is that we are over it.”
The pass, last link of the TransCanada Highway to be completed, huilt at a cost so astronomical that the figures fail to communicate any meaning, is so superbly engineered that after the preceding stretch of upand-down road from Field to Golden it comes as a distinct anticlimax. No doubt the Rogers Pass Highway was fantastically difficult to build, hut it is child’s play for even the most timid tourist to drive.
Beyond the Rogers Pass the highway follows a narrow, high-walled valley to Revelstoke, a town celebrated for its heavy snowfall and splendid skiing facilities. Forty-five miles west of Revelstoke, Little Shuswap Lake comes into view—a marvelous expanse of sky-blue water flanked by great hills far enough from the water’s edge to allow room for wide sand beaches—and it is possible to breathe freely again.
[For a more detailed look at the Shuswap area, see W. O. Mitchell’s story on page 30.]
We liked Salmon Arm, a town scattered casually up and down hillsides. No one in Salmon Arm appears to have heard of town planning. The town centre is more or less orthodox, but the residential streets and suburbs wander indiscriminately up and down hillsides, disappear completely for no apparent reason, and pop up again on hilltops and in forest clearings. Elsewhere in Canada we diligently prune our shrubs and clip our hedges and shave our lawns, but most British Columbia towns we passed through shared Salmon Arm’s slightly ragged look. “Things grow so fast here we can’t keep up,” one Salmon Arm citizen informed us. “I get the lawn slick as a pooltahle one day and she’s running wild the next. Discouraging.” He didn’t look discouraged; he looked contented and well preserved.
The truth is that outside the industrial towns, life in British Columbia is so pleasant that it seems absurd to waste any part of it trying to improve on nature.
Kamloops, at the junction of the North and South Thompson, has some things to commend it. including an admirable scenic location and a lengthy history. David Stuart, a trader with John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company, built the original Fort Kamloops in 1812. The following year the Pacific and North West companies merged, and in 1821 were absorbed by the Hudson's Bay Company. Fort Kamloops was thus an important furtrading centre long before any ot the coastal cities was founded. Later the settlement enjoyed a brief flurry of excitement during the mid-century goldrush days, before settling down to com-
fortable middle - aged respectability.
It is one of the pleasant ironies of history, and cause of hope for all of us, that it is possible for a man to achieve great reputation and even enduring fame by doing something just a little worse than anyone-else.
This meditation was prompted by recollections of the almost unbelievable trek of a party of tenderfoot goldseekers across the prairies and through the great mountains to Kamloops in the year 1862. The original Overlanders, as the trekkers were known, were Old Country men who succumbed to the lures of an early travel agency, the Overland Transit Company. For the modest sum of fortytwo pounds the company offered transportation from London to the western plains, from whence — so prospective emigrants were assured — it would be an easy journey by stagecoach across the plains and through the Yellowhead Pass two hundred and fifty miles west of Fort Edmonton to the headwaters of the Fraser, the great river of gold. And once on the Fraser it would of course he mere child’s play to build rafts and float gently down the river to the gold fields proper.
The Overlanders endured hardships without compare in the history of western Canadian settlement; their rafts were wrecked time and again in the mad waters of the Fraser and North Thompson; they lost most of their supplies and they ate their livestock. Some of the Overlanders drowned and a few may have starved to death, hut most of them reached their Til Dorado only to find that the gold fields had petered out.
West of Kamloops the country becomes progressively more arid. Kamloops Lake, a magnificent stretch of water twenty miles long, does much to modify the desert aspect of the surrounding terrain; and the village of Savona at the west end of the lake brings to mind an obscure item of local history. In 1885 the village was renamed Van Horne in honor of the great railroad builder, and Van Horne it remained until Sir William actually saw the huddle of shacks — whereupon he insisted that the village take back the old one.
