CANADA has made great strides in highway construction in the past live years; and while many of the Dominion‘s roads are still gravel-surfaced, it is now possible to cross countinental Canada on good highways that stretch some 5000 miles from Halifax on the Atlantic coast to Vancouver on the Pacific.
The importance of the Trans-Canada highway system to visitors is indicated by the latest complete travel figures, which show that in one year 28 million visitors crossed from this country into Canada. Of this number, nearly 20 million traveled by car, leaving $156,900,000 to pay for their visit.
Only one Canadian province cannot be reached directly by automobile. It is the great island of Newfoundland, a province only since 1949. But Newfoundland is now swiftly closing wilderness gaps in her highway system, and within a year the last link of the Trans-Canada Highway will have been completed. This road will join the port of St. John’s on the easternmost tip of the island with Port aux Basques some 600 miles to the west for the 90-mile crossing of Cabot Strait to the mainland at Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Well known to sportsmen for its unexcelled Atlantic salmon fishing and moose and caribou hunting, Newfoundland is virtually unknown territory to motorists. Completion of the island highway will open up a vast region of superb contrasts in scenery in one of the most interesting areas of eastern Nort h America.
For those who enjoy striking off the beaten track, the trips of coastal steamers from St. John’s, as well as from Montreal, to the primitive and isolated villages in the fiords and coves of Newfoundland’s savage northern coast are recommended without reservation. Time? One to two weeks.
Travelers can reach Newfoundland conveniently by air through the great international airport at Gander, or can cross from Sydney, Nova Scotia, by air or boat to Port aux Basques and take the narrow-gauge railway that meanders over a leisurely course to St. John’s. It‘s a pleasant, restful, and informal journey in comfortable though somewhat old-fashioned cars, with good food.
The Maritime Provinces
For those who would sample the attractions of eastern Canada quickly and comfortably by car, the Maritime Provinces are a pleasant beginning. The new Canadian government ferry with ample space for cars now operates between Bar Harbor, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on a daily schedule, crossing the Bay of Fundy in about six hours. This new short-cut from New England lands visitors almost at the entrance to the lovely Annapolis Valley, the largest apple-growing region in the British Empire and the scene of the annual Apple Blossom Festival in June. And this is the legendary Land of Evangeline.
Nova Scotia, by the way, is the promised land for victims of hay fever and kindred allergies, as well as a blessed escape to tranquillity from the proddings and pressures of the age.
Further to the north in Nova Scotia, now joined by it causeway across the Strait of Canso that greatly facilitates travel, lies Cape Breton Island with its serene Bras d‘Or Lakes and the spectacular Cabot Trail around the northernmost tip of the island. The trip can be completed in a day.
Cape Breton is the site of St. Ann’s College, the only Gaelic educational institution in America. It is here, in a setting that might well be in Scotland, that the Gaelic Mod and Highland Gathering is held every summer.
New Brunswick, with sharp contrasts between great spruce and pine forests and peaceful farmland valleys, is well worth a visit, while just offshore in the Gulf of St. Lawrence lies Prince Edward Island, smallest of the ten Canadian provinces and accurately described as the Garden of the Gulf. It will be remembered not only for lovely pastoral scenes but for its delicious canned strawberry jam and for its mealy baking potatoes, country cheese, St. Lawrence oysters and lobsters.
Quebec, especially the areas along the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence where the great riverstreams 20 miles wide to the Gulf, is known as Old France and still clings to many ancestral ways of life. To many of us who have wheeled the red clay roads of the Gaspe Peninsula and stopped awhile here and there to fix in our memories the magnificent views along the Gulf coasl, Quebec also means brown-crusted loaves of native bread baked slowly in outdoor stone ovens, excellent habitant pea soup, and the never-to-be-forgotten flavor of tiny wild strawberries or raspberries in yellow cream that had to be spooned from a jug.
