It was a long trip, but definitely worth it! From Seattle to NYC via train is quite an experience. I love train adventures. I have to admit that it isn’t for everyone, but in my opinion, it’s the only way to really see this country of ours if you have the time. When traveling by train, you get to see areas that you wouldn’t see traveling by car, especially in the rugged mountain and forest areas of some states. Crossing over deep gorges and ravines filled with glacial fed wild rivers is a thrill beyond words. And the views…oh, the views! You can’t beat’em. The most spectacular views are seen in the western mountain states. I’m a bit biased when it comes to my own home state of Washington. We have just about every kind of topography there is, along with various climates. And then there’s Montana. Every time I take the train eastbound, I can’t wait to get to western Montana. I absolutely adore the Northern Rockies. The train snakes its way through Marias Pass and glides past Glacier National Park. (Watch the video) There’s even a stop at one of the park’s main lodges at East Glacier. How convenient is that? The train schedule is such that you pass through this area in the mid morning. If it’s not foggy, raining, or snowing, you will get spectacular views of the summits. Unfortunately, there were heavy snows mid April when my train passed through the area. This is not unusual for this time of year. But coming back, we passed through the area a bit before sundown and I managed to get a few shots. When photographing from a train window, it’s important that there is light shining on your subject and that you adjust your camera setting to “landscape” or “infinity,” otherwise the camera will focus on the window and not on the subject. Try not to use flash either as it will reflect off the window. Below is a wide angle shot taken just before dusk coming back west when a few rays of sunlight were still shining on the mountains.
Once you cross over the Continental Divide, slopes gradually give way to rolling hills and the great plains of eastern Montana that seem to go on as far as the eye can see. There’s plenty of wildlife to be seen along the way. Here you will spot Pronghorn Antelope, a light colored brown and white small species of antelope. Travel across the state of Montana by train takes about a full day. Of note is that this past winter’s record snowfalls and their subsequent spring melting left many parts of the eastern side of the state under water. It was a sad site to see so many farming fields drowning in feet of water, sometimes leaving just an island with a house standing. Fortunately, the railroad tracks are built up a bit to stand above the water level. But the next state eastward wasn’t so lucky this spring.
N. Dakota is pretty flat is all I can say. Many areas were under water due to flooding and unfortunately wrecked havoc with most types of travel at times, including rail. It was a bit hairy at times. Water was right up to the tracks on both sides in a few spots. Most of the train trip through here is during the night going eastbound. When one awakens in the morning, the state of Minnesota is just outside your window. Lots of pretty evergreens and fresh lakes make for a refreshing sight contrasted to the flat plains predominating the day before. Separating the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin is the Mississippi River, a highlight of the journey. I enjoyed traveling through the pastoral settings of Wisconsin. It was very relaxing and pleasing to the eye. The word that comes to mind is ‘idyllic.’ Next is the state of Illoinois. The final destination for this train is the vibrant city Chicago, at which point, one needs to switch trains to continue on to other destinations. At this point, one would have spent approximately 45 hours on an Amtrak train (The Empire Builder) from Seattle. I had a few hours to spare and walked around the downtown area to take photos. Chicago’s Union Station is a great place in itself to visit, but I wanted to see more. Below is a snapshot of the popular elevated trains in the city.
To continue to New York City’s Penn Station, one must board another train, preferrably, The Lakeshore Limited. This will take approximately 20 hours. The first 7-8 hours is traveling during the night and so you can sleep if you can. One stop in the wee hours of the morning that I always enjoy is Cleveland, Ohio because of the beautiful array of colored light presentations on the high downtown buildings. It really is quite beautiful. The rest of the trip is so-so as one stops at urban cities along the way to New York City. It doesn’t really start to get scenic until the train starts following along the Hudson River. There is an area just north of NYC that is quite scenic with high cliffs with large estates along the opposite side of the river. Arriving at Penn Station is always quite the experience because it is such a busy place. I’ve been dropped off at a different gate each time visiting. It can be a little bewildering trying to figure out just where you are in the station. As a side note, Penn Station is built below Madison Square Garden.
During my stay in NYC, I visited a few favorite places of mine, one of which I discussed in a previous blog, The Cloisters. Nestled in the same park is a wonderful little restaurant called the New Leaf. I highly recommend it if you are visiting Fort Tryon Park at the northern tip of Manhattan.
Another fantastic place I revisited is St John the Divine Cathedral, the largest gothic cathedral in the world.
St John the Divine Cathedral and Peace Fountain
One new spot I visited was the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There is plenty of space here to walk, and the garden has a Bonsai collection and other indoor plant exhibits, along with a great gift shop.
Japanese Garden Pond in Brooklyn Botanic Garden
So much to do; so much to see in New York City. And so much good dining! When does it stop? When you leave!
I will end this blog with a homecoming sight in Washington that was awesome. Check out the sunny, blooming apple orchards in eastern Washington with the Cascade Mountains posing in the background. Pretty nice, huh?