Canadians are known to be a reserved bunch, but not when you're on a train. Perhaps it's because the mythology of the rail in Canada is big enough to break any reserve. When you're on the Rocky Mountaineer, people wave. They wave at rail crossings and from their cars when the roads parallel the tracks. Small towns put on fanfare too, with marching bands and Legion members coming out to greet you. Even the rail workers smile when the Rocky Mountaineer passes and you imagine they spend a moment thinking about what it's like to see the rail from the other side, with no notions of the toil it takes to maintain all this track in all this wilderness.
Day two of my trip on the Rocky Mountaineer saw us in very different terrain. The arid landscape of the Fraser Canyon gave way to lush folds of land, climbing ever upwards. We hit weather and saw skies that boiled and churned as clouds were driven higher and higher. After the soft palette of the previous day, everything seemed super-saturated, high-contrast, dialled up. Out on the observation platform, the swath of the railway was overgrown with wildflowers, and I found myself drunk on the heady concoction of thinning air and sweet fragrance.
We were bound for Jasper. The undulating landscape made a break upwards into white-peaked shards. The muddy Fraser turned glacial blue. We crossed into Alberta and I was back in the familiar terrain of the Rockies. I adore the quality of the mountains up here. They're less showy and more menacing than the mountains around Banff and Lake Louise. The rock feels more ancient and unalterable somehow. Still, there was sadness too as arriving in Jasper marked the end of our train journey and I was strangely emotional when it came time to disembark.
P.S. To read about the next part of our trip, check out my story on Driving.ca