Historically rich 'Walk in the Past' trail in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.
The 'Walk in the Past' is a short, relatively easy and historically fascinating, interpretive hike from the Kicking Horse Campground to the 'Big Hill'. The trail begins at the far end of the Kicking Horse Campground past Monarch Campground. Both campgrounds are near the beginning of the Yoho Valley Road off the TransCanada Highway a short distance east of Field in Yoho National Park, British Columbia. The return hike is 2.7 KM (1¾ miles) long with an elevation gain of about 120 m (394 ft) to a maximum elevation near 1,375 m (4,510 ft).
The trail begins near the washrooms at the overflow camping area. A large sign sets the tone. Be certain to take a Self-Guiding Trail Brochure with you. The brochure is available in the two official languages of Canada, French and English. This brochure explains the seven interpretive stations along the route.
The trail passes a carved log nameplate, then ascends to a small platform on the edge of Yoho Valley Road. The trail indicator finger points the way to another platform on the opposite side of the road.
On the far side, the trail descends quickly then begins gradual ascent through lush, aromatic forest to Marker # 1 which sets the stage for this historical hike. This narrow trail leads to a broader portion that was the original supply road used for railway construction in 1884.
Marker # 2 invites today's hiker to reconstruct observations made by early explorers in the 1800's which included James Hector of the 1858 Palliser Expedition. The trail continues to climb through dense old growth forest until the sound of traffic begins to invade the silence of the forest, Soon a large bridge appears which is part of the TransCanada Highway. Vehicles use the top of the bridge and trains pass underneath.
There seems to be a finger missing at the top of the hill which approaches the bridge. To continue along the Walk in the Past Trail, it is necessary to cross the tracks diagonally to pick up the trail on the other side of the bridge being certain there will be no locomotives rushing toward you from either direction during the crossing. The surrounding scenery can be mesmerizing and the noise of traffic overhead could mask the sound of an oncoming train.
Marker # 3 instructs hikers to be on the watch for the soot and cinder base of an original 1884 rail bed. Tools and implements begin to show up at Marker # 4 which draws attention to steep grade and the locomotive fuel and effort required to deliver passengers and freight to the top of the 'Big Hill'. Following further ascent, the trail pops out onto a gravel road.
Marker # 5 is a few meters to the left and addresses the downhill issues of the original rail line on the 'Big Hill'. Next, along gravel road, Marker # 6 teaches and provides fascinating commentary about safety measures taken to arrest the downhill momentum of runaway trains. The reason for the engineering marvel known as Spiral Tunnels becomes obvious. The trail passes a plank bridge over a picturesque creek and within a very short distance arrives at the final Marker # 7 for the exhibit which is clearly the highlight of the interpretive trail.
The wreckage is a Baldwin #7717 Steam Locomotive. The plaque below, which can be enlarged for reading, explains more about the locomotive and how it was used for construction of the main rail line.
The return hike is a reverse of the approach but much quicker on nearly total descent. Along the upper gravel road, where a mud slide has cleared the forest, there is a spectacular view, across the TransCanada Highway, of Cathedral Mountain.
This short, easy trail is a must-do for any railroad aficionado and it would be remiss to avoid adding The Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint to the agenda. Spiral Tunnels was a massive, innovative and brilliant construction project to reduce the risk for trains and passengers negotiating the infamous 'Big Hill' in a fascinating area which is incredibly rich in the relatively short span of Canadian history.
The trick in life may be to build more positive memories in life than bad ones. Grand memories form a portfolio which pays perpetual dividends. Collecting things, perhaps not so much.
Photographs for this post were captured on June 24, 2014.