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Amtrak Station Portland

Amtrak Station Portland

At the end of September, Steve and I took an Amtrak train from St Cloud, Minnesota to Portland, Oregon for a destination wedding. The following posts are about our experiences on the train and in Oregon, which I wrote down in my travel journal. You can read previous posts here:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

View from train

We are back on the train, traveling along a river in Montana. It’s difficult for me to take my eyes off the view. The river we’re passing by is a deep, aqua blue, the kind of color you see in post cards of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s so clear you can see the rocky bottom. This is another place I could see myself living.

Most of the trees are outside the window are evergreens but there are yellow accents of Tamarack and aspen, as though an interior designer had a hand in the decor: “We must have our accent pieces!”

It’s interesting taking photos out the window. They turn out like impressionistic paintings with a soft blur of motion. I wish I had taken more pictures but believe it or not, I had reached photo saturation by this time.

View out train window

The most common question I was asked at the wedding was “How did you like the train?”

Taking the train to get from point A to B is not something I would recommend for every one. If you are a type A, like to get to your destination as quickly as possible because your destination is what you consider your “vacation,” or you don’t enjoy sitting and reading and looking out the window at the scenery passing by, then the train is probably not for you anymore than driving a car would be.

reading on the Amtrak

I’m actually not a good “sitting still” person but found being on the train, without wifi, where I wasn’t able to accomplish ANYthing was a relief. It was good to be forced to sit still, to read, to write, and to stare out the window.

I loved traveling slow, getting a good long close look at the places passing by. Now there are rocky cliffs outside the window. Sometimes they come so close, I pull back, thinking the train will hit them.

As much as I enjoyed the train, next time we travel west, I’d like to have a camper in the bed of my truck (one more fantasy) so we can bring the dogs with us. I have missed them so much! I also would like to be able to stop along the way and get an even closer look at the character of all the places we are traveling through.

view from Amtrak train

Now we are passing by “Wash Away” laundromat in Cut Bank, Montana. There seems to always be a laundromat in site when we pass a town on the train. I find the naming of these places and some of the small restaurants a good form of entertainment, which just goes to show how easily amused I am.

What I learned on this trip is that the times that stand out most in my mind, that I enjoyed the most, took place when we were out of the vehicle hiking. So vacation plans should include more time outside the vehicle than inside. Leave the scenic lookouts to other travelers.

view from Amtrak train

We just went past a pond where the wind was blowing and creating water murmations (like you see with starlings). Pretty cool.

And now we are passing by two guys racing over a hill on horseback. Looks like they are rounding up cattle. I hope they are going to go get the small horse laying down a few yards from the track and the three cows that are on the wrong side of the fence.

view from Amtrak train

Our final day in Oregon, we went to Powell’s Books in Portland. Since most of the book stores in my area have gone out of business, Powell’s was like waving drugs in front of a drug addict. The bookstore takes up one full city block and has three floors full of new, used, and rare books (plus a 4th floor for customer service). They provide you with a map to navigate your way around. Still, Steve and I got separated and it took some phone conversations of “I’m by the windows… No, not those windows…” to find each other again.

I managed to come out with only one used book, an Orion magazine, and a Powell’s t-shirt showing two of my favorite things: a bicycle and a bike-basket overflowing with books. Plus I walked out with a list of book titles I wrote down as I walked through the store that I plan look up at the library when I get home.

Powell's Books, Portland

So our adventure is about done. Which is okay. I have so many great memories and new dreams for future travel.

Portland train station

Dee Wright Observatory

Dee Wright Observatory

At the end of September, Steve and I took an Amtrak train from St Cloud, Minnesota to Portland, Oregon for a destination wedding. The following posts are about our experiences on the train and in Oregon, which I wrote down in my travel journal. You can read previous posts here:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dee Wright Observatory

Monday morning, we headed north from Bend towards the Dee Wright Observatory to see the lava fields. This ended up to be another visual beauty and marvel overload mystery tour. Beauty is perhaps a strange word when describing the lava fields as they mainly look like a bunch of black rocks piled up. And yet…

Lava Fields Mckenzie Pass Oregon

This would be our last real day of sightseeing before getting back on the train in Portland Tuesday afternoon. We drove through the town of Sisters, named for being near the Three Sisters Mountains, which in tour bus language are “a complex volcano of three volcanic peaks of the Cascade Volcanic Arc and the Cascade Range.”

