Jan 22nd
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Home Adventure Travel Ideas Destinations Central U.S. Portland to Chicago by train

Portland to Chicago by train

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Portland to Chicago by train
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Christmas in Chicago
...from the journals of CW Bryant (age15)

December 20...
    All-a-board... from Portland, Oregon to Chicago, Illinois aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder! After stashing our gear in the sleeper, we walked through several passenger cars to the dining car for dinner. The train pulled away from the depot and crossed the Willamette River, city lights reflected in the water and we saw the Parade of Boats–decked out and lighted in different Christmas themes gather at Waterfront Park.
    For a short while our train followed the Columbia River west until crossing over to Washington. Now as we traveled east, the lights of Portland dimmed and the moon lit our way along the wide and swift Columbia River. Over the years, the river carved a passage through the volcanic terrain, forming the scenic Columbia Gorge. The Lewis and Clark expedition and also pioneers on the Oregon Trail once n
A full moon shines down on the wide and swift Mississippi river--one of the many spectacular sights found along Amtrak's Empire Builder route. Read more in CW's Journal. avigated this route.
    Amtrak has an Empire Builder Route Map & Guide so I referred to it often, learning lots of interesting facts.  
    During the evening we followed alongside the Columbia River– first through the 2,369-ft. long Cape Horn Tunnel, by Multnomah Falls, second-highest
waterfall in the U.S.; then we passed Beacon Rock, second largest monolith in the world– Gibraltar being the first; Bonneville Dam, the river’s first large dam; and, near Cascade Locks, Bridge of the Gods, which replaced an ancient natural land bridge.
    The train now headed into the high desert and passed the Dalles Dam; Maryhill Museum and a monument resembling Stonehenge; John Day Dam and a lock system with the highest lift in the world (113ft.); and, then we turned north towards Pasco, where the Columbia and Snake rivers meet and the furthest point that seagoing ships can navigate the Columbia River.
    From Pasco, we left the Columbia River and headed for Spokane, some 150 miles northeast. Here we’d join the train from Seattle and together, head across the Great Northern route into Montana. By this time, Mom and I were fast asleep! While dreaming, our train rambled through Sandpoint, Idaho and passed the small town of Libby in Montana’s Kootenai National Forest.

 December 21...
    We woke to snowflakes falling and a countryside draped in a thick, white blanket of snow. It was so peaceful, we didn’t say a word as the train quietly chugged through the stillness.
    Then, it was total darkness for 7 miles! Wow, the Flathead Tunnel is one of the longest tunnels in the world.
    The sightseer car is practically enclosed in glass, so this was a good spot to later take in the great scenery.
    Whitefish, in Montana’s Flathead National Forest is jumping off point to Whitefish Lake Resort and Big Mountain Ski Resort; West Glacier is one of the entrances to Glacier National Park with its 200 lakes, 10,000-ft mountains and 50 living glaciers– Maria’s Pass is at 5,216 ft, the lowest point on the continental divide and Glacier Park Lodge, built by the Great Northern Railway in 1913, is at East Glacier Park; Browning, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation; Cutbank, only 25 miles from the Canadian border; Shelby, in the heart of oil country with its pumping oil rigs; and, Havre a service stop and a site where Native Americans hunted buffalo by herding them off nearby cliffs.
    We’re halfway through Montana and it’s time for lunch–I liked the juicy hamburgers!
    Just imagine, this morning we were in western Montana’s snowcovered mountains and now, we’re crossing the vast grasslands of the state’s eastern prairies.
    After a 1,700 mile retreat, Nez Perce Native American Chief Joseph surrendered in 1877 to the U.S. Army in the Bear Paw Mountains near Wagner; around Malta, ranching is big business; Glasgow is known for its fossils and dinosaurs bones; Wolf Point was a wolf-trappers’ trading post in the frontier days and is famous for the present day Wild Horse Stampede.
    The train now follows the Missouri River for about 60 miles; and, close to Culbertson is Fort Peck Indian Reservation, where Sitting Bull lived after surrendering in 1876. Mom and I kept our eyes open for coyote or antelope– but so far, we just saw lots of cattle and sheep. And no buffalo!
    As the evening approached, we crossed into North Dakota and Fort Union, once a 19th century fur trading post; Fort Buford where Chief Sitting Bull surrendered after the battle of Little Big Horn; Williston, an oil boom town of the 1950s is still producing oil; Minot another service stop, placed on the map after the Great Northern Railroad arrived; and smack-dab (geographically) in the center of North America is the small town of Rugby!
    While playing a game of Spades, mom and I looked out onto the dark Dakota plains and saw farm houses here and there brightly decorated in Christmas lights.
    The train rambled on through the night to North Dakota’s largest lake, Devil’s Lake; to Grand Forks on the eastern edge of the state; then south to Fargo, named after William Fargo of the Wells Fargo Express Company; crossed the Red River into Minnesota and Detroit Lakes with its 400 fishing lakes; and then into the granite mining city of St. Cloud, MN on the shores of the Mississippi River.


Where was Solomon born?

This is Solomon, a new born Humpback whale. He provided hours of entertainment for our group of whale watchers. Where was Solomon born? Click here to find out.

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