First Passage to the West
Once the excitement of the day had settled a little and I had relaxed in to my seat (making myself familiar with the multi-functions of my seat – reclining etc!) I picked up the Mile Post paper. I found this paper very useful during the 2 days that I spent on the Rocky Mountaineer. I quite like to know where I am and what points of interest are around.
The Mile Post is a publication that lets you know about points of interest along the way. Each mile has a post along the side of the track (which governs crew changes and other operational matters). It was a great way to keep track of where I was along the journey, as well as information on the Canadian Pacific Railway, articles on the Train Managers and any wild life you might see etc.
As we travelled out of Vancouver, through the suburbs and in to the lush temperate rain forest of British Columbia you are served breakfast, either in the Dining Room is you are travelling at Gold Leaf or at your seat in Silver Leaf.
Travelling north east towards Kamloops, the scenery starts to change from the lush rain forest in to a desert landscape as we followed the Fraser River up the Fraser Valley, past Hells Gate, the narrowest part of the Fraser River. I was lucky enough to see many Osprey nests, a fresh water Otter and a very impressive Beaver dam.
Did you know that there is a desert in British Columbia? The desert comes all the way up from Mexico, through California and continues up into British Columbia. I was quite surprised to hear that Kamloops can have temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius in winter and has high at 40 degrees Celsius in summer! Kamloops is a year round destination with skiing, snow-shoeing, Nordic skiing etc. in winter and in summer you can go trekking, mountain biking, kayaking etc.
The Rocky Mountaineer stops in Kamloops for the night, though you don’t sleep on the train. I didn’t need to worry about standing a huge queue to check into my hotel though, as was all done on-board the train. As we approached Kamloops I was given my room key and advised which coach would transfer me to my hotel. As your luggage doesn’t travel on the train with you (instead it is taken by road to the next destination) there is no waiting for my luggage when I disembarked, instead it is waiting for me in your hotel room, when I arrived!
Its an early start the next morning, with a beautiful breakfast on-board and again the scenery changed as we travelled along the shores of Lake Shuswap towards Revelstoke, continuing the climb up into Glacier National Park and up the Kicking Horse Canyon. This is where the scenery turns from amazing to spectacular.
As we get closer to the Continental Divide (the highest point on the trip) you head through two tunnels - the Lower Spiral Tunnel and the Upper Spiral Tunnel. The Lower Spiral Tunnel travels through Mount Ogden, is 891 metres long and turns approximately 230 degrees, emerging 17.1 metres higher than its entrance. While the Upper Spiral Tunnel travels through Cathedral Mountain, is 993 metres long and turn approximately 290 degrees, emerging 15.25 metres higher than its entrance. Both of these tunnels were constructed back the the early 1900 – quite a feet of engineering and man-power.
We descended down the eastern side of the Continental Divide towards Lake Louise, where some passengers disembarked and arriving at my final destination, Banff.
I spent two nights in Banff, with plenty of time to explore, a trip to Lake Louise to do a bit of exploring is a must. Banff is a great summer and winter destination with hiking, kayaking, Banff National Park, Banff Hot Springs or in winter – skiing, snow-shoeing etc.
From Banff I boarded a coach for some sightseeing around The Hoodoos rock formation, Surprise Corner - where I was lucky enough to see some wild deer grazing on the side of the road, Tunnel Mountain and a trip up the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain which is 2298m above sea level.
Heading west through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains I enjoyed a 12-minute scenic helicopter ride from Canmore – this was one of the highlights of my trip. It was only my second time in a helicopter, with the first about 30 years earlier. From there the journey to Calgary is only about 1 and a half over the Prairies of Alberta.
Calgary is a very spread out city set in the Prairies of Alberta. Famous for its Stampede, held in July every year. The Bow River flows through Banff and down into Calgary where it meanders through the city. A couple of things that you might like to do in Calgary while you are there including going up the Calgary Tower, which has been open for more than 50 years and have a revolving restaurant and spectacular 360 degree views, visit Calgary Zoo’s Prehistoric Park, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, visit the site of the 1988 Winter Olympic – to name a few things.
There are 4 different itineraries that you can take on the Rocky Mountaineer -
First Passage to the West – Vancouver, Kamloops, Banff, Calgary
Coastal Passage – Seattle, Vancouver, Canadian Rockies
Journey through the Clouds – Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper
Rain forest to Gold Rush – Vancouver, Whistler, Quesnel, Jasper
All Rocky Mountaineer train journeys can also be combined with additional land tours, cruises or can be combined to make circle itineraries.