Rocky Mountaineer – First Passage to the West – Day 3

Again we had to get up super early to catch the buses for 6:15am. We all converged on the train station and began what the bus driver referred to as the “bus ballet”. Once they finally had all the buses lined up correctly, and drove along side our Rocky Mountaineer train car. This factor was nice as you basically got off the bus and right onto your train, walking no more than ten feet. On my seat was the souvenirs I had ordered yesterday. Kamloops is the only place where they fill those orders because that i where they store them (no room on the train). I bought a Rocky Mountaineer Engineer’s Hat, one of the wine glasses and a set of beautiful magnets. Once we all boarded, they handed our another round of fruit juice and we were toasting to the day while pulling out of Kamloops. I have to say, we had an amazing sunrise pulling out of the city, it was a beautiful view with the river beside us, the sunrise and the glow on the engines up front.

This trip is amazing. If you are the type of person that can just appreciate things for what they are, this trip is for you. You are “unplugged” some of the way (no cell service and of course no wifi available onboard). Not long after leaving Kamloops, we were served fruit salad with a croissant along with coffee, all the while seeing bald eagle after bald eagle among the river’s edge.

Today was definitely more stop and go. We waited for quite a few freight trains today as we don’t have priority on the tracks. Some spots we did wait for two to pass, such as during breakfast service near Prichard Creek. Breakfast this morning was scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, mushrooms, a delicious mixed hash and bacon. The food on this trip has been really good and lush. We weaved along the Shuswap Lake, with views I’ve never seen before. I love the fact I have been to these places so many times, however seeing it from a totally different view!

I really got excited once we got to Revelstoke. Seeing the town for the first time since I lived there was kinda emotional for me in a way. I took some great photos going over the Columbia River of Mount Begbie and the surrounding mountains. It was a highlight as Revelstoke is where I always told myself one day I would be on the Rocky Mountaineer.  Here I was actually doing it! We weaved into the mountains and started our climb up Rogers Pass. We didn’t take the exact same route as the cars, we were on the other side and got to see some sights you don’t get to see if you are in a car. I knew we were getting into the Rockies, so this is where I really started to take everything in. I was excited to see we did go through one of the long tunnels that goes through the mountain, the longest tunnel is the MacDonald Tunnel (about 12kms long), we went through the shorter of the two, which was still about 8kms long. Almost right after the tunnel, we came across the highest bridge of our journey Stoney Creek Bridge which is 656 feet long and 295 feet high! Robyn, one of our hosts let me know there was another creek coming up called Surprise Creek which would give another great photo opportunity, so I stayed in the back open air vestibule for a bit longer.

We then came out to the beautiful Kinbasket Lake. The fall colours were really in full swing here along with the glacial blue hues to the lake made for stunning photos. We passed right by the campground I used to camp at, bringing back even more memories. The tracks into Golden are rocky, many little jokes about how the train got it’s name haha. It’s a bit of a rough ride in a couple places, I also noticed this on the stretch before Banff.

We really saw a lot of wildlife along this stretch of our journey, the white mountain goats on the crags above the Kicking Horse Creek, and the absolute highlight – the spirit bear (also known as a Kermode Bear) we saw getting out of the Kicking Horse Creek after fishing! Yes! We all saw a spirit bear!! The most amazing thing EVER! I’ve seen the cub in Whistler this Summer, however I hardly call that a “wild” sighting, this one however, we were all shocked and so excited!!

I took some amazing videos of our train making it’s way up the canyon, and took some beautiful pictures. We then came around the corner in Field and found there was a train on our track, we basically had a Mexican Standoff with a CP train, he ended up backing up (which was crazy as he was such a long fright train) but he did. While this was happening, we saw our first black bear! He scurried right beside us and I got photos and video this time!

We again had to wait a bit as the next part of our journey was the historic Spiral Tunnels. There were three fright trains in front of us, and they were going slow. At this point we were served our lunches, quite a bit later than yesterday as this part of the journey takes longer than day one. We then arrived at the Spiral Tunnels, it was interesting to ride them on a train. I remember years ago stopping at the side of the road with my Dad watching the huge trains go though, wrapping around itself as it went through the mountain. We weren’t a large enough train to see that, but it was really neat to experience none the less. We did see a fright train following us that did wrap over itself though once we were at the top. Because we were following two trains, we were crawling towards Banff, we lost daylight soon after, not before taking in a moment with the mountain views of Yoho National Park and the snow starting to fall. It was a magical moment.

