“A-a-a-all abora-a-ard,” chimed the conductor at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station as we hurried down the platform toward “The Rocky Mountaineer.” We were about to embark on one of the world’s classic train journeys, from Vancouver, British Columbia to Banff, Alberta.
Many call this the most spectacular train trip in the world. Built over a century ago, this railroad opened up the Canadian West—a road of steel hewn by hand through some of the most rugged terrain in the world. For two days, we traveled during daylight hours through a land still wild, unspoiled and home to abundant wildlife, with breathtaking views of the majestic, snow-covered Canadian Rockies, rugged canyons, and seemingly endless waterfalls.
The pampering began when we climbed the spiral staircase to the upper level of the GoldLeaf dome coach and settled into our spacious reserved seats. Jennifer, our cheerful attendant, served coffee and chilled orange juice. We tipped our seats back and took in the 180-degree panoramic views through the glass dome and large windows as the train glided through the Coastal Mountains, following the trail of the world’s largest salmon run up the Fraser River and by Hell’s Gate.
Soon breakfast was served in the dining room on the lower level, with white linen, gleaming tableware and fresh flowers adorning the tables. The most stressful moment of the morning was having to make a menu selection: Eggs Benedict, Alberta Steak and Eggs, or the Smoked Salmon, Scrambled Eggs and Caviar dish? Breakfast and lunch both days of the rail trip were exquisite dining experiences.
Outside our windows the vistas were constantly changing, from rolling plains to foothills to towering snow-capped peaks. Rivulets of water flowed down the steep slopes in cedar and hemlock forests. Slowly the scenery changed to mountain landscapes, with aspen groves, wildflowers, bluebells, pastel columbine, and wild rose bushes. As we traveled in style and comfort amid the spectacular scenery, the knowledgeable Jennifer offered commentary about the history, flora, fauna and myths of the Rockies.
“Osprey nest on the left!” called out a bird enthusiast from London. During the next hour, just 20 feet below the train window, we passed four osprey nests perched on the top of telephone poles, and spotted the magnificent birds soaring overhead.
Later in the day, Art, a distinguished gentleman from Ontario, alerted us to more wildlife, crying out “Bear on the right!” Thrilled guests dropped their books and magazines for a fleeting glimpse of a burly black bear in the verdant grass along the tracks. During the trip, we saw three black bears, as well as mountain sheep, and bald and brown eagles. The thick forests are also home to grizzly bears, moose, and mule and white tail deer.
At the end of our first day we met up with the mighty Thompson River before arriving at Kamloops for an overnight at a hotel.
The second morning we continued on board the Rocky Mountaineer, following raging mountain rivers into the Canadian Rockies, through Rogers Pass, Kicking Horse Pass and the impressive Spiral Tunnels.
“We’re halfway to heaven,” commented Stan, a 60-year old guest from California, as he stood in the dome coach gliding through some of the most magnificent mountains in the world. I’d have to agree.
A variety of Canadian Rockies packages are available. We opted for a short excursion, beginning with the historic and sophisticated Fairmont in Vancouver and ending with sumptuous elegance at the regal Banff Springs Hotel, known for its castle-like grandeur, gracious service, peerless views, and the oasis of calm and pampering at the spa.
For more information :
Rocky Mountaineer Railtours 1-800-665-7245