In June of 2013 my lovely woman and I packed our bags and ventured out to the wilderness of British Columbia. With GPS’ in hand and the wind at our backs, we stepped off the road and onto a less travelled path. What we found was an adventure waiting to happen, with kings, bronzed people and furry friends lying in wait! We both had experiences we had been wanting for a very long time, and saw things that looked like they were from a different planet, or at least from several million years ago.
Our good friend Aurelle dropped us off after work on Wednesday, June 26 at the James Richardson airport. The recently renovated airport is nice, and reminds me of much bigger airports in the US. What they intend to with 20+ terminals instead of the prior 4 I don’t know. We got there early and had a chance to chill out for a bit before the flight. It wasn’t long though before we lifted off and left the prairies behind like. I love flying! Julia’s ears sure don’t like flying though, and this part of the journey was painful for her. The Vancouver airport was massive, but familiar to me as I’ve been there a couple times before. We sat down in a restaurant in the terminal and had surprisingly good chicken fingers for airport food. It didn’t take long though for the second leg to begin boarding. I had overheard something about this flight being a prop plane, and was a little concerned about the noise, but my concerns were unnecessary as it was indeed a jet.
When we touched down in Prince George, we walked down a flight of stairs to the tarmac, and stepped inside a very small airport. It was a big change from Vancouver! Inside we found taxidermied animals and fish welcoming us, watching us enter. We were definitely out in the woods.
A shuttle took us to the hotel, where we dropped our baggage and then wondered where a person could get a meal in Prince George at midnight. Everything looked closed.
We went for a walk. I sat down on a bench next to a kindly lady, only to discover she had been turned to bronze. We only had a few good words before she froze solid. Then surprisingly enough, Julia and I just happened to walk in the right direction to find the only place open in town. Go figure. A beautiful little pub with live music and fifty different beers on tap materialized out of the darkness like a desert oasis. No mirage, Nancy O’s was a fantastic little get away all on its own. With enough beer to satisfy an NFL stadium, food delicious enough to put it in the upper ranks of elite restaurants in a big city and meat worthy of Omaha stockyards, Nancy O’s is exactly what one needs just before leaving civilization as we know it. The atmosphere reminded me a little of the Kings Head pub in Winnipeg, eclectic with its own unique feel, a chilled out venue with live music. Needless to say, we fell in love with the place.
The hotel was nice, and we prepared ourselves for it being the last night in a real bed. However, it was not to be.
The next morning we walked a short distance to the train station. We were early, which let us mosey around the station a little bit. I was delighted to find a book rack with books for reading while on the train. I saw a couple old favorites.
And then we embarked into the wilds of BC. It was truly magical watching the scenery pass by, going deeper into the heart of BC. The mountains felt like they were out of story books, high, grey crags and white snowcapped peaks. The woods were lush, green and fertile, bursting with life. The trees crowded close to the tracks, waving their spindly arms as our train rushed past. And after a little while, the conductor opened the doors between the cars to let us stand and feel the mountain air tangle it’s way through our hair.
This was one of Julia’s dreams, to take a train ride through the BC mountains. And here we were, smelling the pure mountain air, feeling the warm sun on our cheeks, inches away from the foliage. A couple times the train slowed to a crawl because there were animals on the tracks. The train stopped a couple times for breaks, dove into the bowels of the earth, and stopped in McBride for lunch.
A couple times it stopped to pick people up from small, inconspicuous stations, only marked by mostly hidden signs.
When we had boarded in Prince George, we had informed the conductor where we were headed, and the engineers indicated they knew where we were getting off. Thing is, our stop was one of those little hidden stations. There was to be a man waiting for us, but the train was running late, and he had gone back inside to call the rail company when we passed his stop. So the train passed where we were to get off, and when it came to a complete stop, it was too far to back up, and they couldn’t let us off because there were bears in the area.
“Do you want to stay on the train to Jasper, and come back tomorrow? Since it was our mistake, we’ll pay the overnight lodging,” says the conductor to us.
Uh, yes! After speaking to the man who had been waiting for us on the conductor’s satellite phone, every one was cool with the continuous journey to Jasper!
I don’t know if something can actually be *more* beautiful, but this unexpected jaunt to Jasper yielded mountains that felt transplanted from Mid-World. The beauty of the land from McBride to Jasper was just unbelievable. The woods became more lush, more evocative. The song of the forest was green, and it was loud and resounding. Life lives here! it sang. I will let the next few photos speak for themselves.
In Jasper the conductor accompanied us to one of the largest hotels in Jasper, explained what had happened, and made sure we were happy with our accommodations.
Both Julia and I thanked him profusely. Our bedroom was big and comfortable, and once we set our baggage down, we began wandering our unexpected treasure of a town.
We sat down in a lovely restaurant and with flowers all around us, ordered spanikopita. This was a dish I hadn’t had before but Julia assured me that it was indeed the best she ever had. We were buzzing with excitement, as this was so unexpected, and it was a welcome, fascinating surprise adventure on our vacation.
We relaxed and ordered several helpings of spanikopita. After a little while we resumed our wandering. We found a rock shop where a few crystals jumped out at us. A big quartz piece with ancient water trapped inside called out to Julia. A few others called my name too. I discovered a book by a favorite author, Anodea Judith, and simply could not leave it behind.
That evening we returned to the hotel, put on our swimsuits and headed to the roof. Yes, there was a hot tub on the roof. And the view was breathtaking. We soaked in the water while soaking in the beauty of Jasper, and it was recharging and invigorating. This was a swim I did not want to end.
So it was this night that was our last actual night in civilization, if you can call Jasper civilization. Jasper is very remote. And man, was it gorgeous.
The following morning we had a wonderful breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We did a little more wandering, and then circled around back to the train.
The conductor made sure the engineers knew what was going on, and that we were comfortable. He was extremely apologetic about the snafu. I must say Via Rail has some of the best customer service I have ever encountered.
The trip from Jasper to our stop was just incredible, yet again. It was a real treat to see the BC rockies so up close and personal.
Russ, the individual who was meeting us at the tracks was there today. The coordination worked out better, and we stepped off the train and into a prehistoric dreamworld.
This part of the journey I will detail and note in a future blog entry. This entry is already getting rather long. I will also link to it with this paragraph edited to reflect the new entry.
The return home was enjoyable. We were really looking forwards to relaxing on the train after so much work! When we got back into Prince George, we followed through on our desire, and went back to Nancy O’s. Once inside we ordered the biggest slab of meat on the menu. It…was…delish. The bed in the hotel was also exactly what we had been waiting for. It gave a real rest to a couple of happy but sore bodies after a week of work. We had had a good time, but we were happy to be back in civilization. Yes, after our past week, even the wilds of Prince George were welcome. The return flights were uneventful, and we found something for Julia’s ears to make it less painful on this return home.
The trip was fantastic, and we had really enjoyed it, but man was it nice to be home in Winnipeg.
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