The final leg of our journey begins in Kamloops BC. It’s a humble town along the Thompson River with a few hotels and an open table ice cream shop. We really don’t get to see much as the drop off is late and we are pooped. But after a good nights sleep we are ready for the last day on board the Rocky Mountaineer. The sun is bright and warm. Another hot day is apparent.
The dry desert like surroundings look hot from our front row perch. It’s almost like you can feel the rocks heating and sizzling. There is abundant sage brush and it’s practically the only flora to be seen. It’s the type of rustic sage that Indians use for smudging and cleansing. It looks a bit like lavender. We start to see the layers of rock all around us as we chug along.
There’s a few good gold rush stories and the woeful tale of Billy Miner (the infamous train robber) adds to the colourful history of the Wild West. There’s a few wineries popping up and one of them pays homage to Billy by including his “most wanted” poster on their labels. All the wines are cleverly named after his antics such as Stick Em Up. Cute.
We spend breakfast with Luanne and Dewey. They are a retired (GM) couple from St George Utah. They’ve got no kids or pets but they have skied all over the world. Now they are also into “Jeeping” and pickleball. They like all sports, including hockey! But it was the jeeping that intrigued us so they explained. When they moved into their 55+ community a few years ago, they were invited to join a jeep club. Firstly you need a jeep. They have a Wrangler. But, they enthusiastically explained, that a base jeep is ho hum; you need to spruce it up with huge tires and other gadgets so that you can do the trails. St George where they live is near the Nevada border and so the desert terrain is where they go. As a jeep herd they gather at prearranged spots and “jeep” then hike and picnic. The group has gotten so big they’ve formed a splinter group with their neighbours. Who knew?? The cutest thing was, when I asked Luanne where her favourite destination is, she says it’s where her husband proposed. They were skiing and he popped the question.
The food is good on the train. I’m impressed with the menu for such limited facilities. The tables are nice white linens and everything looks so perky and inviting in the sunshine. It’s a glorious day!
After breakfast we head back to our viewing station. The landscape is slowly starting to change and there are a few trees here and there but still very arid. We are on the look out for big horned goats and osprey and bald eagles. We see all three but my camera action is not quick enough. The eagles and osprey are soaring around their aeries. The goats are trying to get watered at the river. I’m sure they are super hot, too.
Before long we are seeing a definite change in terrain. The trees start getting more plentiful and we can see white peaks again in the distance. We also see some haze. We are close to Lytton where wild fires are again threatening in the area. The haze is smoke. It’s easy to see how the region is a tinder box.
The next phenomenon is the convergence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers. As they flow together their distinct colours remain separate (like a layer of neopolitan ice cream) for about 3 km before they merge into one. It is flowing and rushing like mad. Right into an area called Hells Gate , aptly named by the explorers trying to set up trading posts! We are told there’s more water gushing down than at Niagara Falls. It’s an absolute wonder how the river banks and deadly waters were handled. Our train virtually is on the edge of the river and feels like you could easily plunge over the edge and tumble down. The other marvel is the hydro lines and the highway. There are no words, and photos don’t do justice, for this rugged and remote region.
Once we are back down to riverside level we can feel the changes. More trees. More lush. Some shade. And we enter into the Fraser Valley home to a great agricultural terroir. The train passes vast fields of crops and along the train tracks are wild berry bushes to discourage the hungry wildlife from wandering into harms way of the trains. There are all kinds of freight trains en route carrying coal and oil and other commodities. Sometimes we have to provide the right of way and it’s long trains!!
We glide past Hope where the first Rambo movie was filmed. And other small towns. This is a change from the desolate areas we have come through. As we approach Vancouver we notice more civilization and traffic. Right around Surrey where we have a glimpse of the big city in the distance we start to get ready for the final threshold. But this last few miles takes us hours. It’s agonizing in the heat and everyone’s a bit more vocal. It could be the endless adult beverages that flow freely from morning on. More drinks are offered to placate the anxious guests.
We are meeting Sarah’s (Rudy’s daughter) mother in law, Vija, when we arrive in Vancouver. We haven’t seen her in person in years (she thinks 10!) and we are looking forward to catching up. Our hopes of a timely arrival, however, are dashed by the crazy delay and we get to the Pan Pacific Hotel just in time to greet her and, how appropriate, have another drink! The view over the harbour and Stanley Park is fantastic. And so is the company. Vija is a powerhouse. She’s a single lady that is in total control of her life’s path. She’s a world traveller. She sits on several boards. She lives in downtown Vancouver and doesn’t skip a beat. Her insights are interesting and engaging. We talk briefly about the obvious homeless problem in the city. Our shuttle bus passed through several blocks of tents, bodies, trash, movement and despair on route to the hotel. It was shocking and sad to see.
Our drinks vanished with the time and we hug good bye promising to not let another ten years fly by. We literally run to our room to get a much needed shower! Man we were hot and sweaty. As we dive into bed we groan at the thought of another early morning. Our flight is scheduled to leave Abbotsford at 9:40 am. It’s over an hours drive from our hotel. Ugh. 5 am wake up call.
The alarm goes off and the sun is already shining. I think sun in Vancouver is a good omen! While we get ready to launch on the last part of our trip, I check the Swoop flight status. Big surprise!! It’s delayed until 12:55 pm. The rush is over but the delay is a bummer. Better than cancelled. But the later we arrive in Hamilton the later our car ride will be back to Molly. I try not to let myself really miss her, but on the last day of any trip I can’t wait to hug her and get a wet lick.
I’m tapping out this post on our flight. We are descending into the Hamilton airport. It’s sunny above the clouds and I’m hopeful for a sunny drive home. Sun is my good omen. All in all a great trip. We couldn’t have squeezed another minute into it! It’s great to see old familiar faces mixed with new experiences, but I have to agree with Dorothy: there’s no place like home. ❤️