We board The Canadian for the last stretch of our cross-continent journey on a bautiful spring day in Jasper. We are going to Kamloops, nine hour away in British Columbia.
The train ride from Jasper to Kamloops is another highly scenic stretch. The route climbs up quickly to the Yellowhead Pass, which is not only the the border between Alberta and British Columbia but also mark the change of time from the Mountain to the Pacific zone. The Pass, at 1,110 m, is one of the lowest points on the Great Divide. From then on it's all, at least figuratively, west and downhill. In reality, it's actually more south then west. Jasper marked the northernmost point of our whole Canadian route, quite surprisingly as both Cote Nord in Quebec and Sioux Lookout in north-western Onatrio actually felt much more northern.
The character of the train itself is different now. We left The Canadian at Saskatoon as our route took us to Calgary and the train goes via Edmonton ; we rejoined it in Jasper having missed the Saskatoon – Edmonton – Jasper sections. It's much more of a day excursion train now, with three seating carriages instead of one it had when we travelled on it between Toronto and Saskatoon. Many people in the economy class joined the train in Edmonton or Jasper, while those who have been travelling coach since the beginning are tired and a bit worse for wear, after three nights and two days on board. It is also more crowded, and there isn't enough room in the Dome observation car for all that want to sit there. Most of the time we stay in our seats, where large panoramic windows give plenty of visibility – as long as you are on the right side of the train.
The train does continue west for about fifty miles from Jasper, past more of the Rocky Mountain magnificence, and it passes close to the highest mountain in the Rockies - 3,954 meters (over 13,000 feet) - Mount Robson. It's an easily recognizable, imposing dome of rock, high enough to create its own weather system. The top is frequently veiled in the cloud but appears for us, somewhat ghostly, from behind the mist.
We pass small mountain settlements, often not more than logging and fishing camps, of which Valemont is the most significant – with barely 1,000 population. Valemont marks the meeting point of the Rocky, Caribou, Monashee and Selkirk mountains.
The views are still pretty good, with Pyramid Falls near Blue River particularly impressive but only briefly visible to the side of the track and many lakes and streams between the railway and the towering mountains.
For the last section of the journey to Kamloops the train follows the course of the Thompson River, and there is much marshy wetland. I am certain I spotted a moose in one of the watery glades, but as it remained pretty immobile, it was hard to be sure.
It gets dark a couple of hours before we arrive, and it's close to midnight when we disembark at Kamloops North – one of those train stations, located like airports, on the very periphery of a city, which kind of defies one of the main points of travelling by train which is to arrive and depart in the centre. We manage to organise a cab and soon we are on the way to our Kamloops host.