You have to like trains to enjoy a day like today. Fortunately, I love trains. You might have guessed from this trip and others I’ve mentioned that my ideal vacation involves movement, whether that’s on a canoe, hiking, biking, or taking the train. I’m not the type to take a beach vacation and just sit on a beach. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a beach day or week, just that I prefer the sense of progress I get from a journey. Today was four hours riding to the canyon, 90 minutes to sightsee while you’re there, then four hours back. Sometimes the train sits on the siding while we wait for a freight train to go by, which can be annoying if you’re trying to get somewhere. In this case, that was 20 minutes of bonus train time. It was cold, windy, and raining, but I didn’t mind as I was warm, sheltered, and dry. The timing was perfect for a rest day as otherwise I’d be riding through the inclement weather. The only downside to the rain is that it made it hard to take pictures as my phone kept focussing on the raindrops on the window instead of the scenery beyond it.
I got up before dawn for the 45-minute walk to the train station, and got on as soon as I could to secure a window seat. Turns out I needn’t have bothered. The train is undersold to ensure everyone’s comfortable, and an entire tour group cancelled last-minute so we were really able to stretch out. I had an entire four-seat area to myself. The seats are arranged in a manner that you can recline without bothering anyone. It’s like the opposite of air travel. I was able to read and look out the window, nap and look out the window, watch a video and look out the window, have a beer and look out the window. All the while northern Ontario is going by, with all the lakes and trees and rocks and trestle bridges. It was glorious.
They did something clever on this train: at each end of the car is a TV connected to a camera on the front of the train so you can get a sense of what’s coming up. Sara and I once took the train from Prince George to Prince Rupert, then back through Prince George to Jasper. On that train the engineers would use their walkie-talkies to tell our conductor when anything interesting (bear, moose, scenery) was ahead. That was a two-car-long train so it worked well. This train was six cars long so the closed-circuit signal was invaluable.
At the canyon stop you have your choice of short hiking trails, leading to waterfalls and a lookout. There’s just enough time to do them all if you’re dedicated, which of course I was. I put my raingear on and set out as soon as the train stopped. The rain and fog obscured the views of the canyon but you could still get a sense of the place. I’d like to come back on a sunny day, but that’s mostly because it’s a pleasant trip; I don’t feel like I missed out on anything because of the weather.
The washrooms are old enough that they still have the crank-operated paper towel dispensers, which I haven’t seen in decades. I took this train in 1987 on a family vacation and I barely remember it, but I bet those towel dispensers were here on that last visit. It’s an odd thing to get excited about, but it brought me back to elementary school where I used them everyday.
The problem I had with my wheel outside Drumheller never really went away, despite the best efforts of two bike shops. I suspect I damaged the rim on a curb or a big pothole somewhere. Fortunately Sault Ste. Marie has a great bike shop named Velorution. I was able to call ahead and have them order a new wheel for me and they fixed it while I was on the train. I’ve been riding for the past 2500 km with a slight hop to the wheel. Every time it spins I bounce up and down a little bit. I’m looking forward to it not doing that anymore. They also noticed the chain and cassette needed replacing and did that for me as well. It’s been a very productive rest day.
Today’s Distance: 0 km (228 miles of train-riding, tho)
Cumulative Distance: 4465 km