Sunday, May 17, 2009

I love the mountains

I didn't think I would. I'm kind of an ocean girl. I thought I would find them oppressive, but now I am singing their praises. We drove through Rogers' Pass today, which is very very high above sea level. I think the level we drove at was 1300 metres above sea level. And then the mountains still towered over us. We have been reading about the people who discovered the pass - it was the 10th pass the railwaymen tried and the discoverer - Mr. Rogers of course - who was a mightily-sideburned man who swore and chewed tobacco and lived off hardtack for weeks, said there were many times in the process of determining whether the pass would work that he wished he were dead. And the railway company reported that the men who worked on building the line lived in dread of avalanches, which were a real threat. We have also learned about the Chinese immigrants who built tunnels along and through the steep banks of the Thompson River, being treated and paid as less than human, and who often paid the price with their lives. I don't know that the men working on these passes were mistreated, but their life certainly could not have been rough.

In the Rogers Pass Centre, Dave overheard an older couple asking about the glaciers and how much they had receded. They themselves had walked out to the glaciers many years ago and the walk was significantly further away now. The park staff said that in the 100 years since the park had been open, the main glacier (of many!) had retreated 1.2 km. Many of the trails in the park were closed too because they were giving wide berth to the endangered mountain caribou's winter habitat. (Yes, although the temperature was warm enough for shorts today, the mountains were still very much snow-capped and we stood by massive drifts at the side of the road and heard about snow in the last few days. We read that snowfall on the Rogers Pass mountains is, on average, 49 feet per year! In addition, they get a couple of feet of rain in the summer months. There are only three snow-free months in the higher latitudes here.)

John reports that if you poured a glass of water over the top of Mount Snow Dome in the Columbia Icefields, it would fall (technically) into three oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Arctic because it is the top of the Continental Divide. Cool, eh? And we are going near there tomorrow. If we pour water, look for it near you!

Today was also one of our favourite days on the trip because it was an amazing water day: we swam outdoors under snow-capped mountains in a hot mineral spring for a couple of hours this afternoon. We highly recommend this. Then, our hotel in Golden has had the best hotel pool we have ever found - with salt water and an amazing dizzying water slide. So we are water-logged, dizzy from heights and delighted. We are also glad to move our clocks forward an hour so we can drift off to sleep a little earlier after a great day

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