Camping by car
The government is aware that many families who vacation by motor depend on facilities for camping, and it has wisely met the demand by providing innumerable campsites at scenic locations along important highways throughout the country. Most of these sites have facilities for cooking, as well as a pure water supply and acceptable sanitary facilities.
The family which enjoys living outdoors can, when equipped with an
insect-proof tent, sleeping bags, and modern cooking equipment, live very comfortably almost anywhere in Canada. Well-insulated refrigerator boxes and the convenient new camp stoves and lights fueled by canned gas have taken most of the hardship out of cooking by the wayside.
As for ice supplies, it should be noted that the electric or gas refrigerator has penetrated to the remotest hamlet, and that the once familiar village iceman is now rara avis.
Canoes, long the only means of transportation in the wilderness, still provide the best transportation to adventure in the Canadian wilds. The modern Indian is reluctant to use a paddle if he can clamp an outboard motor on anything that floats. However, the man who wants to get the most from a canoe trip will benefit from paddling and will see much wildlife that vanishes at the sound of a motor.
Canoe trips are so popular in Canada that the Canadian Travel Bureau in Ottawa found it necessary to publish a special booklet listing the best areas for adventure on the waterways of the North, with information on guides and equipment.
Northern Quebee and Ontario, as well as Manitoba and Saskatchewan, offer some 1he finest canoe trips on the continent. Yon can take your own outfit or rent it at the point of departure. The Hudson’s Bay Company makes it possible to take trips from certain of its fur trading posts in the North, providing guides and full equipment. (Write Hudson’s Bay Company, Hudson’s Bay House, Winnipeg, Canada.)
In eastern Ontario there are excellent opportunities for trips through Algonquin Park, the Timagami Forest Reserve, and the Lake Superior Provincial Park. Still further west lies Quetico Provincial Park, which opens up a vast territory of innumerable lakes stretching westward through the Rainy Lake region to the wilderness paradise of the Lake of the Woods. This region lies directly north of Minnesota and is easily accessible from the United States by excellent highways.
Veterans of Canadian canoe trips are planning to explore a hitherto untapped territory now open to travel by the Atikokan Highway (Ontario Route 120), which branches off the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 17) 20 miles west of the twin cities of Port Arthur and Fort William. This new highway, running through some of the finest wilderness north of the Great Lakes, serves the great Steeprock mining region.
To avoid black flies and mosquitoes it is wise to schedule camping trips in the northern wilderness from August to the end of September. There will still be some insects, but fly-repellents make life fairly comfortable.
Air and rail
The thriving mining cities on Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes came into being almost entirely by means of air transport. Freight-carrying planes replaced the pack horses of a few years ago, carrying construction machinery, generators for power plants, building supplies, and heavy mining machinery as well as thousands of workers and the food to feed them hundreds of miles across a trackless wilderness. These cities of the Arctic Circle still look to the skies for most of their daily needs for existence.
The Canadian government operates Trans-Canada Airways, the Dominion’s continental and trans-Atlantic system, while Canadian Pacific Air Lines covers western Canada, the Yukon, and trans-Pacific points, as well as Mexico and Peru. Numerous independent air systems provide reliable service to almost any part of the North.
Canada’s two great railway systems, the government-operated Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific, span the continent from coast to coast. Both offer every comfort and exceptionally good dining service. The Canadian Pacific now operates dome cars on its smart transcontinental diesel-powered trains. Both lines offer tourist sleeping-car service at rates that save about $28 on lower and about $32 on upper berth accommodations.
Canadian Pacific‘s line follows the rugged north shore of Lake Superior for hundreds of miles, traversing a region of magnificent vistas that are not accessible by any highway.
North of Lake Huron the Canadian National swings northwestward and crosses a region of pine and spruce forest and countless lakes from western Ontario to the edge of the prairies in Manitoba. Victoria and its surroundings have become a famous region for retirement. It has a large British population, and teatime in the admirable Empress Hotel is a scene transported from London.
