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"WHAT is a
WHAT is your final destination?" asked the immigration officer. For a wanderer with such indefinite plans the question seemed simpler to answer according to catechism than to geography.
"May I say heaven?" I asked.
"No," said he, not relaxing his official solemnity, "not unless you have a ticket there."
So I gave Jasper Park as the farthest east of my summer destinations.
Jasper Park and Forest Reserve, and the smaller Mount Robson Park on its western margin, lie along the borders of British Columbia and Alberta on the line of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Tributaries of the Fraser, the Athabasca and the Peace rivers rise among the great snowfields that make these two great parks of the northern Rockies a shining glory for mountaineers. The region is also rich in the romance of the great fur trading companies. Jasper House and Henry
House; Jasper Hawes and the "yellowhead" halfbreed whose name is perpetuated in Yellowhead Pass and the Tête Jaune Cache-these are names familiar to all lovers of the early history of the Northwest.
My companion, Miss Lulie Nettleton, and I had only a day at Jasper, the administrative center and principal settlement. There we played the unwonted part of tourists, conveyed about in carriages. From the Tent City on Lake Beauvert we drove to Pyramid Lake and the curiously sculptured and potholed Maligne Cañon. The roads had a novel interest, as they had been built by interned Austrians and Germans the first year of the war. These national parks were created so shortly before war-crippled times that only by such haphazard means has their development been possible.
Lack of roads, however, is no deterrent to mountaineers, but rather the contrary. We had hoped to take a horseback journey to Mount Cavell and over the Athabasca Trail to Maligne Lake, but all our available time was given to the Robson country, where tent cities there are none and trails are almost as negligible. There, in war time at least, is only Donald Phillips, guide, trapper, hunter, cook and king of the whole mountain wilderness.
Donald looked distinctly amused that afternoon, when we descended from the train, demanding in the first breath that he take us up Mount Robson. Donald was one of the Robson pioneers, and since he and Mr. George Kinney made their climb in 1909, only three other men-Captain McCarthy, Mr. F. W. Foster, and their guide, Conrad Kain-have succeeded in reaching the summit. Donald's ascent had been made before the building of the railroad, and they had traveled with a packtrain all the way from Edmonton. In addition to hardships that included three defeats by storms and "ninety-six hours spent above ten thousand feet altitude," they had suffered from a shortage of food. "We ate squirrels till we could taste the stripes," was Donald's vivid way of describing it. Small wonder that his eyes twinkled as he advised us to wait till the clouds lifted and we got a good look at Robson before we decided to climb.
After spending a night at Donald's camp on the Fraser we
started out on the trail-riding, rather against our will. But there were swift, strong rivers to be forded and we had no choice. Robson was still cloud-hung, and its great front, streaked with horizontal strata of brown and yellow, and gullied with snow and ice, towered above us, black and menacing, to unguessed heights. Our trail led up the Grand Fork Cañon, through flats of contorta pines, and up among woods of hemlocks and Douglas firs, moss-carpeted like the coast forests.
True alpine scenery began at Kinney Lake, a smooth sheet of robin's-egg blue walled by the shining slope of Whitehorn. The lake lies at the lower end of the Valley of a Thousand Falls. One after another the cascades came into view-slanting obliquely over ledges; dropping in dainty veils of mist, wind-tossed to nothing before they reached the ground; slowrocketing down from great heights; booming deep in rocky chasms; and above them all the mighty Emperor Falls, pouring down in full sunlight. High above, too, hung the Whitehorn Glacier, with sharp-toothed seracs cutting blue and white gashes in the sky.
Then up into fields of asters and paintbrush we climbed, and through alluring patches of wild strawberries and raspberries, to a valley whose whole floor was filled by the river bed. For half a mile we splashed from one gravel bar to another through torrents of muddy glacier water. It is a curious, and at first rather a terrifying, experience to ride into a river up to the horse's girths. The current swept past with such speed that the laboring horse ahead seemed to be standing still, and only by the heaving sensation could I realize that my own horse was moving.
Above this river-trail came a gravelly waste. Fan-shaped deposits from glacial side-streams pushed the river close under Mount Robson. We had rounded the mountain and were now on its northern side. Instead of a wall of rock, as on the southern and western faces, the mountain here was a seamed and shattered wall of ice. The Tumbling Glacier, lost in clouds above, broke off in a sharp white cliff into Berg Lake. A fleet of fairy ice-ships was drifting in it, and as we rode along its shore a crashing avalanche set a host of new bergs afloat.