All Aboard the Trans Canadian, Part II: Ontario is Frozen

Into the Wilds of Ontario

Into the Wilds of Ontario

Snow.  Nothing but snow.  I awoke to a strange new world blanketed by glistening powder accompanied by towering evergreens.

In just a few eyewinks, I went from a rain-soaked Torono to a frozen wilderness; a world where Princess Elsa and Jack Frost had definitely worked their snowy magic.  No sign of Olaf and Bunnymund, unfortunately.  From another view, it also looked like a scene out of The Revenant minus the hungry bear and an emaciated Leonardo DiCaprio covered in too much fur.  That might be a bleak comparison for such an amazing landscape but maybe it only looked like that because it was early in the morning, there was little sunlight, and it was overcast as well.  Still, it was one of the most unforgettable tableaus that I had ever seen.  Another thing that amazed me was when I just realized that I had no idea where the heck I was.  I mean, I knew that I was bound for Vancouver, but I didn’t know if I was still in Ontario or if my train had just crossed into Mantioba closing in on Winnipeg.  That was part of the excitement of riding a cross-continental train through Canada: not knowing exactly where you are.

Breakfast came early and it was delicious.  A short stack of blueberry pancakes with a massive dollop of whipped cream was served alongside a piping hot cup of coffee.  Part of the experience of dining on an overnight train ride is mingling with strangers and making new friends.  I spent my meal talking with a nice lady from northern Ontario named Nell.  In between bites of my blueberry pancakes she talked about how good the blueberries from Ontario are and asking me if it was my first time to Canada.  The most interesting thing she mentioned was that she had a relative from Australia and her vacation in Melbourne and Brisbane.  Never a dull moment on board the dining car.

Via Rail Blueberry Pancakes

Via Rail Blueberry Pancakes

Lunch came with a soup and a sandwich.  Well, a vegetable soup and a turkey wrap but was still yummy.  All the while, the scenery remained rustic but we were treated to a little more than just rows of timber and piles of snow.  The train passed alongside and over a few rivers that were either partially or totally frozen.  No sign of any beaver dams or animals taking a drink, however.  By the time the sun came out, the sunlight made the river shone in a way that made the water looked so translucent, I swear you could see all the way to the bottom.  I imagine this part of Canada is an ice-fisherman’s paradise.

Via Rail Soup and Sandwich

Via Rail Soup and Sandwich

For the rest of afternoon, my mom and I took turns staring out of the observation roof car looking for either wildlife or just any sign of civilization.  Alas, we neither the twain appeared but it didn’t change the fact that the trees were beautiful and the snow seemed to sparkle in the afternoon sun.  The climax of the afternoon came when our train pulled into the small town of Hornpayne.  One step out of the train and I was knee-deep in snow so thick.  It was exactly as I pictured it: you could barely see the ground-level platform, the station plaque names were nailed to either a tree or a lone telephone pole as if it was the middle of a forest, you could barely see the tracks, and the town pretty much consisted of a few stores selling supplies like tools and sundries in such a remote location.  I’m guessing this is what rural Alaska feels like.  Although I was outside for less than five minutes, the walk felt good especially after being a train for so long.  The brisk winter air and snow against my face was indescribably great.

Greetings from lovely Hornepayne, Ontario!

Greetings from lovely Hornepayne, Ontario!

Via Rail Hornepayne station

Via Rail Hornepayne station

Before dinner rolled around, our train continued rolling through the backwoods of Ontario.  While the sun rushed beneath the horizon, it was time for a little wine-tasting.  A crisp chardonnay labeled Union was followed by a mild, yet pleasing Merlot.  That was followed up by a rather bitter Pinot Noir and finished by a strong, yet smoky Cabernet.  I joked that my favorite red wine was Maneschevitz which earned both laughter and confused looks from fellow tasters.  I make no apologies for that statement in that it is the sweetest wine around, not to mention the only red wine that doesn’t give me a case of heartburn.  The Union-brand wine, however, was quite refreshing.

On Via Rail, sample some of the finest wines Canada has to offer

On Via Rail, sample some of the finest wines Canada has to offer

Dinner began with a plate of a pepper relish mixture that revealed a bouquet of flavors like dill, parsley, onion, tomato, raisins, peppers, and a spice that I just couldn’t put my finger on.  The toasted bread triangles with melted parmesan, however, made the perfect accompaniment to the peppery mixture.  For the entrée, stripped cheese ravioli with a generous portion of sautéed vegetables became a meal that would make any vegetarian proud.  Heck, even the proudest carnivore would find this dish palette pleasing.  The menu, however, did say that it would smothered in a four cheese mixture.  I was picturing a cheese sauce like an alfredo sauce; it was a tomato sauce that featured those cheese as a garnish.  Still good, though.

A three-course meal aboard Via Rail

A three-course meal aboard Via Rail

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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