I woke up this morning in Edmonton, AB. All day yesterday I was technically the “furthest west” I’ve ever been in Canada, but we’ll call this big morning stop that official point thus far.
Sleeping on the train was shockingly easy and comfy, but we’ll see how I feel about that after another night. I’ve staked my two seats and I’m using Nordy to make people newly boarding think I’m traveling with a child. Devious? Maybe. Worth it? Yes. Everyone I’ve met so far has some kind of similar tactic in place, because the seats all recline and have cushioned footrests the pop out to make a pretty cozy couch ideal for one person to curl up and sleep. We all try to work together to maintain each other’s territories, as well, which helps.
Unfortunately, I lost a fair bit of my crew today since the end-of-the-line for them was Jasper, AB. Mikey got off today in Hinton and took our poker chips with him, so I guess my gambling days are over. That’s probably for the best; my beginner’s luck dried out and Mikey mopped the floor with me towards the end of last night and this morning after brunch (which came complete with complementary mimosas — I think I could get used to this whole train thing). While I’m sad to see my friends go, that’s part of this experience. There is, however, one person that I wouldn’t mind seeing left behind at a station. I call her “Mussolini” because she’s very totalitarian dictator-ish, sorta evil (I feel justified in saying that because I’m not the only one who thinks it), and this train is going to run on time if it kills her (which I would appreciate more if she wasn’t so awful about it).
After our stop in Hinton around 11:00 am, Andrew and I camped out in the dome car to see the mountains as they started to come into view. That vista was one of the things I’ve been most excited for on this trip. I haven’t seen mountains since the last time I was in Telluride in 2011, and they were a sight for sore eyes. I’m not sure if was just four years of flat prairie playing tricks on me or not, but the Canadian Rockies are the biggest mountains I think I have ever seen. They were especially spectacular after we went through the tunnel into Jasper National Park. It was a perfect bluebird day too, so I could see all the tops of the peaks and way into the distance. Patrick, probably the coolest employee on the train, pointed out different peaks to us including Robson Peak, the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, and the specific range of mountains that appears on the $10 bill. I also got to see the gorgeous Moose Lake and a real moose (sadly, the moose was not in Moose Lake — that would simply have been too much). Moose Lake is the headwater for the Fraser River; early European explorers followed the Fraser all the way to the west coast, which is where I’m headed to tomorrow!
It was gorgeous today, almost 27º C, which is something I haven’t felt since August. I might have gotten a little pink sitting in the windowed dome car all day. Andrew and I got off the train in Jasper and grabbed some awesome raspberry scones at one of the little shops near the train station to enjoy the sun and fresh air. We didn’t have much time to wonder around, but after seeing a lot of the park as the train went through and the town during our stop I’m really happy that I get to go back to Jasper in two weeks for a few days to explore. I can’t wait to do some hiking and dip my toes into some of that beautiful aquamarine glacial water.
There’s something about mountains that just does it for me. I actually teared up a little as we rode through them today. I think I’m a mountain girl at heart, and I think part of that comes from not growing up around them. There’s a magic to being in the presence of something so immense and so forceful that I can’t get over. Mountains are otherworldly. I wonder if people who grow up surrounded by mountains see them that way. Do they affect them the same way they affect me, or do you just get used to it after a while? I really hope I never do, even if I am lucky enough to live nestled in valley or tucked into a pass someday.
There wasn’t very much snow on the mountains and everyone was saying that the water areas were really low and dry. Apparently there wasn’t much precipitation this winter. We actually rode through a wildfire in Alberta early this morning, where a state of emergency has been declared; it’s really early in the year for things like that to be happening. There were a lot of firefighting crews along the rails and I think they were working on those controlled burns that are used to eat up a fire’s fuel to contain it. I couldn’t see any actual fire, but the smoke was so bad that I had to use my inhaler even though I was inside the train.
There was nothing that could pull me out of that dome car until the sun started setting. Now I’m settling in for another night of sleep as we pull into Kamloops, BC. Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up in Vancouver, hopefully with enough time to catch the first ferry to Victoria! And maybe, just maybe, I’ll see some freakin’ whales out there!