Sometimes traveling is like tumbling through a parallel plane on this planet. It baffles me at times. Befuddles me. But travel never ceases to surprise me all the while.
Looking out that train window on the fourth day of my journey, it seemed as though the train had passed through a worm-hole into a some far away Avalon.
So, this is where King Arthur took his permanent vacation.
Nope, ’twas just Oregon…
For the past few days I had been on a cross-country train trip. I had disembarked from the starched and automaton metropolis of Washington DC on the Capitol Limited to the glass clad city of Chicago.
From there, we would leave the cityscapes behind for the endless windswept plains of Wisconsin, and the scarred monochrome badlands of North Dakota.
The Empire Builder had been dissected in two while I was asleep, with just our viewing car continuing onto Portland.
Out the window, the landscape had morphed again before my eyes. The train barreled forth on the cold steel road surrounded by white-out fog as if the train had taken into the sky and click-clacked among the clouds.
But once we emerged from it, I saw out my window jagged rocks shrugging out of the earth. Dry brush and brambles of various oranges, yellows, and greens popped up like artists sponges discarded by some great painter.
The cliffs on the right and the water on the left drew closer pinching us in to a narrow and much more precarious path. Pines began overtaking the grey rock plateaus, transforming into tapered peaks.
The lakes in the gorge appeared like pools of chipped obsidian, reflecting the lonely isles and crags in a shimmering obscura. If I was ever to imagine a land from Arthurian legend, it would be the Columbia River Gorge.
The pine-brushed peaks of the gorge, once surrounding our route 4,000 feet all around, fell into a rounded valley. Small towns and logging corridors began sprouting up in view.
For more than 10,000 years, this gorge has played an important role in transportation and trade, with ancient tribes crossing the Asiatic land bridge into the region, and Native Americans using this route for trade in the Pacific North-West.
Pushing closer to Portland, it felt as though I was traveling back in time. I was on the path of Lewis and Clark and it was a mysterious and fantastical place, barely touched by modern destructive tendencies.
Historical Tid-Bits & Factual Jargon
The Columbia River Gorge is the only navigable route through the cascade mountains, spanning 80 miles and up to 4,000 ft deep. It was shaped in or around a bazillion years ago (okay, 17 million…) mostly taking shape during the Ice Age.
It is wild to learn that more than 13,000 years ago, the Folsom and the Marmes people crossed a land bridge from Asia to settle in this region and was used for salmon fishing nearly 10,000 years ago.
Native Indians used the gorge to set up trade routes through the Cascades, and the route I was on was the exact taken by Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean. After “discovering” the Pacific North-West, it has been a huge trade corridor for lumber after routes for steam boats and rail was established.
Have you ever been to Oregon?
Get caught up with this train adventure!
Like this story? Get caught up on all of the other days on this gnarly train adventure across the United States!
READ – Day 1: Closure.
READ – Day 2: Discovery.
READ – Day 3: Seeing Clearly.
READ – Ginos East vs. Giordanos: A Deep Dish Love Affair
**DISCLOSURE** I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a free trip courtesy of Amtrak for review purposes. The opinions, photos, videos, and use of the word “gnarly” are completely my own based on my experience.