Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer Image by: Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer
At the train station in Lake Louise, passengers gaze down the tracks, cameras at the ready, eagerly waiting for the blue and gold locomotive to arrive. Once it cruises into the station (right on time), guests stroll toward the two-tiered coaches via a red carpet.
Inside, the staff greet us with beaming smiles. Then we head off for the two-day trip to Vancouver. Right away, the gentle hum of the engine and the steady stream of gorgeous scenery lulls me into a happy place. I feel tiny surrounded by the jagged mountains and endless pine trees. I tune in and out as our tour guide imparts factoids ranging from the intricacies of salmon mating habits to the design characteristics of rail-â€¨way bridges.
As we approach Kamloops, the mountains begin to shrink, eventually falling into the "hill" category. We don't see much animal life—just cows grazing. The landscape morphs from green forest to parched red and gold plains. I feel like we took a wrong turn and ended up in Arizona. Abandoned farmhouses lean every which way, and ancient rusty vehicles dot the fields. It's funny how your mind wanders when you have the time and opportunity—when you're freed from your inbox and all your little handheld devices. (Cell service is sparse, and there's no Internet on board.) I make up stories about what happened to the owners of all those houses and cars, and I marvel at the crazy, beautiful diversity of our country.
My daydreaming is interrupted by an announcement: The front half of the train is to head to the dining room for lunch. Mains like grilled BC salmon with maple glaze are paired with local wines. After three courses—one of the perks of the Rocky Mountaineer's GoldLeaf Service—I'm ready to zone out in my little bubble of bliss. Soon we'll arrive in Kamloops, where we'll stay the night at a hotel. The next morning, we'll head straight to â€¨Vancouver for a mid-afternoon arrival.
By trip's end, I vow to make more time for slow travel in my future.
Rocky Mountaineer offers numerous packages, from one-nighters to 12-day journeys. Visit rockymountaineer.com â€¨or call 1-800-665-7245.
2 other great Canadian rail trips
1. Wilderness trek: Via Rail—Jasper-Prince Rupert
Passengers who book this two-day trip cover 1,160 kilometres of Pinterest-worthy territory. Starting out in Jasper, heading to Jasper National Park and passing through the rugged Canadian Rockies, the train stops in Prince George for the night (accommodations are in local hotels) then heads through the Yellowhead Pass, the interior plateau of British Columbia, and along the mighty Skeena River to Prince Rupert. The trip can also be made in reverse, from Prince Rupert to Jasper. The best part of the journey is the animals you're liable to spot from your window: bear, moose, elk, deer, coyotes, hawks, and maybe even spotted wolves. You'll get a taste of true remoteness, and of the beauty of our country.
For more: viarail.ca
2. Short and sweet: The train of Le Massif de Charlevoix
Passengers start this 140-kilometre train trip in Quebec City and travel along the St. Lawrence to La Malbaie. Passengers are treated to the best of Charlevoix gastronomy and breathtaking riverside scenery. Overnight trips include a stay at Hôtel la Ferme, a beautifully designed eco-resort that's the brainchild of Cirque du soleil founder Daniel Gauthier. â€¨
For more: train.lemassif.com
— Doug O'Neill
For more travel ideas, check out these 6 great Canadian campgrounds for cyclists.
|This story was originally titled "All Aboard" in the July 2014 issue.
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