Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Golden B.C. & Courageous Explorers

It's all in the stache!
Today Pat and Dad rode over Rogers Pass. While anyone might think that riding any section of the Trans-Canada may be only mildly impressive, this insane stretch of road deserves some kudos. Major A.B. Rogers was a cantankerous, cussing surveyor who discovered the pass in 1882. The mustachioed Major was hired by the CPR to find a way through the Selkirk Mountains, which were previously thought to be impassable. Rogers was a tough man to work under and his men were frequently forced to work in the harsh conditions while also flirting with starvation.  Once the last railroad spike was driven, connecting British Columbia with the rest of Canada (fulfilling a Confederation promise by Sir John A. Macdonald), a resort was established at the summit of Rogers Pass. This resort was built before the now famous railway luxury resorts in Banff and Lake Louise, however the popular resort ultimately succumbed to the record snowfall and avalanche prone geography.  The railroad experienced so many losses both in equipment and in human life that they eventually built tunnels to bypass the dangerous summit, leaving the Pass to the wilderness until the Trans-Canada Highway was built decades later. Even in April the threat of avalanches is never far away. Snow sheds protecting the highway dot the ribbon of road through the Selkirk’s as well as many signs warning, “No Stopping Avalanche Area.”

Knowing a bit of the history informs us of just how treacherous the Pass can be. Though many advancements have been made, and the Royal Canadian Artillery regularly sets off controlled avalanches to protect the public, whether you are driving or cycling over this stretch of road you still can’t help but be on edge. As Pat and Dad powered up the steep slopes towards the summit, they may not have faced the immediate danger of an avalanche or the threat of starvation as Rogers’ men faced but they did have to ride the fine line between tractor trailers zooming past only inches away on their left and a long lethal drop over the edge to their right. They rode on like courageous explorers inching ever closer to the top with each pedal stroke. This may be the toughest stretch of road on our entire route across the country, and in a lot of ways it is the route that most closely aligns the rider with the brave men who initially made the rugged landscape of our country inhabitable. Rolling into Golden today, even I, the driver of the support car, felt as if something special was accomplished. Team Marsh conquered what was once thought to be impassable and in the context of our challenge, it is a monumental achievement that should be celebrated.


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