Daylight quickly was lost and we were served more snacks and beverages. I had so much coffee and Bailey’s this trip, I’m sure I polished off a bottle myself 😉 Right before Banff we were served cookies and one last drink. They gave us a briefing on Banff and came around with a lovely card signed by our hosts for our journey (Chan, Robyn and Hugo). They were amazing and most guests including myself shared hugs with them. This truly was a great experience. I would 100% recommend this trip to anyone! We all said our sad good byes and we boarded our bus that took us to our hotel (Brewsters Mountain Lodge). The check in was a bit different from the stop in Kamloops, we did line up at the front desk. Once we got our keys we headed over to Magpie and Stump’s across the road. We had one in Revelstoke, so I was craving a taco by the time we got off the train. It was Taco Tuesday so we ordered a bunch and I had a Bulldog (a margarita with an upside-down Corona). By the time we had finished, I was shattered. It was definitely time to go to sleep.

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Rocky Mountaineer – First Passage to the West – Day 2

We started off today early… 4:45am early.

We met Anthony our Rocky Mountaineer FAM Host in the hotel lobby at 6:10am. Once we were all assembled we were given our boarding passes, luggage tags and we were off to the Rocky Mountaineer Station. We were supposed to be a little earlier than the rest of the guests because they incorporated a train inspection of the GoldLeaf train. I’ve already seen it, but it was a nice start to the day. The only issue was that we were given the wrong vouchers and we were waiting for the correct taxi company to arrive. They didn’t show up in time, so we boarded a bus that was heading to the station instead. Because we were early, I made sure to get a photo of the locomotive this time as I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get a photo of it anywhere else on our journey.

We then assembled inside the station for the “All Aboard” call. It’s kind of a tradition. Afterwards we boarded our respective trains. It was so nice to get onboard and relax. We left the Rocky Mountaineer Station at 7:55am and were on our way to Kamloops. We were all served some fruit juice and had a welcome toast. As we were toasting we slowly moved by the “wave off”, just over one month ago I was waving off a Rocky Mountaineer train, now I was on the receiving end this time.

Once we were out of New Westminster, we were served a warm cinnamon and raisin scone along with a fruit salad and coffee. This was the start of the never ending food. About twenty minutes later we were served an omelette with apple chicken sausages with roasted potatoes and tomatoes. It was really interesting to see a different side of travelling out of Vancouver through the Fraser Valley. Once 9:30am hit, coffee and Bailey’s were free flowing as we were going through Mission. The scenery along this leg of the journey changes quite a bit, from the farm land of the Fraser Valley, to the rushing waters of Hell’s Gate and Cisco Crossing in the Fraser Canyon to desert near Kamloops. British Columbia is very diverse in the way of ecosystems and microclimates.

We actually did really well on this trip. Typically fright trains have right of way and priority. However we only stopped and waited once for about fifteen minutes for a train just outside of Cache Creek.

Food just came coming, we were given snacks and had a Whistler Beer. We were given a delicious tomato salad with a mustard seed dressing followed by “lunch” which I had Braised Short Ribs with mashed potatoes and root vegetables. It was amazing. This was followed by more coffee and Bailey’s and a brownie cake. The scenery from the train was amazing. Hearing the stories and the history of the railroad and the area made the trip that much more memorable. I was just taking every moment in. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this journey so far. It’s truly amazing. Today we saw some bighorn sheep and many eagles along the river. We reached Kamloops ahead of schedule due to no delays with fright trains. We were welcomed into Kamloops by two volunteers on horseback, waving us “welcome”. This time the transfer situation was much more streamlined. We were given hotel keys before we even left the train. When we did leave the train, we were steps away from our bus that took us to our hotel, The Thompson Inn. Our suitcases along with a note and some chocolates were waiting for us in our rooms. This alone makes the Rocky Mountaineer stand out and truly sets them apart from any other tour company I know. Their customer service is outstanding.

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