So filled with joy to be travelling again after COVID put a break on things. Canada just this past week lifted restrictions on mask wearing on planes and trains which was a relief for us, although some people chose to continue to wear them.
We met up with our tour in Calgary for dinner at the hotel restaurant and I was star struck to sit next to Michelle Steinke-Baumgard, the author of Healthy Healing, blogger from One Fit Widow and co-founder of My 1fitlife adventures group. While I have enjoyed traveling and blogging after the loss of husband in 2015, she turned traveling, blogging and healthy living into a business! People, many of them widows, join her and her husband Keith on adventures all over the world.
Pete and I signed up together to join the group on the Canadian Rocky Mountaineer adventure. After dinner we turned in early to be ready for the Banff private tour bus in the morning. We boarded the comfortable bus after breakfast and Bob, our driver, pointed out some sights along the way. Our first stop to the Banff Gondola took us quickly to the top of Sulphur Mountain where we enjoyed amazing mountain views and an optional short walk to the 7,467 foot peak. If more time had been available, a hike up or down the mountain appeared popular as we witnessed from our comfortable 4-person gondola windows.
Next Bob drove us to Lake Minnewanka for a short cruise. The quiet serenity of forest along the lake reminded us to stop and be present as we take in the beauty around us.
Back in Banff we had dinner on our own and discovered a pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants. We tried the Indian restaurant in town and found it to be delicious. Better than what we find in our current home of Florida.
We woke to another sunny and not humid day. We even put on jackets as the Autumn temperature started out in the 40s but quickly warmed up to the high 60s in Fahrenheit. Bob drove us to Lake Louise and it really is as spectacular as all the photos portray. Two hikes were suggested; one along the lake and one with a steep incline. We chose to walk the trail along the Lake and were not disappointed. After walking approximately one mile, we got to a point where ice was forming at the end of the lake, we could see the glacier and we also saw people rock climbing. That was when we decided to turn back toward the Fairmount Banff Springs Resort which due to COVID still doesn’t allow anyone to enter the hotel except for guests.
Our next stop, Lake Moraine, was preparing to close down for the season when we arrived hoping for a bite to eat at the bistro. The bistro closed so hiking and taking in the sights proved to be our best option and what a thrill to spend time in this magnificent place of beauty. We hiked the rock pile for an elevated view of the lake and surrounding mountains. The steep steps covered in loose gravel was a bit much for some hikers, but a trail along the lake was beautiful as well. The brilliantly colored blue lake mesmerized us as we savored each moment.
Another dinner with the group and early night was next on our adventure as we prepared to be on the bus by 7:00 am for the ride to the Rocky Mountaineer two-day train ride.
With boarding passes in hand, we climbed the spiral stairs to the second level and found our spacious seats in the glass domed train car. At exactly 8:00 am the diesel locomotive began to more forward and the adventure began. The employees lined up to wave as the train passed and we quickly learned that waving back to everyone along the ride was all part of this journey.
The train took us past sights we had seen the past two days including Castle Mountain, Lake Louise (you could not see the lake from the train) and the Continental Divide. As we neared the steepest mountains in the Canadian Rockies we approached the famous spiral tunnels. In the early days the trains had trouble getting up and over the mountains. People had to get out and walk and extra engines were required to assist. I imagine the Little Engine that Could children’s book. That didn’t always help when the train made it over and started to descend only to loose control and derail. Lives were lost and something had to be done.
The spiral tunnels were created through Cathedral Mountain and people come to the nearby road to watch long trains going in one end and emerging 56 feet higher than the entrance.
The mountains and aquamarine river was spectacular to see as we sat in our seats and were served a tasty two course breakfast and drinks by the friendly and informative hosts on our car. Each of the hosts used a microphone to prepare us for upcoming sights along the ride and entertain us with cleverly told stories.
As the train occasionally stopped for passing freight trains, the service never ended with food and drinks all day. It was a long day and we did not arrive in Kamloops until 7:00 pm where our luggage was waiting for us in our hotel room. We did not sleep on the train but enjoyed a bite to eat in the restaurant before going off to sleep for another early wake up the next day.
Day two brought completely different scenery. A drier desert climate with few trees, a large lake and quite a few bald eagles greeted us as we began our second day of sitting on the train. The food, drinks and stories continued to flow and we stood to take amazing photos and videos to share on social media. The phenomenal views to be seen on this trip were well worth it and we enjoyed the service and new friends made in the group.
The Rocky Mountaineer has trips in Canada and in the United States. The two day, one night trip runs from Banff to Vancouver April through early October. The 2023 cost runs from $1864 for Silverleaf to $3091 for Goldleaf tours. The difference is that Silverleaf in a single story train without a platform to stand on outside the car. Goldleaf also serves meals on the lower level at tables instead of at your seats. We experienced a surprise upgrade as our hosts secured a Goldleaf car (two levels) with Silverleaf service (eat at your seats).
Taking a train trip through the Rocky Mountains was a relaxing way to enjoy the sights and be spoiled with excellent service. The majority of folks on the ride were in the senior age range as limited mobility was necessary for the trip. People used to hiking and being more active may find sitting for almost 12 hours for two days a bit frustrating despite the amazing views.
I’m glad that Michelle and Keith added the two nights in Banff, a night in Calgary and a night in Vancouver to the tour. I had never visited Canada so felt this was a great way to enjoy so much of what the country has to offer.
Have you been to Banff? Would you like to ride the Rocky Mountaineer? Let me know!!
To get a copy of my memoir – No Simple Highway: A widow’s journey to seek justice for her husband’s death click below: