Traveller, Interrupted.

by Betsy Herbert

I had just arrived in Jasper, Alberta by train when I learned that my little brother David had passed away.

I had just arrived in Jasper, Alberta by train when I learned that my little brother David had passed away.

I’m a train travel enthusiast. I’ve taken Amtrak across the US several times, starting in Oakland, California and ending in either New York City or Washington, D.C. The scenery is unbeatable. As long as you remain flexible and don’t get too bummed when the train doesn’t stay on schedule, you will probably enjoy this trip.

In October 2014, when I was just committing to my 2015/2016 round-the-world trip, I decided to take the train across Canada, eventually ending up in New York City to board the Queen Mary 2 (QM2)  for her May 10 trans-Atlantic crossing to Southampton, England.

So...I bought a VIA Canadian Railways ticket for the train departing April 28 from Vancouver, B.C. to Toronto with a 3-day layover in Jasper National Park. I was looking forward to some great wildlife viewing in Jasper, including elk, big-horn sheep, and maybe even a grizzly bear.

The train ride from Vancouver to Jasper is spectacular. Jasper sits near the continental divide, and is surrounded by huge peaks of the Canadian Rockies.

On April 29, I checked into my B & B in Jasper. I took a short walk into town, just in time to witness wild elk munching away on the suburban gardens of Jasper. Apparently, the elk enjoy a status here similar to that of cows in India. They didn’t seem to notice me as I took photos of them.

I went to sleep early that night to get ready for the next day’s wildlife viewing in the park. But I was awakened a few hours later with news from my sister that our younger brother had passed away after a long battle with lymphoma.

I knew in an instant that I must return to California ASAP to be with my family and help organize my brother’s memorial service. So I cancelled the remaining legs of my train trip, and took a shuttle bus to Edmonton, Alberta, the closest international airport to Jasper.

This unexpected 5-hour bus ride introduced me to another side of Alberta: The fossil fuel industry and the paper and pulp industry. With Edmonton being the staging point for oil shale extraction, derricks dot the flat, brown landscape, and huge looming power transmission towers hint at the amount of fossil fuel energy that is exported to the rest of Canada from Alberta. From the bus, I also saw several paper pulp plants, where vast plots of little spindly trees go to be become paper pulp.

After 14 hours of traveling, I was back in San Jose. I was hugely relieved that I traded the remainder of my train trip for another six days to be with my family.

Travel to be resumed within a week. . .