Mo & Terry Smedley


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Jasper to Vancouver

Friday we had a few hours to explore Jasper before boarding our train to Vancouver.  We hired a van for a morning scenic and wildlife tour.  We encountered Mountain Sheep and Elk, but were unsuccessful at finding Moose.  We did have nice views of the Maligne (pronounced Mah-Leen) Canyon and Lake, and Pyramid Lake.

After a quick lunch in Jasper, we boarded VIA Rail's "Canadian" train for an overnight trip to Vancouver.  We had good views of the Rockies as we retraced our previous rail route to Mt. Robson, and then turned South towards Kamloops.   We enjoyed a delicious dinner in the full-service diner, and took in plenty of views  from the rear dome/observation car.  We arrived in Vancouver at 9:30AM, after a good night's sleep to the rocking of the train.  We were slightly delayed by new security measures implemented during the Olympics.  The train was searched by explosive-sniffing dogs in Kamloops just before midnight, and again just outside Vancouver this morning.

After checking into the downtown Hotel Vancouver, we set out on independent explorations of the city.  Bob and Betsy headed to the Punjabi Market to explore the East Indian shops and restaurants.  Mo and I rode all three lines of the SkyTrain light rail system, including a trip out to the Vancouver airport on the new Canada Line.  This line passes through about 8 miles of tunnel on its way out of the downtown area.  It's a very impressive infrastructure project.  We had dinner at one of our favorite spots in Vancouver, The Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown.

We headed to the Vancouver train station for an early departure on the Amtrak Cascades Talgo train to Olympia, then a quick drive home.

A fun winter trip!

The first stop on our van tour was at frozen-over Pyramid Lake, which had a skating path cleared near the water's edge.  That's Pyramid Mountain in the background. Bob and Betsy did some boot skating on the lake. We then headed to beautiful Maligne Canyon, which is also frozen over.  The upper canyon falls form a spectacular ice fall.
Our driver/guide, Bruce, points out features at the bridge over the Maligne Canyon. Bob at the Canyon overlook. From the Maligne Canyon, the sun was shining brightly on Pyramid Mountain. This is Medicine Lake, which is dry except during the heavy snowmelt season.  Water flows into here from Maligne Lake, and then exits underground to the Athabasca River.
At the end of the road is Maligne Lake, surrounded by a circle of mountain peaks. Back in town, we posed near Jasper the Bear. This is how I spent an hour or so each day - hunched over my tiny netbook putting pictures and the web pages together.  Stuck to the window, you can see a GPS receiver that I used to keep track of where we were.  Bob and I discovered that the coating applied to the dome car windows effectively blocked GPS reception there, but it worked OK in the coach or sleeping car areas. On the way down from Mt. Robson, the train slowed for a nice view of frozen Pyramid Falls.
A four course meal in the diner, served on china.  Betsy had lamb, Mo had halibut, and Bob and I chose chicken. In the diner. Only one of the berth compartments in our car was occupied, so Bob & Betsy were able to spread out between three compartments.  Betsy made a little "nest" in one..... ....a second one was used to entertain guests (us)....
...and a third was used for sleeping. Bruce the moose tucked in for the night, too. Betsy in the lower berth. Our bedroom was all made up when we returned from dinner.  Mo usually takes the lower bunk.  I'm OK in the upper.  On these Budd-built sleepers, there's quite a bit of vertical space above the upper bunk.  On Amtrak Superliner equipment, the upper bunk can be a little claustrophobic.
A fancy VIA embossed chocolate was on our beds when they were made up.  Mo reminded me that there were actually FOUR pieces of this chocolate waiting for us. The Budd-built Park series rear dome/observation car... a great place to watch the winter scenery roll by.  Champagne (or for Mo and me, it was cranberry juice) and appetizers were served in the observation car. After driving all over Jasper looking for wildlife, we saw this herd of elk wandering down the tracks at the station as our train departed Jasper.
Saturday morning as the train rolled into Vancouver, we encountered our first significant rain of the trip.  The train was held up here for about 40 minutes as security guards searched the undercarriage of the train for explosive devices.  All trains arriving during the 2010 Olympics will be completely searched. When we arrived at the downtown Hotel Vancouver, this seagull flew right up to the window and started a "conversation" with Mo.  The gull stayed around for 5 minutes or so, walking back and forth and looking at Mo. We took the SeaBus (ferry) over to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.  The Vancouver skyline is shrouded in dark gray this morning. This garbage can caught my eye as we left the ferry terminal.  Filled to overflowing with what appears to be coffee cups....
....and I would guess we have identified the source of the garbage.  Not a real good public image for Starbucks at this location. Inside the Quay, there is an open air market that feels a little like the Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish spread over a large area.  We had lunch here. Then, we boarded the SkyTrain (light rail) Expo Line for the trip all the way to King George station in Surrey.  Vancouver makes extensive use of high-rise apartments and offices to increase density.  This one is at the Central City station in Surrey.  We headed back to town on the SkyTrain Millenium line, then hopped on the new Canada Line for a ride out to the Vancouver airport in  Richmond.  This two-sided totem is in the departure lobby at the airport.
The other side of the airport totem. Preparations for the Olympics are in evidence everywhere.  The downtown Bay store is adorned four stories high with Olympic murals on all four sides.  Nearly every store in the downtown area has some kind of Olympic display. Downtown traffic changes are numerous, with dozens of signs warning of upcoming reroutes. Near the Hotel Vancouver is a countdown clock for the opening ceremonies.  13 days, 23 minutes, and 2 seconds as we  walked to Gastown for dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory.
This schematic SkyTrain map gives a good idea of the area covered by the light rail trains in Vancouver.  The original Expo Line (from Waterfront Station to King George in Surrey) is about 20 miles long.  The new Canada Line to the Vancouver airport is about 12 miles long, about half of which is underground in either bored or "cut and cover" tunnels. This is a more detailed map of the SkyTrain routes.  You can also see the SeaBus (ferry) route across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver on these maps.  We used $9.00 all-day passes to ride round trip on the SeaBus and, Canada Line, and to ride the Expo Line to Surrey, returning by the Millenium Line.  That's a pretty good day's ride for the money.