Tag Archives: Amtrak

The California Zephyr

The journey from Chicago to San Francisco passed through a wide variety of landscapes, climate zones and weather. The plains of Nevada give way to the elevation of the Rockies in half a day.  Just out of Denver the train climbed through the Rocky Mountains, passing through 28 tunnels in 30 minutes.  In Colorado we followed the majestic Colorado River from high in the mountains to the place where it turns south, to be totally consumed in keeping the cities of Arizona green, and today it does not reach the sea.  Three dramatic gorges are passed through, as well as the red rock mesas and formations which make the Utah landscape.

Several brief stops were made to allow passengers to alight on the platform.  Meals on this train are served communially, so Peter and I shared a table with a number of others.  This led to a range of conversations, including a couple who were headed for the Winter Park ski field, a musician going home to San Francisco to spend time with family (we saw his mother greet him), an English language teacher who was interested in comparisons between life in Australia and our impressions of USA, a family man who had a place in Illinois, a large property was the impression he gave, and two college graduates who were making use of job finding difficulties to make the most of USA rail passes to see the country.  These two had travelled from New Orleans to Washington, and were headed for San Francisco to visit the family of one of them as well as add to the experiences of travel.

As we travelled through the Winnemucca and Reno, arid regions of Nevada, we started to climb again.  Not far out of Reno, it started to snow, and in no time it was deep on the ground and heavy on the trees.  The commentator apologised for the reduced view, but what we could see were the dramatic shapes of trees and the occasional town and vehicle covered in snow.  As we decended to Sacramento the fruit trees and vines of the lower lying areas had less snow on them, and coming into San Francisco, everything was green and lush, with a double rainbow following us.  We enjoyed two days and nights on the train, and despite amused responses from some who had experience of the USA railroad system, we found that the trains almost always ran on time or made up lost time.  Staff were invariably courteous and helpful, and the quality of food and drink was pretty good.  Linda

Our comfortable cabin

View of Denver

Picnic table by the Colorado River, no access except walk, kayak or train

Colorado River

Rancho Starvo?
Transition to red rock
A mesa in Utah
Many vehicles are transformed into snow ploughs
Snow in the Sierra Nevada Ranges
Snow quickly weighed down the trees
Rainbows as we approached San Francisco