Monday, February 25, 2013

Trail to Crowsnest Pass to Lethbridge, Alberta by Margaret Ullrich

The Frank Slide 

One day down… Three more to go...
The paint fumes combined with the stress of driving through mountains got to us.
We asked the motel clerk where we could get something for our stomachs.
He pointed out the drug store, and we got some gravol.
After we paid our bill, the clerk said there had been an avalanche the week before.
We really didn't need to know that.

Driving up the hill to get out of Trail was a killer.
And we still had to do lots more driving up and down snow capped mountains.
After Trail the road was more winding, and mostly two lane.
It wasn't too bad, and there was very little traffic.
In retrospect it might have been better if we were on a busier road.
If anything had happened we could've ended up like the Donner Party.
The drive was uneventful.
For which we were grateful.

We finally reached Crowsnest Pass.
Crowsnest Pass, elevation of 1358 meters (4453 feet), is a mountain pass across the Continental Divide of the Canadian Rockies on the British Columbia/Alberta border.  

A bit of Geography and History about Crowsnest:
At this continental divide, North America's water systems flow in opposite directions: to the East the Crowsnest River carries water toward Hudson's Bay while water flows west toward the Pacific Ocean. 
These water systems were not illustrated on many maps until the Palliser Expedition in 1860. Michael Phillips was the first white man to cross the Canadian Rockies from the West to East when he blazed a trail in 1873 through an unexplored area. 
Now you know…

Crowsnest Pass has a fantastic view of rolling hills.
We could see forever. 
We could also see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
We were almost out of the mountains.

After we passed the Crowsnest Pass we drove past Frank Slide and Turtle Mountain.
It was a peculiar sight.
There is just a certain look to a regular healthy mountain.
They usually have a bit of vegetation on them.
There are also grooves along the surface.
They look lived in and wrinkled, like an old shoe.

Frank Slide was just that - a bare bald mountainside that looked like a kiddie slide.
It was scraped smooth, littered with tiny crumbled crushed rocks.
There was a mound of rubble at the base of the mountain.  
Thankfully we didn't know anything about its history:

The Indians of the area avoided Turtle Mountain. 
To them, it was the 'mountain that walked'. 
Their legend would soon become all too real.

In the early morning hours of April 29, 1903, Turtle Mountain collapsed, resulting in the greatest landslide in North American history. In 100 seconds: at least 76 people were buried alive under tons of massive limestone boulders; three-quarters of the homes in Frank were crushed like balsa wood; over a mile of the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completely destroyed; and a river became a lake.

Mercifully ignorant, we just drove on to Lethbridge.
After Crowsnest Pass it was downhill all the way.
Driving through Alberta was a really easy drive.
We arrived at 6 pm, as per schedule.

Lethbridge, just south east of Calgary, is the largest city in southern Alberta. 
As Lethbridge was laid out in a grid it was easy to get around.
We found our motel within minutes.
Compared to our accommodations the first night, our suite was luxurious.
It had a separate bedroom and a kitchenette.
Instead of heading for a diner, we went out for groceries.

The biggest attraction in Lethbridge at the time was the High Level Bridge.
Compared to the day before we had arrived early, so we took a look.

The High Level Bridge, built in 1907 - 1909, is the longest and highest steel trestle bridge in the world.  It is 5,327 feet (1,623 meters) in length and 314 feet (95.7 meters) above the bed of the river.  It was finished on June 22, 1909.  At the time it was described as one of the "wonders of the world." 

So, yes, it was hard to miss.
After seeing that the bridge was still up, we went back to our motel.
Along with a home cooked dinner we watched a bit of television.
Because of the energy crisis, the United States had cut Daylight Savings Time.
Shows were on an hour earlier in Canada.
Paul was asleep by 9:00 pm.
I watched Johnny Carson at 9:30 pm!

Vancouver to Lethbridge in two days - roughly 1057 kilometers.
Lethbridge to Winnipeg in two days - roughly 1335 kilometers.
A longer distance to go in the same time, but we slept better.
We were out of the mountains!

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