In This Issue:

FEATURED TRIP: In the Path of Lewis and Clark
CRUISE OF THE MONTH: Great American Waterways
JOURNEY OF THE MONTH: Great Canadian Pacific
BEHIND THE SCENES: Authors and Architects
THE WAY IT WAS: Chateau Lake Louise
PHOTO OF THE MONTH: Twilights Greets the Queen Mary 2
DID YOU KNOW? What to Do in Banff
A TASTE FOR TRAVEL: Pumpkin Cobbler Cake
TRAVEL TIPS: Top Ways to See the Canadian Rockies
NATIONAL PARK TRIVIA: There’s Life in the Desert
IN YOUR OWN WORDS: Guests Speak Up



FREE NIGHT IN CHICAGO! Receive a second pre-trip hotel night in Chicago before our 20-day Great American Waterways cruise tour embarking on June 30, 2016. Note that this is an EXCLUSIVE offer that is made available ONLY to subscribers of this e-newsletter and must be redeemed by calling Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893. This offer expires Friday, February 5.

Featured Trip

 In the Path of Lewis and Clark

Join us on a very special voyage of discovery which combines a journey aboard our own private vintage Streamliner train, the Great Western Limited, from California to lovely Portland, where an overnight luxury hotel stay awaits you along with plenty of free time. With comfortable Pullman sleeping car accommodations, fine dining with our own chef (all meals, wines and spirits on this special train are included) and magnificent scenery, there is no finer way to travel to the City of Roses. Little touches abound from welcome gifts and fresh flowers to Afternoon Tea. Our guests enjoy not only Vista-Dome travel but a voyage aboard the riverboat Legacy on an epic journey in the path of Lewis and Clark, traveling by river all the way into Idaho on the Columbia River. What can you expect? Check out the day-by-day itinerary:

The Legacy passing through a Columbia River Lock.


Depart California

Depart the San Francisco Bay Area tonight aboard our special Great Western Limited over the Cascade Route of the Union Pacific Railroad. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy classic train travel at its best in the style of the 1940s with fresh flowers, white linen, comfortable Pullman sleeping cars and grand dining. Free train travel to the San Francisco Bay Area is included today for guests needing connecting travel that reserve early. Once en route, enjoy a special welcome reception with champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries in the Vista-Dome car.

Portland, Oregon

This morning we travel through the Cascade Mountains and a quick ride up the Willamette Valley for an afternoon arrival in the City of Roses. We check into the grandly restored historic Hotel Multnomah where suite accommodations await for an overnight stay. Tonight is a casual welcome dinner at Portland’s most fabled restaurant, Huber’s.

Portland, Oregon

All morning to sleep in with all day to explore the City of Roses. Nearby is fabled Powell’s Book, the best and largest book store in the country, a “must see” destination just a ten-minute walk from our hotel. Also worth seeing is Pioneer Square and the beautiful Rose Garden. We have left the evening at leisure for you to enjoy as you wish.

The Riverboat Legacy

Situated between the sparkling waters of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, Portland has flourished throughout history with the fortunes of the great rivers. In the golden age of riverboats, sternwheelers crossed Portland’s busy waterfront while steam whistles and calliopes rang out across the water. This afternoon we board the Legacy where we will enjoy champagne and hors d'oeuvres before dinner, and afterwards, gather in the Victorian-style main salon for a route talk in preparation for your journey through time.

Columbia River Gorge

Near the Columbia River Gorge entrance, you'll slip through the locks of Bonneville Dam and embark on a private tour of the massive turbines and fish ladders at the dam's Visitor Center. Since 1938, this historic landmark has supplied hydroelectric power. Travel by motorcoach to the towering Multnomah Falls, the tallest falls in Oregon. Back on board, cruise upriver through the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. At 80 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep, this river canyon cuts the only sea level route through the Cascade Mountains.

Snake River Cruising

After an early morning transit of the McNary Dam, you'll arrive at the confluence of the Yakima, Columbia, and Snake Rivers. Hillsides reveal the orchards and vineyards of some of the region's 160 wineries. Learn about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and its role in World War II's Manhattan Project. View the surrounding wheat fields and pass by massive wind farm turbines atop the hills. Observe the intricacies of locking through Ice Harbor Dam, followed by the Lower Monumental Dam. Step back in time with colorful stories about pioneer hardships and triumphs.

