trip across Canada
and to Rockies is magnificent
By Bo Spalding
Jackson Spalding Communications Management
Special to GwinnettForum.com
(EDITOR'S NOTE: We've always yearned
for a rail trip across Canada. Upon hearing of his recent trip,
we asked Bo Spalding to tell us about it.)
OCT. 26, 2001 -- When I ask people where they go for vacations,
they often say to a beach or to Europe. Almost no one says Canada,
where the mountains are magnificent and it's cool in the summer,
in stark contrast to your average southeastern beach.
In August, my family took a train trip from Parry Sound, Ontario
(on the Georgian Bay north of Toronto) to Vancouver, British Columbia.
It was fantastic!
VIA Rail is Canada's answer
to Amtrak, and, from our experience, it is a better answer. The
food was superior, the train was on time and the people were nice.
These positives sometimes apply to Amtrak, but not always, and almost
never on the same trip. For costs, check out the web sites.
We spent about $800 per person for the two nights for a sleeping
car on the trip from Parry Sound to Jasper.
Ontario is dotted with countless deep-blue lakes, many of them
uninhabited, and hilly, rocky terrain carved by the last Ice Age.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba are mostly flat but beautiful in their
own way. Alberta and British Columbia are breath-taking.
The train passes through little towns with names like Capreol,
McKee's Camp, Gogama, Mud River and Sioux Lookout. Many of them
were built to service the old locomotives, and dried up when the
long-running diesel trains came along.
We rode VIA to the Canadian Rockies, and stayed two nights in Jasper,
Alberta. The Jasper Park Lodge
is situated on the shore of Lake Beauvert, which is surrounded by
snow-capped mountains. The rooms are "elegantly rustic,"
and there are shops, restaurants, a spa, swimming pool, horseback
riding, canoeing and golf. The nearby town of Jasper (pop. 4,700)
is charming and loaded with gift shops and other stores.
But credit for the appeal goes to nature, not manmade attractions.
During a jog on the two-mile trail around the lake, I saw several
elk just off the path. The lake, fed by an underground river, is
crystal clear and home to Canada geese. The temperature in the summertime
is 70s by day, 40s by night. My son and I played the beautiful golf
course, where we saw two coyotes and a pair of pileated woodpeckers.
The starter told us we might see a black bear, too, but he did not
make an appearance, which did not disappoint us.
We drove south to Lake Louise along the Icefields Parkway, so named
because it is lined with glaciers in some places. Lake Louise is
emerald green and surrounded on three sides by mountains, and if
you look up high you can see, nestled high in a mountain valley,
the glacier that feeds the lake. Quite a sight. We stayed at the
Post Hotel, which was charming.
Next morning we drove 45 minutes to Banff and caught the "Rocky
Mountaineer", a privately run train that is exceptionally
well managed, and rode through the mountains. From our domed car
we had a great view as we wound through valleys, along rivers, across
bridges and through tunnels. The scenery was spectacular and changed
constantly. The people who run the train don't want you to miss
anything, so it moves only during the daytime. We spent the night
in a town called Kamloops, and re-boarded the next day for another
beautiful ride to Vancouver.
If you like trains, take this trip. If you don't like trains, at
least take the Banff-to-Vancouver leg on the Rocky Mountaineer.
You won't be disappointed.
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