Friday, October 25, 2013

Jasper marks the spot where the railway meets Canada's most spectacular drive


Jasper has had a 40-foot Haida totem pole since 1915.  The original Raven Totem arrived four years after the railway, and ten years before the train station in which I sit.  I know these things because we contrived to spend a couple of hours rambling around Jasper after driving here from Banff.
Yes , the Icefields Parkway through the Canadian Rockies offers Canada’s most spectacular drive: Lake Louise, Bow Lake, Saskatchewan Crossing, the Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier, and towering mountain ranges all the way.
It didn’t hurt that we had memories, having once spent a summer on Mount Sarbach working as fire lookouts. We used to scramble around the side of the mountain to sit looking out over Howse Pass, where in 1807 David Thompson went mapping. 
But the Haida totem in Jasper: By 2009, it was showing its age and had to be removed. Two contemporary Haida carvers went to work, and in 2011, up went the new pole pictured here: the Two Brothers Totem Pole.
Steel rails had reached this picturesque town 100 years before. The Canadian Northern and the Grand Trunk ran competing lines from Edmonton. Both railways collapsed after the onset of the First World War and the opening of the Panama Canal.  From their ashes, the federal government forged the Canadian National Railway, and then, in 1925, erected what is now the Jasper Heritage Railway Station.  You can see it above, in Sheena's photo . . . but surely the old steam engine deserves pride of place? Today, of course, VIA-Rail runs the only passenger trains through here. And I can't help myself, because I think it's terrific: along with HarperCollins Canada, VIA-Rail is offering Canadians a chance to win a $5,000 travel voucher that could get you out onto these very rails.  Check it out by clicking here.

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