Rockin’ round the Rockies

We left Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer, which is one of the top ten train journeys in the world, and possibly the most luxurious (although I have no basis for comparison).

There is a lot to see from the train and I took a lot of photographs, but won’t inflict them all on you. I was fascinated to see the osprey nests everywhere. They are quite interesting in that they collect everything to make their nests and red and blue fabric seems to predominate in all of them.


This puzzled me for a while and then I noticed red and blue fabric discarded near the rail lines, but it was everywhere.

Wildlife abounds, but it’s really hard to capture.


Because spring is in the air, young animals were beginning to make their appearance, as in the photo of the mountain sheep above.

I was fascinated by the colour of the rocks caused by the different minerals. This photo shows copper, sulphur and iron (I think, correct me if I’m wrong).


Everywhere we looked wonderful scenery was in abundance – mountains, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, trees, on and on it went, and sometimes the water in the lakes was so glassy that wonderful reflections were to be had and the water was crystal clear. So beautiful.


It was really hard to capture the beauty of the landscape from the train – the windows were very reflective and, of course, the train moves along fairly quickly, but I have done my best and reproduce a few here for posterityIMG_2025

The train had an outside vestibule, which was really nice for getting fresh air and taking photographs, and a fabulous glass roof in our seating area, which allowed us to get an almost 270° view of the landscape. Qantas should take note of the way the seating is organised – plenty of leg room!

Entrepreneurs have built amazing structures along the way, some of which grew out of tearooms or other small businesses into fairly large businesses, and thus contributed to the landscape in a different way.



We saw a variety of wildlife, but I think the most prized sighting is that of the bear – no matter which sort. Here is a little black bear, newly awoken from its hibernation, fossicking for food at the side of the railway track.


Stunning waterfalls were almost around every turn as the snow melted and came pouring down the mountains


With melting snow comes avalanches and rock slides, and the trains are protected by these “sheds” or half tunnels – this did make for a more relaxing trip!

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This elk crossed the road in Kamloops and had a bit of a swim across the river to get to its friends.IMG_2124

We finished our trip in Banff, having made new friends and being wowed by the scenery. The Rocky Mountaineer did not disappoint in terms of comfort, food or scenery. It was a fun two days, but it was time to say goodbye and move to the next part of our holiday


We were installed into the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, which is a pretty nice hotel, and then we began exploring the area.


We spotted these interesting rock formations known as “Hoodoos”, which are a bit like our Pinnacles, and evolved in much the same way.


It was still pretty chilly up in the mountains, even though spring had reputedly sprung, so I was wearing almost everything I owned – all made by me, except the scarf.IMG_2157

I completely fell in love with the mountains, such grandeur, and beauty. This photo was taken from the Gondola and I can see the hotel in the photo if I look carefully.IMG_2209

The view from the top was absolutely splendid, but it was really, really cold



The inside of the hotel was glorious. I was captivated by windows and views. Doesn’t this one look a bit like a painting?



We found ourselves quite alone in the conservatory


and the ballroom.


I have to say that we couldn’t resist taking a turn around the floor, but we didn’t look terribly elegant. Not like the couples in this photograph. I so want one of those dresses!


I think I’m in the wrong era – how gorgeous does this look?

Apparently people would turn up with a $50,000 bank draft and book in for three or four months, swanning around looking terribly elegant. Whilst I like the idea, I think I would get cabin fever pretty quickly!



Our next stop was the Fairmont at Lake Louise, and yes, it’s another fabulous hotel!

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In the early days of the area, mountaineers tried to conquer the mountains and many met a fairly sticky end. In the end, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) hotels, who wanted to bring tourists to the area, invited Swiss and Austrian climbers to immigrate and make their way to the summit of many of the mountains. These climbers were made to feel so at home that the Canadian Pacific Railway built them an authentic looking Swiss chalet in the grounds of the Chateau Lake Louise and this is where they lived.


There is a nice article on these stalwart men here. There are subtle tributes to these brave and hardy souls throughout the hotel: the bell hops wear a Swiss uniform and there are magnificent chandeliers throughout the main lobby area which depict Swiss wives holding lanterns to guide their menfolk home – so charming!


Speaking of lights, we noticed some incredible Art Deco lights scattered throughout the hotel – here are a few for your enjoyment.

There is also some lovely stained glass and it depicts the interrelationship of people, animals and the environment. I took a lot of photos, but will only put one here – the Wolf


Lake Louise was still frozen, which added to its beauty. This is the view from our room and those squares in the snow denote the boundaries of the skating rinks.


A photo of the mountains, the hotel and Mark sitting near the outdoor fire. Whilst we were sitting here there was a very loud avalanche.


The Fairmont Lake Louise is another massive chateau style hotel, but probably not as beautiful as the one in Banff which makes my heart beat just a little faster.


We visited Johnston Canyon, where the water has carved its way through rock and formed a lovely waterfall



The water is still fairly frozen and it’s interesting to see a waterfall which is in the middle of a thaw


We visited the Yoho National Park. Yoho means awe and wonder, and I think it’s a word I might adopt!


