Chicago to West Glacier National Park
The Empire Builder is the train that runs from Chicago right out to the west coast and ends at Seattle or Portland, the whole journey taking 2 full days which is why we decided to split it with a stop over at the Glacier National Park, 1500 miles across. We did have a couple of last minute dramas with this bit after firstly finding out that the shuttle buses that run into the park from the station, stop before our train arrives at 8.20pm and that our accommodation is about 8 miles walk, not good and even worse after doing some Internet research that the area is very popular with Grizzly bears !! Thankfully after some last minute panic and help from a very nice Canadian guy in Chicago station who lent us his cell we have a vehicle awaiting our arrival so as Elles said we now bear proof. The train journey itself is great, 30 hours long and passes through five states as we head up in to the Rocky Mountains. It crosses and runs along the Mississippi for quite a long section and it was great having our dinner in the dinning car as the sun was setting. Montana is just vast and as I write this with 6 hours to go we just starting to see the mountains off to the left in the Blackfoot Indian Reservation and Chief Mountain. You also have the great plains where Native American Indians like Sitting Bull roamed and the town where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Gang carried out their last robbery before disappearing. They also have a Trails and Rails program which runs through the summer months where Parks services rangers volunteer and give commentaries to certain sections of the journey in the lounge car. Some of it was really interesting and does help to pass the time. I also had a great very long chat to a old man this morning for hours over coffee who was really really interesting (look him up @ www.frantzmd.info) he told me to send him an email when i get home and he will send me a copy of his book. (I have since been on his site very interesting) You do also get a few chances to stretch your legs at service stops where the trains refuel, but these places are very similar to Buffalo and are just depot stations, with restrooms and a couple of vending machines and nothing else.
The final section of the journey last night we did in a sleeper car. We missed dinner on the train as it was about an hour late getting to our stop, not that either of us cared really i think, and after a snack the attendant set up our beds and i got to go to sleep watching the world fly by by moonlight, very nice indeed and we got to wake up (admittedly at silly o'clock) to have breakfast before we pulled into Seattle.
I must say personally I am really looking forward to the next couple of weeks, I love nothing more than the mountains, lakes, and wildlife, and am sure the US and Canada has some wonderful treats in store for us especially after Glaciers appetiser we both even more excited.