“So, where are we going this time?”
For me that is one of the most exciting ( freighted with possibilities and anticipation ) phrases that anyone can utter. I don’t care if it’s a walk, a car ride, a train or a plane trip. That sentence is a magical door to what might be, “ . . just around the next bend.”
As a kid living in the Southern California desert, if our family didn’t travel somewhere by car, we took the train. In the late ‘40s plane travel was still in its infancy and besides, we lived right on the main line of the Southern Pacific southern route. This meant we could board the train into L.A. and transfer at Union Station in L.A. (still a magical place to me) to most anywhere on this continent. If schedule permitted, we might even walk across the street to Olvera Street for some Mexican food. To make the trip meant I usually had a new outfit. Mom would lay it out the night before so the anticipation of the trip would tickle my tummy as I would go to sleep. I guess it’s no wonder I still love train travel!
Well, this time I’m going to share with you another magical train trip that lives right here on the west coast. It’s called The Empire Builder and it travels east out of Seattle.
I know I already talked about the train trip north out of Redding but , in my last article, I failed to cover the part from Portland to Seattle. Part of the time you follow the Columbia river into Longview, WA, then it is beautiful rolling countryside into Tacoma. It is after leaving Tacoma that this part of the journey turns SPECTACULAR. Most of the way from Tacoma to Seattle you are right on , and sometimes over the water’s edge of Puget Sound. Along with being spectacularly beautiful , it’s also interesting to watch the water traffic on the Sound. Everything from pleasure boats to container ships.
Here’s the scheduling hitch. The train north out of Redding doesn’t make a good connection. The Empire Builder leaves Seattle about two hours before the train from Redding gets in. This, however, is not an insurmountable problem. Remember in my first train article, I made the statement that you don’t travel by train if you are in a hurry? Here’s an example. It’s simple enough to solve. Just plan on spending the night in Seattle.
Spending a night in Seattle gives you the evening and a good portion of the next day to explore Seattle and its environs. Or for me, I love taking a ferry out to Bremerton or Kingston or just about anywhere a ferry will take me out of the main terminal. . . . which is, btw, walking distance from the train station, as is Pike Place and the fish market. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that the dining in and around Seattle is pretty spectacular..
So, back to the train. The Empire Builder leaves Seattle late in the afternoon. The first hour or so of the journey takes you right along the water’s edge, north along Puget Sound before turning east and heading up over the Cascade Mountains via Steven’s Pass. What a spectacular, breathtaking route. Again, plan to have dinner in the dining car or grab a seat in the observation car. You’ll spend a couple of hours with your mouth hanging open as it is pretty jaw-dropping scenery. Towering peaks, lush forests, crashing waterfalls . . . . Steven’s Pass has it all.
You can take this train all the way to Chicago and see some pretty spectacular scenery while transversing the Rocky Mts. Or you can debark and spend the night in Wenatchee or stay on the train to Spokane or Coeur d’Alene. Any or all of the above offer great possibilities.
Here’s my suggestion (which, along with three bucks will buy you a cup of coffee). Stay on the train into Spokane or Coeur d’Alene, then get off and rent a car. Take a couple of days and drive the Selkirk Loop up into Canada, coming back down into either one of those cities where you can then take the trip home!!
Sound like a plan? Don’t forget to let me know so I can go with you!