Monday, December 1, 2008

Highwood Pass -- June 29, 2008

Our last stop along Highway 40 on this day was at Highwood Pass -- the highest paved road pass in Canada (2227 m/7310 ft). Anything living up here exists under very harsh conditions where there is snow on the ground up to 9 months of the year, and temperatures hover around freezing for a good percentage of that 9 months.

Even in late June, with a few weeks of sunny conditions, there were still patches of snow throughout the area:

Highwood Pass is pretty close to the treeline, and there was plenty of snow high the mountains around us as well:

As we drove away from Highwood Pass, we passed by a historical landmark sign documenting the story of the Lost Lemon Mine, a local historical legend. The sign reads:

According to legend these mountains harbour a motherlode of gold. Is it still out there? Or, was it ever?

In the spring of 1870, two miners, Blackjack and Lemon, passed through the foothills on their way from the North Saskatchewan River to Montana. It is said they stumbled across a rich vein of gold. Overcome by greed, Lemon murdered Blackjack -- an act which was to haunt him for the rest of his life.

The Stoney Indians are said to have placed a curse on the gold in an attempt to keep the white man out of their hunting ground. A number of mysterious events occurred around that time including an unexplainable cabin fire, sudden deaths, and even a rumour of skeleton being found clutching a bag of gold.

Does the gold really exist? Some believe so. But others claim it was a hoax started by a false priest; that the gold was on the other side of the continental divide; or that it had been hijacked from miners who were returning from the goldfield of British Columbia.

We may never know the truth about the Lost Lemon Mine. But if the legend is all that ever comes from the mine, it has greatly enriched the folklore of Western Canada.

I'd always thought the legend was more focused on an area in a more southern part of Alberta. In any case, this was an odd place for such a sign, but still gave me chills, knowing some of the history I read and write so much about may have taken place where I stood.

The full story (legend) is fascinating. I'll write about it in a future post.


Suzanne Perazzini said...

Thanks for the legend. I love the old stories that stay attached to places. True or false makes no difference.

Michelle said...

It really doesn't matter, does it? Over time there has been lots of scientific proof that there's no possible way gold can exist in those areas, but there are still people looking. I think people would rather believe in the myth than the facts....