Clarkston / Hells Canyon

After your final upriver locking at the Lower Granite Dam, you'll dock in Clarkston to delve into the history and culture of the Nez Perce people. Historical sites connected to the Lewis and Clark Expedition abound in this area, including Clark's first encounter with the Nez Perce in 1805. Board a covered jet boat for an invigorating ride into Hells Canyon. This free-flowing river, hemmed in by vertical cliffs, cuts its way through North America's deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet. Protected as a National Recreation Area since 1975, Hells Canyon preserves a world of fascinating natural and cultural elements. Keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, golden eagles, and 7,000-year-old Indian petroglyphs. This evening marks your return downriver for a vibrant combination of Lewis and Clark history, river lore, and wine.

Walla Walla

A visit to Fort Walla Walla offers a pioneer village, Living History presentations, a museum, and extensive galleries. Recognized internationally for its award winning wines, turn your attention to the vibrant wine making industry that thrives in and around Walla Walla. This wine country was shaped by its desert-like conditions, rich volcanic terrain, and controlled river irrigation. Enjoy the pride of this appellation with a tour and tasting at one of the region's distinctive wineries.

The Dalles, Oregon

It's a day of culture at the Maryhill Museum and Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. With its collection of European paintings, Native artifacts, the museum's collection is housed in a castle-like chateau situated on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. The Discovery Center's exhibits provide a look into the area's geologic origins of volcanic upheavals and severe floods; the effects of the Ice Age; pioneer life; and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Transit The Dalles, another of the eight dams harnessing these mighty rivers.


Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, you'll step back in time with a visit to Fort Clatsop and Astoria. Fort Clatsop National Monument is a replica of the encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition during the winter of 1805-1806. The fort was the Corps of Discovery's last encampment before their return trip east to St. Louis. Visit the fascinating Columbia River Maritime Museum and take time to stroll through the quaint Victorian streets of Astoria. Enjoy a Farewell Dinner this evening, then relive the week through photos and storytelling hosted by your Legacy guides.


Your crew serves another excellent breakfast this morning before bidding you “adieu.” Disembark for your included transfer to the Portland airport.

Beginning at just $4,895 per person, this 11-day Pacific Northwest holiday departs June 15, 2016, July 13, 2016, August 10, 2016 and September 7, 2016. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


 Great American Waterways

At Uncommon Journeys, we have long had a reputation for designing holidays that are without equal in terms of imagination and uniqueness and to this end, we have created a brilliant itinerary: downtown Chicago to Newport, Rhode Island by small coastal liner via Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, the Welland Canal, Lake Ontario, the historic Erie Canal and the Hudson River. Our 20-day Great American Waterways cruise departing June 30, is so special, we only offer it once. Nicer still, not only will our guests view America, up-close at “see level” but we have included an amazing collection of ports on the way like quaint Mackinac Island, Detroit, Cleveland, Erie, Oswego, and West Point.

The charm of the Grand Caribe, a mini-cruise ship.

Happily, in addition to interesting ports, our pocket cruise ship, the 88-passenger Grande Caribe, is the perfect antidote to those tired of huge, mass-market cruise ships carrying 4000 guests at a time. With an all-American crew, life aboard is casual and informal with no need for dressing up. Meals are superb and are naturally included in the fare. Snacks and beverages are available 24 hours a day and there is a comfortable observation lounge in addition to open deck space. Better still is what the Grande Caribe does not offer: no napkin folding lessons, tired Vegas-style cabaret shows, gold chains by the inch and the relentless nickel and diming found on so many ships nowadays. Guests enjoy a low-key, relaxed voyage on a well-designed ship, able to get up close to small ports of call. All cabins are comfortable with in-room facilities and both the lounge and dining room can seat all guests at one time.

Since one can never have enough time in Chicago, our guests enjoy an overnight stay at the fabled Palmer House Hilton along with an overnight stay aboard the ship docked right at Navy Pier before we set sail, thus allowing two nights in the Windy City. We have intentionally left plenty of free time to explore all that Chicago has to offer including the nearby Art Institute and Grant Park, the Museum of Science and Industry. Saving the best for last, after our voyage from Chicago to New England, we disembark in historic Newport, famed for its opulent mansions and seaside setting, for a two-night stay at the Newport Marriott. Of course, this holiday is fully escorted by a professional tour manager from start to finish with special parties and events both ashore and aboard the Grande Caribe. But, with only 44 cabins, this voyage will fill up quickly so prompt reservations are encouraged!

