Just a little Jasper

As we got closer to the mountains, a little part of me felt sad. It was Michael’s first time experiencing the majestic Rocky Mountains, and I feared he would miss it. The sun began to dip deeper into the West but as it did, it cast the most magnificent light on the sides of the mountains. The sun setting over the Miette range which was just dusted in a fresh coat of snow…it took my breath away. We got to see every crevice and shadow in such a way, I was nothing short of inspired. The vast perfection of untouched snow, marked only by the paws or hoofs of the locals. Some of the rock faces were so sheer, they were clearly untouched by humans.

The entire panorama car was in awe and passengers jumped from one side to the other, trying to capture it all. There was no way. It was all to grand, there was too much beauty to capture in one small photo. This is the kind of place that you MUST visit in person. Pictures may tell a thousand words but they’d never do this land justice. The nature in Jasper National Park leaves me speechless.

The children onboard got very excited when we passed by several herds of big horn sheep and elk. The groups were quite near to the train so we got a fabulous view. I could almost hear the snow crunching under their hooves as they bounded through the deep drifts of snow. Our time was short but it was spectacular. The photos we got were way more magnificent than the ones I had take on my summer trips through this same area. Something about the winter makes this place so much more magical. Pure. Purely Canadian.

We had a lovely and informative talk by Janet, the service manager, who seems to run this joint like a well oiled machine. She told us all about the train signs and markers, the lights and signals, the safety of the rails and the wheels and all the cool stuff in-between. I really liked how she described how they blow the whistle in different codes to communicate. If a train is coming into a town, its a long whistle and upon leaving its a short toot. There were a lot more technical facts that really impressed me and I was in awe at how passionate this woman is about trains and Canada.

We pulled into Jasper and had a very short 45 minutes to run around. We tried to take in as much as we could but most of the shops had just shut minutes earlier. I was heartbroken not to be able to give Michael a proper taste of this original “Little Mountain Town”. We scurried through the streets and peered into the darkened windows at all the trinkets and toys. Perhaps its for the best as there were a lot of souvenirs that caught Michaels eye. We would have spent a fortune if he had his way. We took the obligatory shot with the big horn sheep and a couple of giant bears and then I really started to feel the sting of winter. My little whiney “I’m freezing…I’M COLD!” started getting louder and louder. We ducked into a artisan chocolate shop just in time. I swear 10 more seconds in that bitter cold and I would have turned into a popsicle.

In the Candy Bear’s Lair, we found a bunch of bear paraphenalia including bear skin rugs made out of fun fur with teddy bear heads. We perused the sweets on offer from the sticky caramels to the thick creamy fudge to the salty chocolate covered pretzels to flavored popcorn to taffy apples. The decision was hard but we finally settled on the traditional haystacks (chocolate covered coconut), an elk something or other that strangely resembled a dropping, and something with dark chocolate caramel laced with peanut buttery goodness. We tasted a few of the fudge samples as we raced out to the nearest fast food joint. I was certain we were going to miss the train if we didn’t run, so we didn’t even wait for the fries. We took our chicken and gravy then dashed back to the station, only to find the whole group waiting for the whistle which had not yet been blown. I relaxed a little bit and connected to the wifi while listening to the young woman singing folk songs in the lobby. We settled to download a set of photos of the mountains we just traveled through before we were summoned a few minutes later.

I was feeling rather unsettled as I had picked up on some strange vibes just before we had arrived to Jasper. I spoke to a few of the staff and they confirmed that there was a robbery onboard and a young German backpacker had his camera stolen. The whole thing really shook me and it took me quite a while to recover. In fact, it wasn’t until I met the young man, gave him some words of encouragement, and a copy of my book that I began to feel better. I reminded him that everything happens for a reason and that no matter what, he is never alone. Kevin seemed quite touched, and I could see a little glimmer of hope. Germans are not known to be huggers but he towered over me and gave me a big grateful hug.

We ended up getting our seats moved from the worst on the train (near the bathrooms) to a very comfortable four seat configuration which morphs into quite a comfy bed. Now Michael is curled up enjoying his sugar crash (and we didn’t even finish all the chocolate) and I am sitting here wondering if we are ever going to make it to Vancouver. The train has stopped yet again. Every time a freight train comes by we stop and wait for it to pass. There seem to be a lot of them tonight. We are still way out in the middle of no where. I am half expecting to see a Sasquatch tromp through the snowy shadows. Via has this special deal that if they are late, in certain cases you can get a credit to use on another train ride.  I am pretty sure at this point we are all going to qualify for the 50 percent credit since there is no way we will make up more than four hours today. I am getting rather sleepy though. I think its time to give my self a rest, with the lullaby of the engine and vibration of the cars to help me drift off.

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