Our destination for the first fall tour of the year was a train tour to Agawa Canyon. It was a bit early for the fall colors but the best times had already been booked when we started looking. Best to book really early if you want the prime times. The train leaves from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario located right next to the Walmart.
We arrived in the evening the day before to pick up our tickets. Turned out to be a good decision for a couple of reasons. There was a long delay at the border crossing. We joked that folks were already heading for Canada because of the election in the U.S.. It was a wise decision to stay on the Canadian side because the train leaves early in the morning. The second reason was because the ticket office was a zoo in the morning with everyone wanting to pick up their tickets.
With a little help we found the right train car. The train was full and tickets are for a particular car not a particular seat. I had tried to figure out which side of the train to sit on for the best photography but couldn’t find any hints. We finally decided to sit on the right side of the train with a nice view out the window. As it turned out the windows don’t open so all photography is through the window. Early in the morning folks on the right side of the train have the sun in their eyes. Probably the best strategy is to sit on the left side of the train on the way to Agawa Canyon then try and switch seats with someone on the other side of the train coming back. If that’s not possible I think the best views are from the right side of the train.
The train has television monitors throughout the cars and they provide some great videos on Sault Ste. Marie and the areas the train travels through. When the videos are not running they switch to a live view of the tracks taken from the engine. This helps with photography because you can see if there is anything to take a photo of. Most of the trip is through the woods so the only time you can take photos is when you pass a lake and have an unobstructed view across the lake.
Unfortunately it is difficult to hear the videos for several reasons. We happened to be in a car with some out of control kids. I though there were four of them but it turned out to be only two. After about a third of the way through the outbound trip the parents finally got them to settle down. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the two old couples sitting behind us. They started talking as soon as they got on the train and didn’t stop the entire 9 hour trip. It felt like listening to Seinfeld because the conversation was all about nothing. One of them had a grating voice and he just couldn’t shut up. When the videos came on they just started talking louder. I think they only mentioned something about the train trip twice on the whole trip. I’m still puzzled as to why they were on the train. If you want to hear the audio to go with the video you should sit as close to the monitors as possible.
Food and drinks are sold on the train but as you can imagine at a hefty price. As I recall the box lunch was $16. One thing to keep in mind is that most of the restaurants in Sault Ste. Marie and the train treat the US dollar the same as the Canadian dollar. In other words the Americans are really getting ripped off. The train does not accept credit cards so if you don’t have Canadian money you pay a premium for everything.
When you reach Agawa Canyon the train stops for an hour and a half. There is a hike to the top of the Canyon and several hikes to waterfalls. Unfortunately an hour and a half doesn’t really allow most folks to take in all of the sites. They operators should probably allow two hours at the Canyon. There was not much color in the Canyon so we decided to do the waterfalls first. We then decided to walk up the canyon wall. We made it about half way up before we decided we might run out of time and turned back.
Unfortunately the ambiance at the Canyon stop was marred by smokers. There was no smoking allowed on the train and as the train pulled in it was announcement that folks should refrain from smoking in the Canyon. As soon as the train stopped the smokers pulled out their cigarettes and it was impossible to walk around the picnic area without walking through a cloud of smoke. This was truly disgusting and upsetting to the non-smokers.
We picked a beautiful warm sunny fall day and the scenery was outstanding. The trip is over 9 hours so be prepared for a long day. There was quite a bit of color but it is probably best to plan ahead and schedule the trip around the first week of October.