  • Complimentary train travel to Chicago from any Midwestern point. Guests living in other parts of the country may take advantage of our special 'Add-on' train fares ranging between $99 and $299 depending on your home city. For those with less time, we also offer special airfares beginning at $199 per person with additional details available on request.
  • Fully hosted by professional tour manager from start to finish handling all of the details with special parties and events ashore and aboard the ship.
  • Overnight stay in Chicago the evening of June 31st at the storied Palmer House Hilton, the best location in town, just steps from the Art Institute, Millennium Park and State Street shopping and Grant Park. A second night in Chicago is spent aboard our ship docked at Navy Pier along with a special sailing day lunch at famed Giordano's Restaurant known for its authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza.
  • Fifteen-night passage from Chicago to Newport, RI via the Erie Canal aboard the mini-liner Grande Caribe with all meals and beverages while aboard included.
  • Two-night stay in glorious Newport, RI with its opulent mansions and great history after the voyage at the superb Newport Marriott including sightseeing and a special Farewell Dinner. We provide a complimentary transfer to Boston airport and train station on the final day of the holiday.

Our 20-day Great American Waterways cruise tour embarks on June 30, 2016 and features only one departure. With a price beginning at just $5,695 and only 44 staterooms available, it will book quickly. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 to reserve your spot today.


 Great Canadian Pacific

Our 13-day Great Canadian Pacific cruise/train tour departing once-only on April 30, 2016 is a throwback to one of the greatest companies ever associated with train and ocean liner travel in the 20th century, a legacy that lives on today. No company had become more associated with a region than was Canadian Pacific Railway with the Canadian Rockies during the golden era of travel by train and ocean liner. Canadian Pacific Hotels spanned the Dominion of Canada from Victoria to Halifax and the three crown jewels in the Canadian Rockies were the fabled Banff Springs Hotel, the stunning Chateau Lake Louise and the stylish Jasper Park Lodge. On the western edge of British Columbia stood the legendary Empress Hotel in Victoria, the final outpost of Canadian Pacific Hotels. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that we have tailored a Springtime holiday to the Canadian Rockies that features four great Canadian Pacific Hotels, along with a short but sweet ocean voyage and travel aboard the last great train in North America, Via Rail Canada's iconic domeliner Canadian. All at the perfect time of the year when crowds are less, spring wildflowers are abundant and waterfalls are roaring. This is an elegant vacation with many nice touches, from a tour to the wine country during our port call in San Francisco, to special cocktail parties aboard the ship to Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. Naturally, there is a tour manager to handle all of the details so that you may relax with time to take that perfect photo or enjoy the second scone at afternoon tea. 

The unabashed beauty of Banff.

Our holiday begins in Los Angeles with a special sailing day luncheon aboard the historic Queen Mary in Long Beach, a fitting start to a nostalgic journey. We then board the spacious and comfortable Crown Princess of Princess Cruises for a rare six-day Pacific Coastal voyage that includes a full 16 hour visit to San Francisco, an usual port call in Astoria, Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River and best of all, a full 16 hour visit to Victoria, British Columbia with time not only for the Empress Hotel but Butchart Gardens, shopping and sightseeing as well. After the relaxing ocean voyage, we offer the scenic passage from Vancouver to Jasper with the Rockies segment timed for daylight viewing aboard Via Rail's 'Canadian' with its classic Vista-Dome cars, comfortable Pullman sleeping cars, excellent dining and the fabled end of train 'Park Car' with its Mural and Bullet Lounges. There is simply no finer way to see the Canadian Rockies.

  • Six-night voyage from Los Angeles to Vancouver aboard the Crown Princess of Princess Cruises with a full day visit to San Francisco, as well as Astoria, Oregon and Victoria, British Columbia in addition to superb ocean travel.
  • Superb shore excursions including the Napa Valley and Sausalito during our call in San Francisco and Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria are included.
  • Travel aboard Via Rail's Vista-Dome Streamliner Canadian from Vancouver to Jasper in First Class sleeping accommodations including meals.
  • Six days in the Canadian Rockies with one night each in Jasper and Lake Louise and three nights in Banff.
  • Travel through the Columbia Icefields Parkway with a special Sno-Coach ride atop the Athabasca Glacier.
  • Complete sightseeing in the Rockies including Maligne Canyon, Peyto Lake, Banff Hot Springs and a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain.
  • Grand dining including Le Beaujolais in Banff and breakfast at the storied Chateau Lake Louise Hotel the morning we visit this most photographed lake.
  • Professional and experienced tour host from Uncommon Journeys.
  • Free or low-cost train travel to Los Angeles and the start of the trip.

Our 13-day Great Canadian Pacific cruise/train tour embarks on April 30, 2016 and features only one departure. With a price beginning at just $4,695, it’s sure to be the hottest ticket in town. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.



 Authors and Architects

The unexpected architectural drama of the Seattle Central Library

Some people are weird. Nearly everyone has a particular interest or quirk that makes them unique but that some people might call weird. For some, that weirdness manifests itself in the urge to avoid the usual and seek the unusual. They like feeling that sense of discovery. The adrenaline rush of finding something new. They know they’re not the only person to see a particular sight or have a particular experience, of course, but the feeling that they’ve wandered off the beaten path and uncovered something interesting is an urge that just can’t suppressed.

