Something about roughing it on a train across the various landscapes of the largely still vacant American West felt like a trip through time. No, the trip wasn’t glamorous, far from it, but in a way, that only added to it’s authenticity.
For three whole days I dreamt of a hot shower and a comfortable bed, as our iron horse pressed on, often at speeds not much faster than those of an actual steed.
For hours at a time we saw no cars, no houses, nor roads. No people, no animals, just raw, untouched land.
With no internet connection, or screens to watch, I stared constantly, at the ever changing contents of my window. For hundreds of miles we followed the Colorado River west, as its glacial blue waters roared through deep maroon canyons, resisting the urge to solidify like the icy cliffs surrounding it. Into the eastern frontier of Utah we churned, as the winter sun erupted into a mural of pastel blues, pinks, purples, and oranges, then black.
Through a frigid night I clenched my bag tightly against my chest in fear that at one of the many stops we made in the middle of nowhere, some struggling passersby would snatch my camera gear and disappear into the darkness as I continued on.
I watched night turn to morning, as the sun’s first rays revealed the lunar esque landscape of a Northern Nevada desert. Out of salt flats sprouted more mountains. Through towns named Truckee, and Weed, past Mt. Shasta, and The Great Salt Lake.
In the warmth of the evening Sierra Nevada sun, we winded through clusters of oranges and reds, and down into a valley. Lost in the thick of the Deschutes Forest, I shared a hot meal in the dining car with a complete stranger dressed in lumberjack attire as the snow piled heavy on the shaggy pines outside. Together I sat with a girl from Mexico, who barely understood a word I said, silently sharing an admiration for all that went by. Then finally, after three days and two nights, the white lights of the Seattle skyline poured into view.
Unlike more modern forms of travel such as by air, or even by car, the unique experience of train travel is one that transcends time. It isn’t the most glamorous, the most comfortable, or the most efficient, but boy is it worth it. Because for all of its downfalls, there really is no better way to appreciate the wild makeup of our nation.
For months since my late January journey by train, I’ve attempted to piece together the video footage I captured in some meaningful way, but no matter how I approach it, I just can’t seem seem to do it justice.
So if you truly want to understand this journey, I suggest you do it yourself. Book a ticket, take a chance, have an experience.