Riding the Rails in the Rockies

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“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

–Robert Louis Stevenson

“A-a-a-all abora-a-ard,” chimed the conductor at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station as we hurried down the platform toward the crisply-uniformed train staff standing by to welcome us aboard “The Rocky Mountaineer.” We were about to embark on one of the world’s classic train journeys from Vancouver, British Columbia to Banff, Alberta.

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, along the historical route of fur traders and gold rush miners who crossed the wilderness in the 1800’s. With breathtaking views of the majestic, snow-covered Canadian Rockies, rugged canyons, and seemingly endless waterfalls, many call this “the most spectacular train trip in the world.”

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, green-eyed 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 we 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 we were called to breakfast in the dining room on the lower level where white linen, gleaming tableware and fresh flowers adorned the tables. The most stressful moment of the morning occurred when we had to make a menu selection. It was a tough job to choose between the 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 the vast expanses of rolling plains to foothills, which gave way to towering snow-capped peaks. We passed through the Jaws of Death Gorge and along Salmon Arm Nature Preserve. Rivulets of water flowed down the steep slopes in cedar and hemlock forests. The woods were weeping! 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, Jennifer, our articulate and well versed attendant, offered commentary about the history, flora, fauna and myths of the Rockies.

“Osprey nest on the left!” called out a bird enthusiast from London. And during the next hour, just twenty feet below the train window, we passed not one, but four osprey nests perched on the top of telephone polls along the banks of the tracks, 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.

“This is pretty close to marvelous, we’re half way to heaven” commented Stan, a sixty-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 Rocky 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, which is known for its castle-like grandeur, gracious service, peerless views, and the oasis of calm and pampering at the spa.

The two-day GoldLeaf Dome Coach trips start at $709 per person and include two gourmet breakfasts and lunches served in the dining room aboard, dinner and a hotel overnight in Kamloops.

For more information :

Rocky Mountaineer Railtours

1-800-665-7245

www.rockymountianeer.com

www.fairmont.com

www.banfflakelouise.com

Category: Canada

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