Rocky Mountain High

I almost panicked after boarding Amtrak’s California Zephyr early Thursday morning. I had meant to download more Netflix and Amazon Prime shows before continuing my trip to the west coast. I had almost two full days on the train. On earlier legs of this Amtrak journey, I had caught up on the last seasons of a couple of shows.

Oh well, I thought. I would just have to find another way to pass the time.

It wasn’t a problem. I spent almost every waking minute looking out the window. The California Zephyr from Denver to Emeryville, Calif., lived up to its reputation as the best scenic journey on Amtrak.

img_3250After leaving Denver we climbed into the Rocky Mountains, reaching an elevation of 9.239 feet. We passed through evergreen forests and 43 tunnels. The longest was the 6.2-mile Moffat tunnel, which we exited into the Winter Park Ski Resort. We had crossed the Continental Divide and began to see patches of snow, even though the temperatures were in the 50s and the sun was shining.

From there we passed through the Fraser Canyon and joined with the Colorado River, going into Glenwood Canyon, which the railroad shares with Interstate 70.

The Ruby Canyon, named for its red rock bluffs, carried us into Utah.

img_3340 After leaving the mountain ranges we entered the high desert with its sand-swept landscape. Darkness descended, and I went to bed in my roomette just before we reached Provo, Utah.

As I slept we crossed through Utah and much of Nevada and entered the Pacific Time zone. I had forgotten, so was dressed for breakfast before the dining room opened. I sat with a couple from North Carolina who shared a lot of my interests, from sailing, cruising and travel to public relations.

After eating we moved to the Observation car so were well situated for a second day of stunning scenery. We left Reno and entered the Sierra Mountains, climbing up to Donner Lake. Now we were in a carpet of snow, again passing through tunnels as we came through the narrow Donner Pass.

When we entered the flat valleys of California, I finally got out my iPad to watch an episode or two of Mozart in the Park. It was the first time I had thought about what I might have brought along to keep me entertained.

The Zephyr route ends in Emeryville, next to Oakland, and I am spending the night at a hotel by the Amtrak station. Tomorrow morning I’ll rise early to catch the Coast Starlight for a day trip to Los Angeles. I hear it has stunning scenery, too, so I won’t worry about having electronic devices to fill my time.