The Forgotten Gem

March 28, 2017
By Kevin R. Tam, President

Half of the fun of traveling is discovering the places you think no one else knows about and then coming back with fascinating stories of your adventures. Usually, the places you think no one else knows about might consist of a secluded path along the edge of a lake, an off-the-beaten-track huckleberry pie café or a hidden mountain stream. Usually when we think of things that are hidden, we think of things that are small. But sometimes we need to think big. Very big. In fact, very, very big.

Few people have heard of Waterton Lakes National Park but it is unquestionably one of the biggest hidden gems I’ve ever uncovered. It’s the national park no one seems to know about yet it’s hiding in plain sight. Waterton Lakes is in Canada and just across the border from the far better known Glacier National Park in Montana. Together, the two parks compose the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first multi-border park in the world. Waterton Lakes National Park is a Biosphere Reserve, an International Peace Park and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which makes it the only park on earth to lay claim to these three important titles.

Stroll along the shore in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Waterton Lakes National Park itself is 195 square miles of mountains, lakes, streams, forests and wildflowers, all named after a conservationist from the Victorian era, Charles Waterton. Inside the park, two of the must-see sights are Buffalo Paddock and Red Rock Canyon. Buffalo Paddock is a protected area of prairie grassland containing most of the park’s buffalo which are easily visible from the road that loops through the enclosure. While the grey granite, white snow-capped peaks, deep blue lake waters and verdant green forests might be the expected colors of a Canadian national park, the red rocks of the Red Rock Canyon look like something out of Arizona or New Mexico.

The park was first protected in 1895 and is Canada’s fourth national park and the smallest in the Canadian Rockies. The area’s beauty was first recognized by a rancher named F.W. Godsal who suggested in 1893 that the Canadian government protect the area. The park’s name was inspired by the Waterton Lakes which were named by Lieutenant Blakiston after Charles Waterton so it is the name for the lakes that inspired the name of the park, not Waterton on his own.

The quaint downtown streets of Waterton.

According to the Waterton Lakes National Park website, “several different ecological regions meet in Waterton - with prairie plants of the Great Plains, Rocky Mountain plants from northern areas, and coastal plants from the Pacific Northwest all overlapping. The park contains 45 different habitat types, including grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, lakes, spruce-fir, pine and aspen forests, and alpine areas. This means Waterton has an unusually rich and varied number of plants for its size, with more than 1000 vascular plant species, 182 bryophytes and 218 lichen species. Many of these are rare or threatened. More than half of Alberta's plant species can be found in Waterton.”

“The park's variety of vegetation communities provides homes for many animals, including more than 60 species of mammals, over 250 species of birds, 24 species of fish, and 10 reptiles and amphibians. Large predators include wolf, coyote, cougar, grizzly bear, and American black bear. The grasslands are important winter range for ungulates such as elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. In the fall, the marsh and lake areas of the park are used extensively by migrating ducks, swans, and geese. Some animals found here are considered rare or unusual, such as trumpeter swans, Vaux's swifts, and vagrant shrews.”

Natural wonders abound, such as this unexpected in-town waterfall.

Unfortunately, few people visit Waterton Lakes National Park, but Uncommon Journeys offers the park as part of our 8-day Elegant Canadian Rockies tours departing June 22, July 20, August 24, and September 14, 2017. While there are many tour programs to the Canadian Rockies, only Uncommon Journeys offers one with a magical and nostalgic beginning: travel aboard a 1940s style private Vista-Dome streamliner train, our own Great Western Limited.

At Glacier National Park we have included the storied Going to the Sun Highway on the famed red open-air 'jammer buses' and this is only an entrée to our next visual treat, breathtakingly beautiful and seldom-visited Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, a charming village many of our guests consider the highlight of their Canadian Rockies holiday. We then travel to Banff, stopping en route at the acclaimed Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, for a four-night stay in the heart of Banff Township. Few tours offer four nights in Banff and this allows time not only to see the nearby area, but we have included visits to lovely Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Yoho National Park and more. There are also large amounts of free time for you to enjoy this remarkable mountain setting at your own pace.

If it sounds like the trip of a lifetime, that’s because it is. And if you want to tell stories of the hidden treasures you’ve discovered along the way, then Waterton Lakes National Park is certain to top the list.

As always, visit us at the Uncommon Journeys Facebook page for the latest news, our monthly newsletter, photos and lively discussions about luxury train travel, our itineraries and the fantastic places we take you. You’ll be among the very first to hear about new trips, new offers and future sweepstakes.

Uncommon Journeys is your source for private train, national park tours, ocean liner trips, cruises, cruise vacations, small ship cruises, river cruises, riverboats, American river cruises,family vacations, railroad trips, luxury trains, classic train travel, vintage trains, train trips, train tours and train vacations.

 

Cuisine On The Great Western Limited

By Kevin R. Tam, President

Train travel is about the ambiance and nostalgia of rail transportation. It’s about rekindling a feeling that the world is not in a rush and you don’t need to be either. There’s no checking email in the gate area of an airport, turning on cell phones the moment a plane lands or texting every moment on the plane up until the “all electronic devices must be turned off” announcement is made. Train travel moves at a relaxed pace but still with a definite sense of purpose.

