“Look to your right, there is a pair of ospreys nesting on top of an electricity pylon,” bellows Kevin, our train host-cum-onboard naturalist.
The utility poles are a favourite resting ground for the birds, their snow-capped heads and yellow eyes visible above a huge pile of twigs and leaves draped over the power lines – an avian tower fire waiting to happen
Seat with a view
Later, Kevin – who I discover wears several ‘hats’’ including geologist, archaeologist, historian and even sommelier – has a bigger prize to point out to us. For there on the other side of the slow-foaming Thompson River is a black bear, lumbering down to the water’s edge for some midday refreshment.
While others rush to the outside viewing platform, one of the features of this GoldLeaf carriage, I don’t bother fumbling to open the camera on my phone but instead just relish the moment as I watch the bear dip his brown snout into the rock-strewn water.
The Rocky Mountaineer travels at a top speed of 35mph but the driver is happy to slow the train down when wildlife come into view.
Gold star memories
It is an unforgettable moment and, over the course of the two-day Passage to the West trip from Vancouver to Banff – one of several routes the Rocky Mountaineer travels – I have trouble ranking my top ‘luxurious’ experiences and priceless memories.
Where should I place the red carpet welcome that ushered us onto the polished blue-and-gold coloured carriages in Vancouver or rank the changing cast of wildlife (we also see long-horned sheep and elk)?
Perhaps my most enduring memory will be of the ever-changing scenic backdrop: from the lush green fields of the Fraser Valley to the river canyons to the waterfalls that hurtle down ancient rock-faces (camera at the ready for Hell’s Gate). Then there is the stark arid desert of British Columbia’s interior and the majestic peaks of the Canadian Rockies.
Or perhaps it’s the sumptuous five-star service, comfort and cuisine on offer in GoldLeaf? For whether it was enjoying a breakfast of spinach and cheese soufflé or a lunch of Lois Lake Steelhead salmon accompanied by fine Canadian wines from the Okanagan, the GoldLeaf dining experience never falls short of being sumptuous.
A soaring experience
There is also something immeasurably luxurious about the GoldLeaf bi-level dome’s glass-windows and roof. Those 180-degree uninterrupted views really come into their own when the peaks of the Rockies begin to cluster on the second day of the trip. Most impressive is Mount Robson, at nearly 1,300 feet the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.
In 2023 the Rocky Mountaineer will depart Vancouver for Banff and Lake Louise each Monday and Friday beginning on April 17, 2023 and ending October 13, 2023.
Book it with…Canadian Affair
The operator has a 15-day Rockies & Alaska Cruise, The Complete Western Adventure! – Gold Leaf” holiday that includes the two-day Passage to the West Rocky Mountaineer trip, from Vancouver to Banff, in GoldLeaf. Prices are £4,279pp, for a May 19 2023 departure. Flights are with WestJet from London Gatwick.