by Bobbie Hasselbring | Photo ©Rocky Mountaineer
It’s been called “one of the world’s ultimate experiences.” The Rocky Mountaineer railroad takes visitors through the breathtaking scenery of the Canadian Rockies. I’ve come, not just for super-sized scenic wonders, but for the train’s regional moveable feast. We start early in Vancouver, B.C., where we’re whisked to the train via motorcoach. (The Rocky Mountaineer has recently begun service from Seattle too.) To lively strains of bag pipes, we board our shiny gold and navy blue double-decker dome car and get comfy in reclining seats.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers three service levels—MapleLeaf, SilverLeaf and, the most luxurious, GoldLeaf. We opted for GoldLeaf for the full dome cars and gourmet meals made with local ingredients. And it’s a great choice.
We’re barely seated when we’re called for breakfast. We sit at white-clothed tables and have plenty of choices (menus change daily)—mozzarella omelet, blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, eggs Benedict, granola parfait. The meal starts with fresh fruit (melon, strawberries, blueberries, and gooseberries) and I enjoy a big rosette of lightly smoked salmon and crunchy, briny caviar topping soft-scrambled eggs. It’s served with country potatoes, wild mushrooms and fresh cherry tomatoes. I clean my plate.
Back upstairs, we take in the scenery—Harrison Lake and Lake Errock, the twisty, brown Fraser River and stretches of verdant farmland. A young staffer with a microphone points out highlights, including T. Kilby General Store, a pioneer retailer still doing business. We pass snow-capped mountains, plunge into dark tunnels, and slice through forests of maple, cedar and Douglas fir. I wander out to the vestibule, a large outdoor area, to take photos, get some fresh air and watch trees and rivers streak by.
Before long, it’s lunch time and our choices include Alberta beef short ribs, tiger prawns, Fraser Valley chicken breast or vegetarian farfalle. It’s served with wonderfully warm, crusty French bread we can’t stop eating. My ribs are tender and rich and come with garlic whipped potatoes and fresh veggies and glasses of red or white B.C. wine.
As we head east, the terrain changes dramatically—it’s drier, and pine replaces cedar and fir. We pass Rainbow Canyon, sedimentary rock walls painted in reds, pinks rising above the roiling brown Thompson River. We pull into Kamloops, our overnight stop, check into local accommodations, and wander downtown for a bite at Terra, a local farm-to-table restaurant.
The next morning, we’re off early and the scenery transitions from high desert to lush, green mountains and rivers. Between Kamloops and Banff, we cross seven rivers, and everywhere eagles scan the water for breakfast. My breakfast includes fresh eggs with light lemony Hollandaise and hearty country potatoes. I leave satisfied.
Now deep in the Canadian Rockies, the mountains are nearly vertical. Occasionally, the forest green carpet is broken by sharp outcroppings of rock, tumultuous falls, or patches of snow.
When we pass over Stony Creek Bridge, at 480 feet long, 325 feet high and surrounded by sheer cliffs and a dramatic waterfall, it’s a jittery crossing, but we survive. It’s a good thing, because lunch is delicious—juicy pork tenderloin with a confit of sweet corn demi-glace, veggies, whipped potatoes, and parsnip chips. But the wild sockeye salmon is the real star, moist and perfectly seasoned with a delicate mustard sauce, hearty roast potatoes and buttery spaghetti squash.
As we tuck into dessert—a maple caramel compote between flaky biscuits with ice cream—someone yells, “Bear on the right.” I look up to see a fat black bear sitting beside the tracks. It’s the perfect way to end our delicious moveable feast.