The service is superb and though I don’t want to diminish the service that hard-working flight attendants might give, it’s still not the same as the more genteel style seen on a train. There was a time when airline food was the butt of a great many jokes but if you’ve noticed that seems to have disappeared. I don’t know about you, but I hardly hear them any longer at all. I thought maybe airline food jokes had simply run their course until I realized that the reason no one makes fun of airline food any longer is because, well, there isn’t any! A bag of peanuts is a bag of peanuts. Not much to poke fun at there. In fact, more often than not, we’re grateful if our flight even includes such a snack. The days of serving hot meals in all classes of a plane are long, long gone.

Today, the features that make train travel stand out are clearer than ever before. At Uncommon Journeys, we try to raise the bar even higher with our own private rail cars, such as the Great Western Limited. This special mode of travel is a feature of many of our trips in the Western United States which take in a dazzling array of national parks.

Enjoy fresh fish that teases the taste buds. 
Photo courtesy of Pullman Rail Journeys.

While the traditional décor, high-end service and sense of comfort on the Great Western Limited are a big draw, we hear the most accolades about our cuisine. What can you expect when travelling with Uncommon Journeys on the Great Western Limited? A lot.

We have plenty of ways to start your day. Many guests opt for eggs, home fried potatoes and a choice of bacon, sausage patties or country ham while other like to add in an Angus breakfast steak instead of the other meat choices. Real (not canned) corned beef hash with eggs are one of my favorite choices.  Naturally, there’s plenty of coffee, tea, toast and fresh fruit, jams and jellies. A wonderful indulgence is our strawberry and banana stuffed French toast. The strawberries and bananas are mixed with a cream cheese compote and surrounded by a perfectly-cooked and crispy piece of French toast. Those looking for a lighter breakfast lean toward our fresh fruit bowl with berries, granola and yogurt or our cooked oatmeal with brown sugar raisings, sliced almonds and fresh fruit. We also offer everything from orange and grapefruit juice to tomato and cranberry juice.

Only the finest beef makes the cut. 
Photo courtesy of Pullman Rail Journeys.

Of course, breakfast is just the beginning of a day of fabulous dining on the Great Western Limited. There’s always a special soup, which changes daily, offered to get the taste buds warmed up for the entrees. Some of our guests prefer a light garden salad with a choice of Illinois Central Dressing or Pullman French Vinaigrette or an authentic Caesar salad which can be prepared to include roast chicken or filet of salmon. Our chilled tomato stuffed with chicken salad, tuna salad or cottage cheese and served with a refreshing pasta salad and fresh fruit often hits the spot. While our traditional grilled cheese sandwich gets a twist by being prepared with hearty Texas Toast and served with bread and butter pickles, traveling through the western plains and seeing fields full of grazing cattle often inspires our guests to order our Mainline of Mid-America Burger served on a special Pretzel Roll. Personally, I’m always drawn to our Capellini Pomadoro. The angel hair pasta tossed with a tomato cream sauce and topped with roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella is perfection on a plate. Top the meal off with a warm brownie or soft chocolate chip cookie and it’s a miracle I don’t sleep the entire afternoon away!

As tasty as breakfast is and as delightful as lunch can be, dinner is the spotlight event on the Great Western Limited. First, imagine tables set with fine china and a scene that is ever-changing as you zip across the countryside. You might start dinner with a view of a canyon, savor your entrée alongside a river and indulge in a decadent dessert in the mountains. That is the beauty of train travel.

An American favorite tops off a delicious meal. 
Photo courtesy of Pullman Rail Journeys.

And what’s on the plate is as memorable as what you’ll see out the windows. Our relish tray not only features the standard celery sticks and assorted olives but also spiced watermelon cubes that are so good you’ll be asking for the recipe. The garden salad is just the start of a meal where entrees include roasted Angus beef tenderloin with a Madeira demi-glace, herbed roasted breast of chicken with mushroom and sherry cream sauce, and pan-seared filet of salmon with vermouth caper butter and lemon wedges. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to love our roasted seasonal vegetables serve with herbed goat cheese and roasted red pepper coulis. Berries are the order of the day for dessert with chocolate mousse served with fresh raspberries or you may choose the strawberry-balsamic parfait with whipped cream and cookie crumb topping.

And as a prelude to a card game with new friends or gazing out the window at an awe-inspiring sunset over the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada or the Cascades, an after dinner drink seems to be the perfect way to honor the future of train travel and the magnificent meal you’ve enjoyed.

Have I whetted your appetite for train travel in one of the private cars of Uncommon Journeys? I sure hope so! I know I’m ready to head out on the rails as soon as I can!

As always, visit us at the Uncommon Journeys Facebook page for the latest news, our monthly newsletter, photos and lively discussions about luxury train travel, our itineraries and the fantastic places we take you. You’ll be among the very first to hear about new trips, new offers and future sweepstakes.

Uncommon Journeys is your source for private train, national park tours, ocean liner trips, cruises, cruise vacations, small ship cruises, river cruises, riverboats, American river cruises, family vacations, railroad trips, luxury trains, classic train travel, vintage trains, train trips, train tours and train vacations.