The loneliest places of earth are not those where man has never set foot, but those from which he has withdrawn defeated. Walhachin. once the centre of a flourishing agricultural community, lies just off the Trans-Canada Highway about halfway between Savona and Ashcroft. A few ragged, sterile apple trees standing in line across a sun-baked field where nothing else grows, and a few pieces of rotten flume clinging to the hillsides remind us that less than half a century ago Walhachin was one of the showplaces of the interior of British Columbia, presided over by the Marquess of Anglesey, who built a fine mansion complete with swimming pool. But on the outbreak of World War I. nearly all the ablebodied men of the district went off to fight; a year or two later large sections of the flume were swept away in a cloudburst and there was not sufficient manpower left to repair the damage; blight struck the apple trees; within another ten years the desert had again taken over, leaving only a few' scraggly apple trees to survive as
me'ancholy reminders of fair hopes now blasted.
Ashcroft, lying just off the highway near where the Thompson River turns south, was a well-known jumping-off place in the days of the gold rush, but perhaps it will be longest remembered as the centre of a colony of county English, determined to maintain Old Country social customs, including ridin*.’ to hounds.
The Cornwall brothers, the squirearchy in the colony, imported a pack of foxhounds and democratically invited the local cowboys to join the first fox hunt of the season. The cowboys gave solemn assurances of polite behavior and ag'ced to join their hosts in shoutin'1. “Tallyho,” at the appropriate times. But when the hounds raised a fox (actually a coyote, for there were no foxes in the Ashcroft country), the cowboys thundered off across the sunbaked flats with mighty yells of “There goes the son of a bitch!”, overran the hounds and lassoed the coyote.
Whereupon the Englishmen laid away their pink coats and never put them on again.
The canyon of the Fraser River is a wonder and a horror—a nightmarish crack in the earth between three thousand-foot walls through which runs the most ferocious river in all Canada. It breaks from the canyon exhausted, and spews forth its silt to form the great delta on which the cities cf New Westminster and Vancouver now stand.
Below Hope the river widens and runs now through the valley of the Fraser, as distinct from the canyon— beautiful, intensively cultivated, rich in market gardens and small fruits and dairy herds and hay fields. We who have been long immured in the dark canyon suddenly find it possible to lift up our eyes and see something other than a wall of rock, to breathe deeply again without fear of starting an avalanche.
There is much to do and see and marvel at in Vancouver. Her streets are wider than those of most Canadian cities, her parks more luxuriant and numerous, her gardens a glory nearly all the year round, her Chinatown the largest in Canada.
Vancouver is a city that should have grown straight up. like Manhattan. .‘toad of despoiling great mountair: des and blotching fair valleys. T ■ Vancouver that is enduring
not her buildings nor her industries nor her p oplc—is beyond praise or blame because it is no work of man: the firs in Stanley Park, the mountains. the sea, the great ships coming in from far-off places.
The Vancouver Island ferry decants its passengers at Nanaimo, a bustling little town with a harbor full of fishing boats. Duncan, just off the final leg of the highway, is reputed to be populated almost entirelv by eccentric Englishmen. Undoubtedly the town has in its time enjoyed its full share of younger sons, remittance men. retired rear-admirals, majorgenerals, and gentleman farmers who left the cows unmilked to finish a cricket match. Certainly Vancouver Island is a world in which men fre-
quently acquire a brand-new set of values. That the rest of Canada is hard-working and virtuous is no reason why the citizens of Duncan and similar communities should be denied their cakes and ale. Thus they reason and thus they live.
The city of Victoria has perpetrated the most successful hoax in the history of tourism: it has persuaded the rest of the world that it is indeed a little bit of old England. Perhaps there was some warrant for this half
a century ago, but there is none now. Victoria has, of course, rather more than its share of tweedy old gentlemen and even tweedier ladies who haunt such mausoleums as the Empress Hotel and the Union Club where tea and port are drunk in silence: but a day or two in the city convinces those of us of clear eye and level head that we are being exposed to a wonderfully entertaining—and for the city wonderfully profitable—piece of stagecraft. Victoria is self-consciouslv
and deliberately Old Country, hence not Old Country at all.
For us, journey's end was a motel shaded by great evergreens on the outskirts of Victoria, where under the evergreens or in deck chairs beside the swimming pool we relaxed and absorbed the sunshine and thought of all the people we should talk to. the sights we should see, the things we should do, and dismissed them all from our minds as irrelevant and inconsequential. ★