If you want to wander off the beaten path, stand near Pike Place Market near the waterfront and then head in the opposite direction from the iconic Space Needle. You may have heard that the Seattle Central Library was rather interesting but it is more than just something quirky or unique. It will turn out to be far more than you expect.

The library was architecturally interesting so you will think that you might want to pop your head in for a few minutes but you’ll soon discover that although a trip to the Seattle Central Library was supposed to be a refreshing detour, it became a destination.

Built at a cost of $167 million and designed by Rem Koolhaus and Joshua Prince-Ramos of LMN Architects, it has vaulted onto almost every list of significant architectural achievements in the United States. It’s not famous because it is a big building although at nearly 400,000 square feet, almost 200 feet high, covering a city block and containing nearly 1.5 million books, it is undeniably overwhelming. No, it’s famous because it is an extraordinary structure, one in which you are always discovering a new spot, a fascinating new angle and a new view on the world which, of course, is exactly what reading a book will do for you. The concept of discovery through reading and architecture is unified.

I remember walking in and stopping, overwhelmed by a vast atrium-like space where through clever design, each level looked different and worthy of exploration. As I soon discovered, the slanted walls and cantilevered floors felt like a trip through the looking glass, a feeling amplified by a connection corridor painted gloss red from wall to wall and ceiling to floor. Overlooks on higher levels, slanted floors and natural light drew me in. If you plan on spending 15 minutes or so in the library, be prepared to suddenly discover that two hours have gone by…all without even opening a book!

And that is the hallmark of great architecture. It serves its purpose, in this case housing the city’s largest collection of books and reference material, but it also inspires. A building is a structure, but it’s not always a destination. The Seattle Central Library is even more than just a destination. It makes you feel inspired and uplifted. It imparts a child-like sense of wonder. It makes you feel that everything is just as it should be. That’s no easy task. Movies try to do the same thing but few succeed. A good book can instill those same feelings.

And travel does it as well. A well-crafted trip will, by definition, take you places. But it doesn’t always leave an impression. At Uncommon Journeys, we certainly try to craft adventures that elevate mind, body and soul. Not every moment of every day achieves this lofty goal but we know we are able to provide a consistent string of such transcendent moments. Everyday life is ordinary. Be uncommon and seek out the weird and different. It will change you for the better.

Seattle and the chance to visit its extraordinary library are part of our 8-day Elegant Canadian Rockies train tours departing June 23, July 21, August 18 and September 15 and our 16-day Yosemite to Denali cruise/train tour departing June 12, July 10 and August 7.



Chateau Lake Louise

The setting deep in the Canadian Rockies is idyllic.

There are some places in this world that seem almost too perfect to be true and that is certainly the case with Chateau Lake Louise, a grand hotel built on the lakeshore next to a glacier high in the Canadian Rockies outside Banff. It harks back to the days of the great railroads where their transportation networks were augments by luxurious hotel properties to drive more passengers to their trains. The Canadian Pacific Railway was, perhaps, the most famous and, arguably, the best at building fantastic hotels in the wilderness. Built at the turn of the 20th century, Chateau Lake Louise was a showplace and its baronial style influenced the nearby Banff Springs Hotel built a few years later as well as the stunning Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. Though the original wooden structure burned in 1924, a stone replacement was built, augmenting a second wing of the hotel that had opened in 1913. A further addition in 2004 matches the style of the historic structure.

Though the Canadian Pacific Railway was dedicated to moving passengers and freight from coast to coast through Canada’s rugged interior, they recognized the incredible natural beauty of the lands they were traversing, some of which cried out to be tourist destinations. Rather than only build grand hotels in cities, they erected them in dramatic settings such as the shores of turquoise Lake Louise opposite a glacier and ringed by mountains. The hotel is actually located inside Banff National Park which itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And the view is precisely the same today as it was over 100 years ago. Breakfast or lunch at Chateau Lake Louise is a feature of several of our trips in the Canadian Rockies, such as our 8-day Elegant Canadian Rockies train tours departing June 23, July 21, August 18 and September 15; our amazing 13-day Canadian Panorama train tour departing May 5; and our 13-day Springtime in the Canadian Rockies cruise/train tour departing May 16.


Twilights Greets the Queen Mary 2

The Queen Mary 2 heads to sea. Photo courtesy of Cunard Line

There’s something magical about an ocean liner at twilights as the deck lights begin to come on the panoramic windows and portholes glow with a cozy warmth, lights bath the funnel in a dramatic stage production of silver beams. Inside, guests are sitting down to multi-course dinners, sipping cocktails in the lounges, laughing over card games with newfound friends, listening to jazz quartets or strolling the decks and viewing the distant horizon. A ship is a city at sea and during the daytime, those details are lost in the glare of the bright sun. At night, the lights overwhelm the profile of the ship. But at twilight, the grandeur of travel by sea and the majesty of the ocean liners that will take you there merge into a stunning display, such as we see in this month’s featured photo of Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2.