Three Sisters Mountains

The Dee Wright Observatory is at the highest point of the Mckenzie Pass. This photo was taken looking out one of the observatory windows.

Dee Wright Observaotry

There was a path to walk over the hardened lava. Signs explained what happens after a volcano erupts — such things as how cracks form during the cooling, how the vegetation comes back, and what animals live there and how they survive.

Lava Fields sign

Okay, who doesn’t love the description of the “jagged clinkery surface” of the A A Lava?

Lava Fields sign

And I had to take a photo of this for the sign poetry on the right side…

Dee Wright Observatory sign

As we walked around the area, I admired the tenacity of nature to come back after such devastation. Small evergreens contrasting with black rock kept drawing my eyes. A sign informed me that the trees were much older than they looked but were so small because there isn’t much nourishment there for them.

trees growing in lava field

And yet they grow.

It made me wonder about the belief that God individually engineered all the diversity and crazy adaptation we see in the world. Maybe what God really did was instill one thing in everything he created — the will to survive. To me, that would be more interesting, to see what each living thing came up with. Interesting, and more of a risk.

McKenzie Pass Lava Fields

There was such a big quietness to the lava fields.

McKenzie Pass sign

We continued our journey towards Portland, taking the “Over the River and Through the Woods” scenic byway. We stopped in Sweet Home, Oregon at a pizza place called Spoleto’s. It didn’t look like much on the outside but the pizza was fantastic.

Spoleto's Pizzeria & Wine Shop

I had the Portland Pesto with fresh organic local basil pesto, local hazelnuts, mushrooms, parmesan and fresh tomato. The hazelnuts were an unexpected and excellent touch.


Crater Lake

Crater Lake

At the end of September, Steve and I took an Amtrak train from St Cloud, Minnesota to Portland, Oregon for a destination wedding. The following posts are about our experiences on the train and in Oregon, which I wrote down in my travel journal. You can read previous posts here:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Crater Lake

The Sunday after the wedding, Steve and I headed to Crater Lake. I’d seen photos of the lake and read about it and wanted to see the enormity of it for myself. At the first place we stopped, the temperature on the car’s dashboard was showing 38 degrees (F). Oh, well, we’d already managed that the day before. No big deal…

Mountains around Crater Lake

Except I had never experienced a wind quite like the one that practically grabbed the car door out of my hand. I couldn’t take off my sunglasses or my eyes would fill with sand. I had rain pants over leggings and the loose nylon was flapping and slapping loudly, sounding like a flag whipping in the breeze.

Crater Lake

Both Steve and I stood and moved with our bodies slightly tilting forward, trying to maintain our balance. When we got back in the car, we looked at each other and said something like, “Shit! It’s nasty out there!”  (Or maybe that was just me…) Then we both made faces as we felt grit sliding around in our teeth.

Crater Lake

So, not great weather to walk around in. We kept driving, looking out the windows at the sparkling blueness of the lake, the ruggedness of the mountains, and the trees watching over it all. This tree looked like she was strutting with attitude.

tree that looks human

When we got to the other side of the lake, it was much warmer and there was less wind.

Crater Lake

At one point, we took a short walk and this crazy fox came up behind me to cross into the woods. He was so close, I swear I could have petted him. Only I was in shock and of course, didn’t have my camera out because a couple seconds before I had put it away thinking, “We’re just heading back to the car, there won’t be anything to photograph.” Stupid, stupid, stupid!


Steve was better prepared.


Anyway, I had that moment of just standing so close and looking directly into the fox’s face in amazement. Maybe the moment I experience was better than any photo I could have had.

And yes, Mr. Ground Squirrel, you’re cute too…

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel


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