The aforementioned avalanche blocked the road we were supposed to take to the Columbia Icefield necessitating a 9 hour detour, which meant we missed out on going on the glacier. I’ve done it before, but was disappointed to miss the newly constructed icewalk around the edge of the glacier. No matter. There were further avalanches and we may have been caught on the road, so I was glad to be safe. This one happened to be man made – they were doing a “prescribed avalanche” but it went horribly wrong!

Photo credit:

Apparently it is not just a question of removing snow; avalanches are full of rubble and set like concrete. There are a few days worth of work here!

One of the spectacular things about the Rockies is the colour and clarity of the water. Emerald Lake was frozen over, so it was hard to see the brilliant green, but Maligne Canyon showed us exactly how beautiful the water could be.

Of course the wildlife is a delight and so different from our Australian fauna. In the National Parks they are protected from the roads and railway lines by specially constructed overpasses and underpasses.


The overpasses are grassy with trees planted along their length. They are decorative and obviously work as we saw absolutely no roadkill. Many of the underpasses have streams and rivers running through them so that water fowl and swimming animals can make their way across. Of course to make this work, every road is completely fenced off keeping the animals safe. I wish Tasmania would do this! I have seen versions of this in the eastern states of Australia.

I was thrilled to see what I think is a Chipmunk hiding under a beautifully inscribed rock.


Due to the avalanche (and there were another couple overnight) we didn’t do the tour we were supposed to. Instead, we got picked up by a guide who happened to be of Métis descent (Joe from Jasper Tour Company). We were lucky enough to be the only people he was trailing around and he was absolutely extraordinary, both in his knowledge and the way he could pick out an animal or bird many hundreds of metres away. We were able to see cayote


and mule deer


And this little deer wandered right into our paths and mooched around without being at all bothered by us. Those are the Canadian equivalent of long drops in the background. Mark commented that he’d never seen a frozen long drop before!

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We saw many animals, although not a moose, but they hide in the trees and it’s really hard to capture them on the camera. We were thrilled to see two Bald Eagles – one in the nest and one sitting in a tree, but I couldn’t get a decent photo of either.

We saw a whole herd of Elk, although they didn’t want to see us and turned their backs. We did manage to see a couple of faces though

Joe had us traipsing up hills and through forests, which was fabulous, but he is also a fine photographer and took this quite clever photo of Mark and me. Check out the linked website to see some of his photographs of the local area.


We visited more waterfalls, but I was also delighted by the mosses, lichen and the formation of the trees. This one is growing horizontally and is almost forming a natural bridge – although I wouldn’t want to cross it!


Joe had a boot full of interesting artefacts. This moose antler was really heavy and I could not imagine carrying two of them around on my head!


and a last photo of an unknown lake, but I like the composition of this photo so am including it.






29 thoughts on “Rockin’ round the Rockies

  1. OMG the scenery, architecture and my favorite the pictures of you and Mark are amazing! Love the jumper by the way. Looking forward to more pics and our catch up when you get home.x

  2. I have also done this journey but at a different time of the year. Just fabulous. Some great photos Sue- especially the last one!

  3. I am really enjoying your travels around my part of the world. I’m a biologist, and have worked throughout the southern interior of BC and in the Rockies around Banff and Yoho. I know I am so lucky to live here. I’m pretty sure your picture of a ‘chipmunk’ is a hoary marmot – pretty much the cutest animal ever. Chipmunks are tiny with stripes down their back. Marmots are much cooler (and less commonly seen). Could your unknown lake be Harrison Lake in Western BC?

    1. Oh. Hoary Marmot! How very exciting. I shall amend the blog post. Thank you. The lake could well be Harrison Lake as we did go past that. Because I don’t have my phone connected to the internet it doesn’t know precisely where we are. Thank you so much!

  4. Like you I live in Australia and I am interested to know how you organised your trip. Did you do it through a travel agent or did you do the research and organisation yourself?
    Your travelogue is amazing. The scenery is stunning and I love your inclusion of the Art Deco lampshades.

    1. Thank you! I organised the trip myself but the 16 day rail component is a tour that I booked with Canada Rail. It has been excellent!

  5. Yes, I recognize a marmot there. They are very common here, as well as chipmunks, which you will see everywhere. Sue, your photos are amazing and your travel review should be presented on a Canadian tourism blog. Domestic tourism would escalate!

  6. The photos are sooo impressive. I would love to go to Canade now too. Thanks for your texts and explanations, too, I loved reading all of it!

  7. my goodness, your post is like a love letter to Canada! Well done with all the animals, it is so easy on the freeway to not spot anything.

  8. I was going to comment that you caught a marmot on camera, but I see someone else beat me to it. I love marmots! The first time I saw one I was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, sat down on a log to take a break, and one crawled out from the log between my legs. They’re about 20 times the size of a chipmunk so it was a bit surprising. I almost fell off the log!

  9. I’m way late reading this, and everyone has already identified the marmot. I saw some in Switzerland some years back and my daughter bought a toy which was moved quietly around the house so you never knew where he might be.
    Your photographs are gorgeous – although it does look frightfully cold!

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