If you’d like to see a photo from one of your own Uncommon Journeys trips featured in our newsletter, just email it to us at and be sure to note in your email that we can use it for marketing purposes.


What to Do in Banff

The view from a stroll along the Bow River in downtown Banff.

We recently sent our blogger on our 8-day Elegant Canadian Rockies train tour of Banff and the Canadian Rockies and his perspective gives you an idea of the perfect way to spend your time in and around this stunning mountain town.

“First, let me point out what I’ve done during my time here in Banff. We’re staying at the Banff Park Lodge, which is this gloriously retro-chic mountain lodge with huge sloped roofs, a cozy ski chalet vibe and spacious guest rooms. There are balconies with mountain views and the fresh scent of pine trees all around. There are several restaurants including an Italian spot with an Alberta twist and a casual restaurant with walls of glass and one of the best breakfast buffets I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying (and which, thanks to Uncommon Journeys, was included free of charge each morning of our stay). Maybe it’s just me, but everything tastes better in Banff. The location is perfect with the hotel perched on the Bow River at one end of the very walkable downtown.”

“The day we arrived in Banff we had the evening to do as we pleased which was a wonderful chance to unwind and settle into our new surroundings. For me, a cocktail in the Terrace Lounge next to a stacked stone wood-burning fireplace was the perfect way to enjoy the sunset. Our first full day in Banff began the next morning with a morning sightseeing tour which included a ride up Sulphur Mountain on the famed aerial gondola for a panoramic view of Banff and the surrounding Canadian Rockies.”

“I’ve ridden gondolas to mountain tops before on trips to places like Telluride, Aspen and Vancouver. But Sulphur Mountain was, pardon the pun, several notches above those other experiences. There are portions where it’s easy to forget you’re going up a mountain and instead you literally feel as if you’re flying through the Canadian Rockies with even distant snow-capped peaks seeming close enough to touch. At the top, you truly feel as if you are on top of the world. I kept breathing deeply as though I could inhale all the beauty around me and take it with me back down the mountain. I couldn’t exhale again until I was sitting in the famous mineral waters of Banff Hot Springs, a natural wonder with steam rising from the waters on this crisp fall mountain day. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day except for one problem: the day was far from over.”

“Back in Banff, we had the afternoon to do whatever we chose and for me, that meant a spin through the shops of downtown admiring the hand-crafted jewelry, clothing and the lovely art work in the galleries which featured both sculptures and paintings. A quick nap back in the room and I joined the group in the lobby of our hotel for a short walk to the Maple Leaf Grill for a complimentary dinner billed as our ‘Welcome to the Rockies.’ It was a nice touch and despite the fact guests were welcome to dine on their own if they wished, everyone gathered together for this special dinner. We were more than a tour group at this point; we had become one family traveling together.”

“The next morning was a tour to Lake Louise where we enjoyed breakfast at the legendary Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a grand railroad hotel built by Canadian Pacific Railway and which dates back to the 19th century with the oldest portions of the hotel clocking in at 102 years old (the original structure burned down in the early 20th century). The hotel is situated to make the most of its natural surroundings and the Caribbean blue of Lake Louise behind the hotel stand in glimmering testament to this effort. The water is a mind-boggling light blue (rather than the deep azure one might expect of a mountain lake) thanks to the sediment in the lake which refracts the sunlight. That sediment comes from the runoff produced by Victoria Glacier at the head of Lake Louise and which, along with the grounds of the hotel, forms a scene that you have undoubtedly seen before since the hotel and lake are the quintessential postcard view of the Canadian Rockies. The entire time I was standing there, I kept waiting for the page to turn since it seemed as though I was standing in the midst of a travel brochure. Yes, it really is that amazing.”

“The morning was followed up with stops at Lake Moraine and the Valley of the Ten Peaks along with a drive through Yoho National Park. I realized that today was a day that encapsulated the full, unrestrained beauty of the region. Jagged peaks blanketed in snow, emerald and topaz lakes, and carpets of pine trees were our playgrounds for the day. By the time we returned to Banff (and let me point out that virtually everyone in our group decided to participate in today’s tour despite having the option of relaxing in the hotel), we felt a bit overwhelmed by the majesty and scale of all we had seen. We walked a couple blocks into town and found a small, cozy restaurant for dinner. Somehow, the log walls and intimate scale seemed both soothing and reassuring. It was the perfect way to end the day.”