Both railways converge on Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba, and then separate for the run across Canada’s beautiful prairie country, one of the world’s greatest wheat-growing regions. While the Canadian Pacific heads almost due west to Calgary, Alberta, the Canadian National takes a more northerly route through Saskatchewan to Edmonton, Alberta, bordering on Canada‘s great oil fields.
From Edmonton the Canadian National approaches the towering ramparts of the Rocky Mountains by following the Athabaska River to Jasper National Park, which includes some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in the world. Accommodations range from the luxurious, though not excessively expensive, bungalows of Jasper Lodge to motels, cabins, and simple tourist rooms. Jasper Park can be reached by a good highway from Edmonton which closely follows the railway line along the Athabaska.
An excellent highway from Jasper to Banff National Park, 160 miles to the south, traverses the superb Columbian ice fields and glacier, and connects with the Canadian Pacific transcontinental line as well as the mountain section of the TransCanada Highway.
Banff and Lake Louise, with their luxurious Canadian Pacific hotels, also have good molds and comfortable modern cabins, many of which have complete housekeeping facilities.
Here, surrounded by some of Canada’s highest peaks, the scenery is comparable to the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and in winter this great resort area, as well as Jasper, is attracting increasing numbers of the international ski set.
The new Northwest
From Jasper the Canadian National Railway offers two routes to the Pacific. The main line strikes south at Yellowhead Pass, which — at an elevation of 3700 feet — is the lowest crossing in the Canadian Rockies. This is the gateway to Canada’s new Northwest, an area of more than one million square miles and the last great undeveloped region on the North American continent. It stretches from central British Columbia northward through the Yukon to the barren Arctic coast and eastward to Great Slave Lake. It is through Canada’s new land of promise that the Canadian National‘s northern line runs for some 700 miles to Prince Rupert, which is the most westerly railroad terminus in North America.
This part of Canada, which reveals the enormous economic potential of British Columbia, has been visited only by travelers who venture off the main highways. It is possible, for instance, to drive from Vancouver on the historic Caribou Trail to Prince Rupert, put your ear aboard a Canadian Pacific steamer for Ilaines Landing, Alaska, and then drive 130 miles on the Haines cutoff to the Alaska Highway. From this point one may turn north to Fairbanks, Alaska, returning through Dawson and Whitehorse in the Yukon, and thence travel southward over 900 miles on the Alaska Highway to Dawson Creek, British Columbia. From Dawson Creek to Edmonton, Alberta, is just about 500 miles.
The most favorable season for making this undeniably arduous — but magnificent—motor trip is between June and the middle of September. Motorists are permitted to travel this road only after satisfying the authorities that their cars are in condition to make the trip. It is important to carry extra tires, and the lower part of the gasoline tank should be protected from flying sharpedged gravel by a thick pad of rubber or other material. Because of the long distances between service stations, it is essential that extra fuel be carried in safety can., (Details on the Alaska Highway and regulations covering it are available from the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Ottawa, Canada.)
Those of us who have a soft spot in our hearts for railways treasure memories of the delightful and spectacular journey over the narrowgauge line of the Pacific Great Eastern which runs from Squamish, a few miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia, and follows the Fraser River for more than half the distance of approximately 400 miles to Prince George, where it connects with the northern line of the Canadian National. This trip is a Canadian railroad “must.”
Vancouver, which was founded less than a hundred years ago, is beyond dispute one of the most delightful cities on the Pacific coast. It is also one of the most important western ports to the Orient, and owes its prosperity largely to an enormous export trade in lumber and mining.
Across the Georgia Strait from Vancouver, a few hours by excellent steamer, lies Vancouver Island, on which Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is the largest city. The island, warmed by the Japanese Current, has a sublime climate, and the temperature in the coldest part of winter rarely falls below freezing. Roses and many other flowers bloom throughout the year.
Here, again, he who has an eye for adventure will find the trips on various little coastal steamers to isolated villages on the western coast of the island rewarding — and if one meets a Pacific storm, very exciting.
JOHN J. ROWLANDS