|A Globetrotting Guide to
All Aboard the Coast
We boarded the train at Emmeryville,
which is the Amtrak connecting
point for San Francisco, at 9 p.m. As we passed
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
trains come into view. BART provides rail transit
service throughout the region. As night falls,
our train skirts the shore of San Pablo Bay,
an arm of San Francisco Bay,
passing through Crockett.
Departing Martinez (home
of the martini and
birthplace of Joe Dimaggio,)
we approach the double-track steel Carqinez Strait bridge
across Suisan Bay. To the right we could see the Mothball Fleet.
Mostly WWII vintage
merchant marine ships. We soon reached Davis.
The 1913 adobe-style station at
Davis is an historic landmark.
East of town we crossed
the "Yolo Bypass"
on a long low trestle. It was built to divert
flood waters during particularly wet years.
Beyond the east end of the trestle is Sacramento.
This is the capital of California and the largest
inland city in the state. We stop awhile for
train maintenance. Since the Coast Starlight is a
non-smoking train, this was the last chance for
smokers to get the last cigarette for the night.
Continuing our journey
north into the night, we travel the length of the Sacramento
Valley. To the east is
the Sierra Nevada,
and on the west, the Coast Range.
With over 12 million acres, the Sacramento Valley
extends 160 miles south and is 60 miles wide at
its greatest extent. At Roseville,
a great railroad center with classification yards
and locomotive shops, we turn north, pausing
briefly at Marysville and
the college town of Chico.
Beyond Red Bluff,
gateway to Lassen Volcanic National
Park, we leave the
fertile Sacramento Valley pausing briefly at Redding,
before heading to the foothills.
Early morning Mt. Shasta
Between a succession of
tunnels and bridges we catch glimpses of Shasta
Lake, created by the
waters of the Pit, McCloud and Sacramento Rivers
impounded by the Shasta Dam.
For the next 32 miles we
follow the winding Sacramento River.
The country gets more
rugged as we ascend the Sacramento River Canyon.
Pausing briefly at the railroad town of Dunsmuir, we
continue north into the canyon, we catch our
first glimpse of Mt. Shasta.
At Black Butte,
there is a perfectly formed 6,250-ft. cinder cone
on the right. Skirting the base of Mt. Shasta our
pace slows and we cut directly through lava flows as
we continue to ascend towards Grass Lake,
(elevation 5,063 ft.) the highest point on the
route of the Coast Starlight.
Above Grass Lake we wind through a remote
pine-covered landscape characteristic of the Modoc Plateau country.
Later, in Butte Valley we
race through the rural communities of Mt. Hebron
and Dorris, then enter the first of two short
tunnels and cross the state line entering Oregon.
Twenty miles further north
is Klamath Falls,
a logging center and
distribution point for some of the nations finest
potatoes. Lying on ancient volcanic ground, many
homes in town are heated from natural hot-water springs.
We stopped here for a few moments and went out
for a breath of the crisp-clean air. North of
town we reach the eastern shore of Upper Klamath Lake which
we follow for 18 miles. At Modoc Point we could
see the sharp peak of Mt. McLoughlin across
the lake to the left. Upper Klamath Lake is one
of the largest bodies of fresh water west of the
Rockies. We could see many types of birds,
including pelicans which are protected here.
Leaving the lake, we climb Calimus Hill into Chiloquin.
Our pace quickens as we
enter the high, flat Klamath
Basin country. We
cross the Williamson River
and follow its course for the next 15 miles to
Kirk. Near Yamsay the skyline on the left is
broken by jagged Mt. Theilsen
and Mt. Scott.
Between these two landmarks can be seen the
remains of Mt. Mazama
which now forms the rim of Crater Lake.
This lake lies in the center of an extinct
volcano 6,177 feet above sea level. It is six
miles long and four miles wide, with walls rising
1,000 feet from the water's edge to the rim.
Named for an Indian chief,
is the gateway to Crater
Lake National Park.
Leaving Chemult we turn west passing Umli and
Crescent Lake, in quick succession. Delightful
vistas of beautiful Odell Lake
can be seen on the right as we follow this
magnificent body of water for four miles. The
lake is 2,000 feet deep in places, giving it a
beautiful blue shade which sets off Maiden Peak
in the distance. Odell Lake is a top fishing spot,
with trout ranging around 25 pounds, and up to
Emerging from a tunnel at
Cascade Summit we cross the divide at Willamette Pass.
