THE ROCKY MOUNTAINEER
A TRAIN RIDE FOR ALL SEASONS
Photos by Lawrence Davis
Alberta, Canada, Where The Canadian Rockies Speak Nature in Harmony with Mother Earth
I love train rides, and THE ROCKY MOUNTAINEER will be remembered as one of my favorites. On a recent two day journey from Vancouver to Banff, with an overnight stay in Kamloops, I had a chance to savor superb service, excellent cuisine and a masterpiece series of ever changing landscapes, as the glass domed train climbed high into the Canadian Rockies.
Author - Babbie De Derian, Travel & Food Editor
July 1st, 7A.M., Canada Day
The Rocky Mountaineer offers two classes of service, Red Leaf and Gold Leaf. Each car has a guest services manager to insure the safety and comfort of passengers. I climb circular stairs in a glass domed double-decker car (the dining room is downstairs), and settle into my Gold Leaf handsomely upholstered seat as the caravan of attached trains begins its magical treasure hunt into the wilderness.
The service was terrific
The Rocky Mountaineer alternates its two seatings; today we have been assigned the first. Gold Leaf Executive chef Mark Jorundson has created an innovative menu, served with award winning wines from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
Each meal had a wonderful selection
The breakfast menu offers an impressive choice of eggs, omelets, pancakes and waffles; I order the Gold leaf Breakfast, lightly scrambled fluffy eggs wrapped in British Columbia salmon, drizzled with a dill crème fraiche, topped with a dollop of caviar.
The food was delicious
The magnitude of the vistas, as we turn each bend, is humbling and reassuring; a narrow waterfall cascades unexpectedly between two crevices; a bald eagle sits on a tree soaking up the unusually warm sun.
Lots of bridges
The train slows as we make our way over Black Canyon Gorge Bridge and through the Black Canyon Tunnel; a Century 21 for sale sign in rural Canada seems incongruous. The train click clacks along like a faithful burrow, sure of its footing, proud of its load, and the twenty five pieces of equipment it takes to transport the 553 guests on board; the staff is warm and welcoming. I settle back in my reclining seat and doze for an hour, rocked by the motherly movements of the train.
After a delicious lunch of morel soup, baby spinach salad and thinly sliced rare bison, I stand on the open platform; the wind blows my hair into dangles; I, along with other passengers, snap photos of the passing landscape, overwhelmed by nature.
We travel alongside rivers that flow into lakes, past remnants of landslides, through forests dense with pine trees; black and brown horses graze side by side on pristine ranches; baby ospreys peek out of a sheltering nest; a graceful osprey glides by with a salmon held tight in his talons, no doubt food for the young birds; deer drinking at the edge of a lake, turn and stare. We spot moose, elk, white mountain goats, black bears and even a couple of grizzlies. We pass through First Nations Land; rapids roar as they rush through the canyon; fields of goldenrod and pink wild flowers blanket the meadows; snow peaked Rockies loom larger than life; a tractor sits idle, perhaps waiting for the first snowfall of winter. A small speed boat zips across a lake; a paraglider sails over a river; a general store built on stilts is decorated with flags to celebrate Canada Day; locals wave and we wave back.; a man walks his dog along the tracks; snow peaks belie it is July; a train hostess passes through asking “what can I get you, a drink, some fruit”?
The ability to feel and smell the clean mountain air was great
It was hard to not stare at the wonderful views
We leave the train in the small town of Kamloops, check into a comfortable hotel; enjoy a dinner show; then watch a spectacular fireworks display celebrating Canada Day.
We were welcomed to Kamloops where we ate, watched a play and saw a beautiful sunset
Day Two 7A.M.
We re-board the train. The majestic Canadian Rockies beckon as we wind our way through two spiral tunnels in order to climb to 7,000 feet above sea level, at 5,332 feet we cross the Continental Divide, turn our watches ahead to Mountain Zone time and enter Banff National Park. The train follows the Columbian River to the Golden River; the color of the waters change frequently; a small boat bobs up and down as two fishermen jiggle their rods hoping to catch a fresh river salmon; we pass a marina filled with luxurious houseboats; rafters maneuvering through fast moving rapids wave as we speed by. The train glides silently over the tracks; the gentle sway is relaxing; the scenery tranquil and serene as we continue our climb. A bicyclist hunches over the handle bar of his racing bike, pedaling faster and faster trying to outdistance the train; rows of neatly planted vegetables stretch for miles, too young to harvest; we speed by a yard of restored antique cars glistening in the afternoon sun. I lean over the railing; the wheels sing a song of summer as the history and treasures of this sacred land reveal themselves with pride.
We reach Banff in the early evening; this time of the year it stays light until close to eleven. A bus transports our group to The Brewster Mountain Lodge, conveniently located in the center of town. For Me, The Rocky Mountaineer More Than Lived Up To Its Reputation as: “The Most Spectacular Train Ride in The World”.
Rocky Mountaineer offers over 70 Vacation packages, including four rail routes.
For more info: www.rockymountaineer.com or toll free 1.800.665.7245