Second day on the Rocky Mountaineer.

Trip Start May 12, 2011
Trip End May 29, 2011

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kamloops had been the trading centre for the Shuswap people for thousands of years before the first fur trading post was built in 1812. We left Kamloops and started to travel alongside the Kamloops Lake. The vegetation was much drier than we had seen yesterday. Often long freight trains passed by us going east, the longest one we counted was 193 carriages! Around Kamloops Lake there was no grid everyone either got their power from wind turbines or solar panels.

We passed by Walhachin started up as a fruit growing area by Charles Barnes who conatcted a company in England to give him backing for his grand vision. Irrigating the orchards was a big problem and although the community persevered it was a hard life. After the onset of the First World War many of the men returned to England to sign up and many never returned. By 1922 the last resident had gone and the town became a ghost town. Just outside Ashcroft we passed by a large Osprey's nest on a bridge. Ashcroft was founded during the Caribou Gold rush and is noted for having some of the hottest summers in Canada. With an average rainfall per year of only 6 inches it is the driest place in the whole of Canada.

We were travelling on the Canadian National Railway, unlike yesterday when we had to change drivers when we passed from the Canadian Pacific to the Canadian National half way through. We were following the Thompson River, a large tributary of the Fraser River named after the Columbia Basin explorer David Thompson. Along its course there were many small communities the most notable being Barriere and Clearwater. Suddenly we spotted an osprey hook out a large fish from the river and carry it away. I think the whole carriage on our side gasped.

In Avalanche Alley rock sheds and slide detection fences protect the rail track from the unstable terrain above. The banks of the Thompson River are extremely steep here and its waters become quite turbulent making for great white water rafting. We passed by a welded rail work train carrying some of the long tracks sections for the CN railway. The sections are welded together to form a continuous welded rail. They try to lay sections in the middle of the extremes of heat experienced in the location so as to prevent the tracks from pulling apart in the cold.

At Lytton there is the meeting place of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers. We were now following the Fraser River down to Boston Bar where there was yet another abandoned timber mill. The most exciting part of the river’s passage is when it enters Hell’s Gate where the water is forced through a narrow chute just 110 foot wide, creating fierce rapids. As much as 200 million gallons of water pound and surge through this gorge every minute!

From here we were travelling over the most expensive part of the tracks as there are so many tunnels in the Fraser Canyon. We passed by the towns of Yale and Hope both established as stopping places for the fur brigades of the Hudson Bay’s Company. Yale was furthest point where the paddle steamers could get up to and although it had a brief resurrection when gold was found in the area it is now almost deserted.

As we slowly made our way to Vancouver we passed the impressive Mount Baker renowned for the world record for the most snow to fall - an incredible 93 feet. As we got closer we got great views of the Port Mann Bridge and its incredible new 10 lane replacement that spans the Fraser River. It has been built at a cost of $3.3 billion to reduce the congestion on the crossing.

Finally we had finished our journey. It had taken us 2 days and taken us through some amazing Rockies scenery. It had been a great trip and Alex our attendant had been brilliant, with a breathtaking knowledge of the route. He lived just outside Vancouver half way up a mountain in a ski resort, the snow was still so deep he couldn’t yet park outside his house. It sounded lovely.

We picked up our cases that had been transported separately to the station and picked up a taxi to take us to the Coast Coal Hotel. The hotel was lovely much nicer than the corporate one we had had in Toronto and with a fabulous view over the bay. Not wanting to waste any time we literally dropped off our cases and went into town.

We decided to head for Gas Town a historic area of Vancouver located at the northeast end of Downtown. It was named after "Gassy" Jack Deighton, a Geordie seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area's first saloon. We found the famous Gastown steam clock powered by steam and part of Vancouver’s distributed steam-heating system. We located a bar and had a few beers and a plate of nachos before going back to the hotel for a reasonably early night.
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