“And the next day was the perfect way to spend our last day in Banff. There was no organized tour. All of us were free to wander through town and set our own schedule which is something almost unheard of on your typical escorted tour. Then again, four nights in Banff is also something unheard of but it seemed that somehow Uncommon Journeys listens to the feedback from its guests and what other tour companies ignore, they embrace. I was told before I left that one reason the company schedules so much time in Banff is that in its early years of operation back in the 1990s, they kept getting guest feedback lamenting how much there was to do in Banff and not enough time to do it. Our extra day on our own was a direct result of those early lessons.”

“We lived it up with a stroll through town, a stop at the acclaimed Whyte Museum to discover the history of this dramatic and intriguing region of Alberta, and then afternoon tea back at the hotel beside floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Bow River. That evening, our entire group gathered together for the ‘Farewell Dinner’ at Le Beaujolais, an elegant restaurant that has been a favorite of the Royal Family when they have come to Banff.”

“While we were ushered into a private dining room and presented with menus peppered with contemporary French cuisine, I noticed with amusement how much difficulty the wait staff was having in trying to take our orders. No one seemed to be able to be quiet long enough to let them explain the dishes on the menu. We knew this was our last night together and the convivial conversation was at its peak. We weren’t strangers. We weren’t tour group members. We weren’t fellow travelers. We had truly become friends. And we didn’t want to miss a moment of our time together.”

Our 8-day Elegant Canadian Rockies train tours depart June 23, July 21, August 18 and September 15.


Luxury in Yellowstone

Lewis and Clark

This map by Lewis and Clark changed a nation’s view of itself.

One of our trips, our 11-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark riverboat/train tour, is really a modern day homage to the pioneering exploration of this brash duo that opened up the American West. Their primary purpose was to identify a water link via rivers across the continent. Of course, this was back before trains opened up all regions of the West. In the early 1800s, paddling along rivers was the primary way commerce moved in the young nation. Remarkably, Lewis and Clark’s incredible journey was largely forgotten for a full century until the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis called attention to the path blazed by the two gentlemen.

In total, 33 people led by Lewis and Clark left the Indiana Territory in 1804 and began to follow the Missouri River westward. It was a harsh journey. Near what is now Sioux City, Iowa, Sergeant Charles Floyd died of appendicitis. As the expedition plodded toward the Pacific, they encountered more than two dozen tribes of Native Americans. Part of Jefferson’s edict was that Lewis and Clark were to establish sovereignty over any natives living on the land and the small band of explorers almost came to blows with the Sioux.

After wintering in what is now North Dakota, they availed themselves of the translation skills of a French fur trapper’s Shoshone wife named Sacagawea. Trekking along the rapidly dwindling Missouri River, the group eventually found the Missouri River’s source and then had to cross the Continental Divide, carrying their canoes, until reaching the Clearwater River, Snake River, Columbia River and finally the Pacific. Spending their second winter in the wilderness near what is now Astoria, Oregon, Lewis and Clark headed for home in the spring of 1806 but soon split into two teams, one led by Lewis and one led by Clark. The journey home was more trying, with Lewis fighting the Blackfeet and Clark running into trouble with the Crow nation.

Despite the hardships of the journey, both men would have returned relatively unscathed if it were not for a hunter accompanying the group who accidentally shot Lewis in the thigh, thinking he was an elk! He survived and by September 23, 1806, the men had reached St. Louis, established America’s legal claim to its new territory and started the movement to settle the vast expanses of the West.

It was a remarkable journey that took just under three dozen souls across an unexplored nation and back, facing hostile tribes, rugged terrain and harsh winters. Through it all, the spirit of discovery was a beacon that guided Lewis and Clark along the way. It’s that same beacon that lures travelers to follow in their footsteps today.


Maya Angelou


“Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.” Maya Angelou


Pumpkin Cobbler Cake

It’s that time of year when pumpkins are featured in our recipes.  

As the crisp temperatures surround us and we enter the winter season, here’s an even tastier substitute for the ever-popular pumpkin pie. Our celebration of the pumpkin begins with Thanksgiving and culminates again with the spirit of the season in December but it’s a wonderful ingredient that can star in any dish all winter. Try something new with our recipe for Pumpkin Cobbler Cake. It has all the taste of pumpkin pie, the sweetness of a cake and the delightful crunch of a cobbler. If you join us next year on our 8-day Fall Colors in Quebec and Vermont train tour departing October 8 or our 10-day Journey to the Great Smoky Mountains train tour also departing October 8, you just might have the chance to visit a pumpkin patch or two and pick up the key ingredient.

