Almost everyone’s heard of the Pony Express. For 18 months in 1860 and 1861, horseback riders delivered mail across the plains, deserts and mountains of the western United States, greatly reducing the communication time between the coasts before the telegraph lines were finished.
Canada never had a Pony Express but an even bolder mission was undertaken to deliver mail to Rogers Pass during the winter of 1885-86. The train through the Pass was completed in the fall of 1885 but heavy snowfalls and hazardous avalanches closed the Pass during the winter.
Still, the mail had to be delivered through the pass in order to make it across the country. Trains could get as far as Donald, B.C., and, later, Canmore, Alta., but the snow prevented them from travelling further.
The solution? Teams of dog sleds would carry the mail once a month through the mountains to Farwell (now Revelstoke) and then return the other way.
Major Cunningham was awarded the contract to run dog sled teams through the pass. He was paid $100 per round trip. Each run took about a month to complete.
Cunningham hired two people – Hall and Lang (their first names are unknown) – to run the dog trains through the harsh winter weather. Little else is known about their experiences.
The dogs ran until April 1886, when spring came. The following winter, newly constructed snow sheds allowed trains to pass through Rogers Pass during winter and the mail run was discontinued.
This Saturday, Dec. 3, Parks Canada is honouring the brave runs of Hall and Laing by hosting dog sled rides at the Asulkan winter trail head in Glacier National Park.
While there won’t be a full dog sled run through Rogers Pass from Revelstoke to Donald, Parks will be offering dog sled rides, snow shoeing, a bonfire and more.
The 15-minute rides will loop from the trailhead to the Wheeler Hut and historic Glacier House and back. Eric Marsden of Revelstoke Dogsled Adventures will provide the rides.
To reserve a ride, contact Megan Long at Parks Canada at 250-837-7551.
Events take place from 1-3 p.m.
Note: Special thanks must be given to Parks Canada for providing the research for this story.