The Bow Valley And The Rockies.
Bow River Falls.
Hence, even a distant view of the imposing citadels of rock and ice which form the glory of Calgary was almost like the first sight of my native land after an ocean voyage. Was it, however, possible that these luxurious railway carriages, which had conveyed us thus far over a comparatively uniform expanse, could now, with no less ease and safety, penetrate that wilderness of mountains, hundreds of miles in width, and roll securely on a metaled highway through that gigantic realm of isolation and sublimity, of which we here saw nothing but the outer wall? If so, despite the many marvels we had seen, the climax of Canadian wonders still remained to be revealed. Yet this is actually accomplished by the Canadian Pacific railroad which has, in traversing that labyrinth of gorges, followed the waterways as its surest guides. At this point, for example, the Bow River is the silver key which unlocks for our benefit the sunrise portal of those Halls of Solitude and Silence. For, journeying from Calgary up the border of this rapidly descending stream, we soon arrive at the opening through which it makes its exit from the Rockies - a narrow cleft in their grim bastions, called concisely, though unmusically, "The Gap".
The Three Sisters.
Looking West, From The Gap.
Banff Springs Hotel And Rundle Mountain.
Fifteen miles westward from this natural gateway begins a portion of the Dominion which is to be perpetually held by the Canadian government as a national pleasure ground. This reservation, known as Rocky Mountain Park, is twenty-six miles in length by ten in breadth, and is situated forty-five hundred feet above the sea. Within its limits many mountains, eight and ten thousand feet in height, lift in magnificent competition for supremacy their ice-capped summits in the sparkling air; while round their bases wind three lovely valleys, each threaded by a snow-born stream. The civilized nucleus of this enchanting section of the continent is Banff, a place unknown before the advent of the railway, but famous now throughout the Old World and the New as both a health and pleasure resort of great attractiveness. Here, perched upon a wooded height, like a Tyrolean castle, stands the celebrated Banff Hotel, built and luxuriously furnished by the railway company whose passengers, if they are wise, halt at this point to view more leisurely its glorious surroundings. For, of necessity, an express train, even though equipped with an observation car, glides far too swiftly through these mountain canons for the bewildered traveler even to see, much less to comprehend and appreciate, a thousandth part of the sublimity disclosed at every turn.
Lower Bow Lake, Mount Gordon In The Distance.
Bow River, From Banff.
The rest of this national park is not, however, left entirely to Nature for man's enter tainment. The tourists who come to it, however willing they may be to endure discomforts, if necessary, for the sake of scenery, are thoroughly grateful for the admirable carriage roads and bridle paths that have been made, as well as for the boats, steam launches, and canoes now placed at their disposal on Bow River and the adjoining lakes. On one of the mountains, commanding an inspiring view, there has been also built at great expense a spiral driveway, seven miles long, which makes it possible for visitors to ride in comfort to a height of about five thousand feet, whence they can easily reach the summit by a good trail on horseback or on foot. Nor is this all; for those who wish to climb more dangerous peaks will find here during the summer experienced Swiss guides, provided by the company, who will assist, accompany, and, if need be, rescue adventurous mountaineers. I cherish charming memories of the Banff Hotel as being a delightful resting-place on my way to the Pacific and the Land of the Mikado. How well I recollect its large reception hall, so radiant in the evening with bright lights and walls of polished pine; so homelike with its comfortable furniture and pleasant hum of conversation; so cheerful with the huge log blazing in its ample fireplace! It was a happy company that gathered by this hearth in 1892; as yet almost unknown to one another, it is true, but destined during a journey through the Orient to form in many instances close friendships which have grown clearer with the lapse of time. After ten years, I sit again before the fireplace at Banff, - but now alone, and with no special wish to put once more a girdle round the well-known globe. Where are the others who were with me then? I seem to have no right to be here thus without my friends. Alas! no earthly power can reunite them in this hall, which echoed to their voices. They are now scattered throughout many lands. One holds a prominent political post in India; another lives on his estate near Rome; a third resides at present on the southern slope of the Tyrolean Alps; others have homes in various American cities; and one fair traveler, the romance of whose life began by meeting here the man whose heart she won at sight, lives happily as wife and mother near the Pacific coast; while two, at least, whose faces glowed with bright anticipations of the coming voyage to the far East, have since then disappeared upon that silent sea whose farther shore sees no returning mariner set sail. The fire burns low. Most of the ashes are now white and cold. Yet, even as I watch to see the last faint ember die away, I hear the signal of the approaching train. Here come the servants, too, with armfuls of fresh fuel, and soon the generous hearth will give its usual welcome to arriving guests. Meantime, since there will be among them no responsive hands to meet my grasp, let me stretch out my own before the fire, and see old faces in its flames!