3 eggs
1 box of yellow cake mix (not the pudding kind)
1 stick margarine
1 large can of pumpkin pie mix (spices already in it)
2/3 cup of PET milk (1 small can)
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
French Vanilla Cool Whip to taste

For topping, mix 1 cup dry cake mix, ¼ cup sugar, ½ stick margarine and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together with steak knives until crumbly – set aside

For crust, mix 1 egg, ½ stick melted margarine with remaining dry cake mix and press into bottom only (not the sides) of greased 9 x 13 pan
For filling, mix 1 can pumpkin pie mix, 2 large eggs, 2/3 cup of PET milk together until smooth and then pour over crust. Sprinkle topping on top of filling and bake 45 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool for 10 or 15 minutes and refrigerate 5 hours. Top with French Vanilla Cool Whip when serving.


  Top Ways to See the Canadian Rockies

Which vista will be your lasting memory?

People absolutely love the Canadian Rockies with its emerald and turquoise mountain lakes, the soaring jagged snow-capped peaks, the lush carpets of pines and the colorful pop of aspens. Toss in the occasional waterfall, moose and bear sighting, and you have one of the most beautiful places on earth. We can tell you with certainty that our trips that include the Canadian Rockies are always in high demand here at Uncommon Journeys. As we were formulating our 2016 schedules, we created some of our most interesting trips to this spectacular destination. The beauty of the area is so profound that many compare it quite favorably to the Swiss Alps. And, of course, the true beauty of the Canadian Rockies is that with Uncommon Journeys, you can see them without flying across the Atlantic – unlike the Alps.

In 2016, we have Canadian Rockies trips ranging from 8 days to 13 days and from $2,995 per person to $4,995 per person. We include the Canadian Rockies on journeys departing from Seattle, Toronto, Los Angeles and San Diego. Two of our trips start with a cruise while others are solely visits by train. Variety is the spice of life, wouldn’t you agree?

One of our most popular is our 8-day Elegant Canadian Rockies train tours departing June 23, July 21, August 18 and September 15 which begin with an overnight rail journey on our Great Western Limited private Vista-Dome Streamliner train from Seattle to Whitefish, Montana. We then spend a night inside Glacier National park at the historic Lake McDonald Lodge and include both a cruise on Lake McDonald as well as a ride on one of the park’s famed red jammer buses along the Going to the Sun Highway. Next up is a night in Waterton, Alberta where the American Rockies become the Canadian Rockies. The highlight of the trip is four glorious nights in Banff with two special celebratory dinners, a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain, breakfast at Chateau Lake Louise and a day tour of the wonders of Banff National Park, including the breathtaking beauty of Moraine Lake.

For those with a little more time who have always wanted to travel across Canada by train, we have our amazing 13-day Canadian Panorama train tour departing May 5. A ride from Toronto to Vancouver on Via Rail’s The Canadian routinely is listed among the Top 10 Train Rides on earth but we don’t hurry though the Great White North. We start with a night in Niagara Falls and then a night in Toronto before boarding The Canadian, a perfect 1950s time capsule with the famed Vista-Dome cars, a real old-fashioned dining car and first rate dining and service. Guests gather for cocktails in the swank, end-of-train Bullet Lounge before a welcome aboard dinner in the art deco diner as the train heads west over the Canadian National Railway. The next two days and nights are spent rolling across Canada, finally debarking in Jasper for a night at the Crimson Lodge before heading to Banff for four nights with side trips to the top of Sulphur Mountain, Chateau Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. After an icefields tour outside Jasper, guests rejoin The Canadian for the overnight train journey to Vancouver where the trip ends with an overnight stay in the heart of the city at the Sheraton Wall Centre overlooking the harbor.

Our 13-day Springtime in the Canadian Rockies cruise/train tour departing May 16 adds a twist with a five-night Pacific Coast cruise from San Diego on Holland America’s exquisite Amsterdam with port calls in Santa Barbara and Victoria on the way to Vancouver for a day of sightseeing and an overnight stay before boarding VIA Rail’s The Canadian for an elegant overnight journey to Jasper and a two-night stay at the Crimson Lodge. From Jasper, guests enjoy an excursion to Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake and a drive on the Columbia Icefields Parkway on the way to Banff with a Sno-coach glacier ride. From the Rimrock Resort in Banff, guests have three nights with included sightseeing to attractions such as Sulphur Mountain, Chateau Lake Louise, Bridal Veil Falls and Moraine Lake.

