We were up early after a poor night’s sleep. We got to the dining area of the hotel feeling a bit groggy but that did not last long. Running this Comfort Inn’s breakfast area, is a little elderly lady who’s name badge reads “Grandma Judy.” After listening to Judy speak, I knew she was from the Maritimes – turns out from Cape Breton. When she heard we were heading to Newfoundland and her neck of the world the volume got more animated and louder. She started regaling us with stories and what we would see and then starting telling jokes to everyone in the room. She had us all wide awake and rolling in laughter. My favorite of her jokes today:
“ Two elderly ladies meet after years of not seeing each other. One says – Oh my husband Ernie, he’s a real Saint, honest to God a real Saint. Her friend responds. You are so lucky, my husband’s still alive.!”
How could your day not get off to a good start after a belly laugh? We got to the train station in good time and left on our adventure on the dot of 8 a.m. The train car was in good condition although by the end of the day, we found the seats a little hard on the touche.Today we would travel 114 km north of Sault Ste Marie to Agawa Canyon. The train is well equipped to provide as much information as possible to it’s passengers. Mounted on the front engine is a camera that feeds television screens in each passenger car. The beauty is you can see what’s coming up and get the camera’s ready. It is obvious the crew cleaned both in and outside windows, as taking a decent photo through the window was easy. On board were 2 CN staff plus train crew and two hosts from the City of Sault Ste Marie. They all worked hard to ensure we had a good experience. In addition to the camera, from time to time the TV will switch to videos giving the history of the area and seems to match up to the area we are travelling through. As particular points of interest come up, the overhead speakers alert you and also let you know which side of the train the area of interest can be found. There is no way to turn the train around so they suggest on the way back, people switch to the other side of the train to get a close up view of what they may have missed on the way out. In addition every guest receives a souvenir brochure. Every detail is well planned.
Once the train leaves the station they serve a hot breakfast for those wanting it. The average cost was $10 to $13 for a hot breakfast but beverages were extra. At noon you could order a boxed lunch or eat in the dining room. Lunch is served from noon (arrival time in the canyon) until 4 pm. The train stays in the Canyon for 90 minutes allowing people to take one of three hikes in the area, or just relax and enjoy the scenery. I opted to hike the Talus and River trails.Brian opted to have a beer in the dining room and wait for my return.
I started out on the forested trail and wends it’s way along to the Black Beaver Falls. The walk is covered with the forest canopy and is fresh and wonderful. I used to hike in the mountains, until Brian’s knees gave out and I think I must return home and starting hiking again. I forgot how much I loved walking in the forest. After visiting the falls, I crossed over the tracks and walked along the river back to the awaiting train. We were very lucky with the weather today as clouds and rain were in the forecast but we had sun and clouds. Once I returned to the train we had lunch in the dining car and were there when the trained pulled out heading back to “ The Sault.” The train has about 140 people on it today which afforded everyone double seats facing each other, so Brian and I (as did everyone) had a total of four seats. We could face forward in the direction the train was travelling, or backwards watching the landscape slip away.
During this time of the year, the CN is doing track repairs so we had several delays coming back and ended up returning an hour later than planned. We grabbed a quick take out to bring back to the motel. It has been years since I road a train and forgot how the rocking can almost lull you to sleep. Both of us fought sleep during the afternoon however several passengers gave in so the trip back was pretty quiet. As the tracks were laid amid rock and forest, you don’t often see anything but trees and rocks. The trip can be monotonous, especially when you have spent the past two days driving through trees and rock. From time to time we had great views and I managed to snag a couple of photos today.
There are many lakes in this area, most have no access by road. People build cabins here and come up on the Sault Ste Marie passenger train that runs to Hearst. They are simply dropped off at their request. This area is known for great fishing and the lakes restocked annually.