National Parks of the West

As we planned our Summer of 2001 vacation we decided to go local and then pondered the myriad of options. Since we had been on the original Orient Express for our honeymoon, we decided to taste the home grown version. After pouring through the many trip options, we settled on a venue that rolled us through the Northwest countryside and National Parks of America. As I had visited Glacier Park on a car camping trip with George and George a few years ago, I was eager to return to the majesty of that beautiful and inspiring park along with showing Betsey the sights.

The trip started in Seattle. We flew up on a glorious late May morning, found lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Fish 'n Chips joint that had popped into my mind from the recesses of past visits, and toured the Emerald City. It was a great start. Then reality set in. The train is wonderful throw back to the Golden Age of rail travel, unfortunately the service needs a long way to go to catch up. I will let you loose in the National Parks we visited, because that is where the real delight of this adventure occurred.

Glacier National Park

Over 1 million acres of preserved forests, alpine meadows and lakes. Home to 70 species of mammals and over 260 species of birds. There are 700 miles of maintained trails and over 350 structures listed on the National register of Historic Sites, along with six National Historic Landmarks. Glacier was designated a National Park on May 11th, 1910 and became a World Heritage Site in 1995. It is also linked to our friends in Canada with Waterton Lakes National Park as an International Peace Park and has a rich and colorful history. You can get away from it all and camp with Grizzlies, or luxuriate in some of the best Western Park Lodges. The visitors center on the Continental Divide is an attraction on its own and the Rangers are some of the most helpful I have encountered.

Yellowstone National Park

March 1st 1872 marked the establishment of the world's first National Park. Within this gem are many unique features that attract visitors from all corners of our global village. Hot springs number over 10,000 and scientist believe this represents a majority of the planet's total. Geothermal activity in this region indicates a large active volcano, whose last eruption left a caldera that encompasses half of the park. Yellowstone is home to grizzly bears, bison, elk and the returning wolf. These creatures of wonder have one of the largest intact temperate zone ecosystems to roam and live a free life as nature intended. The return of the wolf to Yellowstone also marks one of the most successful species reintroduction's, and even though there continues to be a small minority of dissenters backed by Oil and Timber giants in the guise as the Farm Bureau, the public has been supportive and remains the key to their future. Yellowstone received World Heritage Site status on September 8th, 1978 and continue to awe all visitors who are drawn to the beauty.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Tetons inspire you at every turn.Grand Teton Moose They rise majestically and call to you in their unwavering stand against time and the elements. Rising more than a mile above the valley of Jackson Hole, the Grand Teton towers at 13,770 feet, with twelve other peaks reaching above 12,000 feet. Inter-mixed within al the towering peaks are a dozen Glaciers continuing to carve the youngest mountain range in the Rockies that also supports some of North America's oldest rocks. Congress established Grand Tetons as a National Park on February 26th, 1929. Over the next 20 years, John D. Rockefeller started to purchase lands in the valley in an attempt to add to the 96,000 acre park but met stiff opposition and political controversy. Fast forward to 1943, President Roosevelt declared all additional Federal land held in the area as a National Monument adding 210,000 acres. An additional 33,000 acres was donated by the Rockefellers in 1979, and Congress consolidated the three parcels on September 14th by merging the National Monument and Park to create Grand Teton National Park. A win for us all

The Train

Looking back on 13 years after our excursion and all that has occurred, AOE turning over operations to Grand-Luxe Raliways and now out-of-business, I feel a tinge of sadness. Even with sub-par service, though our dinning car server was just wacky enough to endear us, being locked down in bus rides and no off-campus optional excursions, it was a glorious ride through some the best scenery we have every enjoyed. And the unfortunate part is that a lot of that history is gone, as brief as it was. Some scattered images here and there and a website still hoping for resurrection are not a fitting tribute for all the good-hearted effort. I leave with you a small sample of images that I captured back in the film era that have faded with time but bring a smile and memory.

May our paths and errands meet...