Here we meet the headwaters of the Willamette River,
a water course we will roughly follow all the way
to Portland. From this point our train begins a
gradual descent of the Cascade Range,
using the steep-walled Salt Canyon. For more than
60 miles the route roughly parallels the trail
over which the pioneers toiled on the last leg of
their journey into the Willamette Valley.
There are numerous views as we gradually descend,
passing through tunnels and clinging to the sides
of steep cliffs.
Turning sharply, we take a
northeasterly course for five miles, cross Salt
Creek, and make another hairpin turn passing McCredie Springs,
a popular health resort centered around mineral
springs. At Westfir
the tracks cross to the east bank of the
Willamette River, the trees open up and the
terrain becomes less rugged.
Increasing industrial and
lumbering activity indicate we are in the suburb
After crossing the Willamette River, we pass the University
campus and enter Eugene.
Leaving Eugene, we pass
through a region of prosperous farms and small
communities. This is the Willamette Valley,
with the Cascade Mountains on the right and the
Coast Range on the left. Crossing the Willamette
River south of Harrisburg,
we enter a vast grain and seed production area
sometimes referred to as The
Plains of Lebanon. Tangent
is named for the railroad term for the straight
track on which we have been traveling since
Harrisburg. Rising on the right side are the
volcano cones of Ward Butte and Saddle Butte.
on the Willamette at the mouth of the Calapooya
River and an important commercial center. As we
travel north from Albany we see a llama farm at
Marion. The Cascade Range looms into view on the
right near Turner. Salem
is the state capital and second largest city in
Oregon. To the left, as we depart the city, are
the Capital and Supreme Court buildings.
We quickly pass through Gervais,
in a region famous for its raspberries,
blackberries, loganberries and strawberries and
cross the Pudding River departing Aurora.
The Willamette River
closes in on the left as we reach Oregon
City. Willamette Falls
is on the left. Oregon City was founded in 1842,
it was the end of the Oregon Trail
and the original capital of Oregon Territory. We
continue to follow the Willamette River north
through the suburbs of Clackamas
then cross the river to enter historic Portland Union Station,
opened in 1896. Portland
lies on both sides of the Willamette River. One
of the nation's important fresh water ports and a
port-of-entry, Portland is Oregon's largest
metropolitan area. Known for its parks,
fountains, gardens and jazz festivals, the "City of Roses"
was in full bloom for its Rose Festival.
Departing Portland, our
train follows the Willamette through the busy
industrial section of the city then turns to
cross the river and the Columbia River.
On the opposite bank is Vancouver,
the oldest continuous settlement in the
Northwest, established as a fort
in 1825. From here to Kelso-Longview,
we follow the Columbia River.
Oregon is on the opposite
shore, as we pass the marshy bottom lands of Lake
Vancouver and get a
glimpse of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant.
Kelso-Longview is known as the "Smelt
Capital of the World." Each year during
January and February, thousands of the tiny fish
swim up the Cowlitz River
to spawn. Departing town, we pass through a 1,200
foot tunnel and follow the Cowlitz River to Castle Rock.
Here our train crosses the
made famous when mud flows emanating nearly 40
miles away during the eruption of Mt. St. Helens
reached the Cowlitz River. The valley opens and
on the left is Abernathy Mountain.
is known as the "Egg Capital of the
World," on the left is a giant egg
monument. Above Winlock, we enter the broad and fertile valley
of the Chehalis River dotted with farms.
As our train enters Centralia,
Mt. St. Helens can be viewed.
Its spectacular eruption in 1980 sent ash in this
direction and some of the grey material can still
be seen in the countryside. Crossing the
Skookumchuck River, our train continues north to
is the capital of Washington State and is
situated on the southernmost inlet of Puget Sound.
Above Olympia, we cross the Nisqually River
and our train follows Commencement Bay,
the southeast arm of Puget Sound passing Steilacoom,
situated on a series of terraces above the head
of Commencement Bay, with views of the Sound, the
and the white cone of 14,408-ft. Mount
On the outskirts of Seattle,
we pass Boeing Field
on the left, viewing a number of aircraft. We
arrived at Seattle, the largest city in the
Pacific Northwest and a seaport of great
importance. Known as the "Emerald
City," Seattle has a mild climate, and ranks
as one of the most healthful cities in the world.