Finally, our 13-day Great Canadian Pacific cruise/train tour departing April 30 also begins with a coastal cruise but in this case it’s a six-night voyage from Los Angeles to Vancouver on the Crown Princess with stops in San Francisco, Astoria, and Victoria en route. After a day of sightseeing, guests board Via Rail’s classic The Canadian with its sleek silver Streamliner cars, stylish lounges and elegant dining, for an overnight on the rails to Jasper and a night at the Jasper Park Lodge. The next day’s highlight is the night at Chateau Lake Louise in its idyllic setting on a glacier-fed lake high in the Canadian Rockies. The next three nights are spent in Banff at the Banff Springs Hotel with tours to the Banff Hot Springs, a ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain, Moraine Lake and the chance to stroll along the Bow River to the falls, have afternoon tea or visit the wonderful Whyte Museum.

Not only are the ways to see the Canadian Rockies varied, so are the fares. The 8-day Elegant Canadian Rockies train trips begin at $2,995 per person, the 13-day Canadian Panorama train trip beings at $4,995 per person, the 13-day Springtime in the Canadian Rockies cruise and train trip begins at $3,995 per person, and the 13-day Great Canadian Pacific cruise and train trip starts at $4,695 per person.


There’s Life in the Desert

There’s beauty underfoot as well.

When our guests visit Arches National Park in Utah, they spend most of their time looking up. After all, the features that capture the attention and fuel the imagination are found overhead in the delicate arches and towering buttes. It is the other-worldly rock formations that are the biggest draw. But only looking up tells only half the story of Arches National Park. If you look down, you see a world clinging to life, trying to survive in the harsh desert landscape. The National Park Service (NPS) website for Arches National Park (just click here to visit it for yourself) points out that the park has three different kinds of plants: drought escapers, drought resistors and drought evaders.

“Drought escapers are plants that make use of favorable growing conditions when they exist,” the NPS explains. “These plants are usually annuals that grow only when enough water is available. Seeds may lie dormant for years if conditions are not favorable. Most grasses are escapers, as are wildflowers that bloom after seasonal rains during spring or late summer.”

“Drought resistors are typically perennials. Many have small, spiny leaves that reduce the impact of solar radiation, and some may drop their leaves if water is unavailable. Spines and hairy leaves act to reduce exposure to air currents and solar radiation, limiting the amount of water lost to evaporation. Cacti, yuccas and mosses are examples of drought resistors. Yuccas have extensive taproots that are able to use water beyond the reach of other plants. Moss, a plant not commonly associated with deserts, thrives because it can tolerate complete dehydration: when rains finally return, mosses green up immediately.”

“Drought evaders, the final group, survive in riparian areas where water is plentiful. Monkey flower, columbine and maidenhair fern are found in well-shaded alcoves near seeps or dripping springs. Cottonwoods and willows require a lot of water, and only grow along river corridors and intermittent streams where their roots can reach the water table easily,” the NPS concludes.

So it turns out there’s a lot more than meets the eye in the desert, if you just take a few moments and look down instead of looking up. Arches National Park is included in our 15-day Best of the West train tours departing June 11, July 9, August 6 and September 3.


Guests Speak Up

“My sister and I just had the most wonderful trip on your Fall Colors in Quebec and Vermont trip, hosted by Conrad Tausend. We had never been to this part of Canada before and it was a great treat. Everything, from the hotels to the meals to the sightseeing, was excellent. We particularly liked Le Westin in Montreal, truly a five-diamond hotel and to have three nights there was a special joy. We loved Quebec City and Vermont as well. The vintage train part from Manhattan to Montreal on the first day of the trip was the perfect beginning. Thank you again and please let us know future trips Conrad will be hosting.” – Georgia D.

“I took the Fall Colors in Quebec and Vermont trip with Conrad in October. Lydia and I loved it. The trip was very pleasant, fun and interesting. Conrad had everything well organized and was very helpful to anyone's concerns such as helping people that made alternate return travel plans. The general consensus of the people I talked with was that Quebec is very fascinating from a history and architecture viewpoint.” – Jerry O.

“We’re sending this email to tell you how pleased we are with the Best of the West trip to the National Parks we participated in during September. The pace of the tour with free/resting time was just great and all accommodations and meals were very nice with attentive staff. Conrad, the tour guide, was exceptional in his method of including everyone in discussions and his knowledge of areas visited. We also were recipients of a beautiful Yellowstone book from Conrad and Uncommon Journeys and an overnight stay on the Delta King steamboat in Sacramento. We thank you so much for all of this, the kindness and courtesy of your staff and for Conrad making our first tour a real joy!“ - Lynn & Dollie R.

To submit your own comments about a trip and to be featured in our monthly newsletter, just email us.



* Note that this is an EXCLUSIVE offer that is made available ONLY to subscribers of this e-newsletter and must be redeemed by calling Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893. This offer expires on Friday, February 5, 2016 and is only available for new bookings.