What a day! The Rocky Mountaineer does not disappoint!
We are picked up at our hotel by bus and shuttled to the train station in Banff. There are over 500 of us making the journey and the train is long! There are 12 passenger cars which consist of two levels: main floor with a viewing balcony, dining room and washrooms and a second floor with lazy boy type seats and a glass dome for panoramic scenery. As we board the train staff are directing us to the second level and at the top we find out our seats are at the very front and the seats opposite us are vacant!! Bonus!!
The train departs at promptly 8 am amidst staff waving at the station. It’s a gorgeous sunny day with miles of blue sky. As we chug along the town of Banff is left behind and we are heading into vistas only visible by train. True back country. The tracks meander along the River and through dense forested areas but everywhere you look there’s another postcard view that simply can’t be captured by a camera. I feel my eyes misting as I marvel at the spectacular display of natural wonder. It’s truly miraculous how the elements weave themselves into such breathtaking beauty.
We are supplied with a map of our journey and the mile posts are explained. It’s like buoys on the water; each marker is numbered and shown on the map. You can follow the entire journey. The first area we pass is Lake Louise and then we dive into the wilderness and an area of the continental divide where a corkscrew tunnel (I can’t even imagine how these were dug out!) winds us down from the peak elevation of 1,700 meters. It’s ear popping territory.
The river ebbs and flows (and in some case rages) as it pounds down the mountains. It’s a colour that can only be described as surreal: aqua, green, blue … amazing. The colour is due to the glacial water that flows into the river. It’s a snaking moving force that guides us as we roll through the terrain.
As the day begins with outstanding views it also begins with outstanding food and service. Shortly after boarding we are invited to get a seat n the dining room. They present menus with interesting options. Rudy and I choose the salmon and scrambled egg. Delicious. Our table mates from Utah tell us about their love of skiing (including at Blue!!) and how they are enjoying seeing the mountains in the off season. They’ve been to the Banff area many times to ski.
In this area, a bustling lakefront vacation area, there is plenty of boat traffic and beach goers. Apparently the lake is houseboat heaven due to limited actual cottages and people buying boats instead. Good idea!! Nonetheless, everyone enjoying the cooling lake on this hot day (39C) stopped to wave at the train. The tour guide told us that one local resident,Doris, was always in her front porch to wave. Every time. Supposedly she is alerted by her dog that a train is approaching and they both head to the porch to wave. Doris became such a thing that the staff of the Mountaineer pooled their points to buy her passage on the very trains she waves at. When her train passed her house she was amazed to see the staff and her dog waving at her!! This story is featured on a train tv show. Cool.
We drift into Kamloops BC fully sated, hot and sweaty. The landscape has softened from humongous snowy peaked mountains to dry rolling hills reminiscent of Vegas. The bus collects us at the station and transfers us to our hotel. We were given room keys on the train and our luggage is waiting for us in our hotel room. The service is seamless and efficient. I’m impressed.
It’s 7 pm. Which translates to 10 pm Ontario time so I missed my daily call with my parents. I collapse into bed after a luxurious shower…. Final approach tomorrow.
Good night Kamloops.