In 2013, Will and I were planning an outdoor adventure road trip for his three-week fall break from Barkstall. Our decision was between Utah’s five national parks, or something centered on Yellowstone National Park. In late summer, my Dad decided he wanted to join us, so we settled on Yellowstone. That 2013 trip (just Will and Dad and I) was epic and special, and immediately after completing it, we asked Dad, “In 2015, let’s do something special again. What’s your bucket list trip?”
Dad’s desire was to take a journey, by train, through the northern Rockies. He’s always been a train nut, and the Rockies’ scenery has always been special to him, so we started investigating Amtrak’s Empire Builder route from Chicago to Seattle, again just for Will and Dad and I.
We began planning in the summer of 2014, and we quickly got ridiculously ambitious. While the Empire Builder served as the basis for our trip, its journey through the Rockies was mostly at night, rendering the scenery much less compelling. We quickly altered our plans to take the Empire Builder not to Seattle, but to West Glacier, MT – just outside Glacier National Park. We would then drive to Seattle to end our trip, giving us a greater chance at adventure and more leisure for great mountain scenery. Getting to Glacier NP by train was relatively easy and affordable: Amtrak offers a Superliner Family Bedroom on the Empire Builder route that gave us a private room with two adult-size and two child-size bunks, converting into a couch and tables during the day, and including meals. We booked it with a departure from Chicago on Friday, July 3.
Glacier NP has been on my bucket list for years as a preeminent hiking destination, but I worried about my 67-year-old Dad and 7-year-old son tackling 10- and 15-mile hikes at altitude. We talked about it, and they both wanted to do it. My Dad even secured a full two weeks off work to make the trip feasible by train, the most time he’s had off since forever.
With two full weeks to fill, we started discussing other possible ideas to fill the two week itinerary. My Dad had always wanted to visit Lake Louise in Banff NP in Canada, so we resolved to head north after Glacier. We wanted to be in Seattle by the end of our first week, so that Pam and Cate could fly there halfway through our trip, and join us for the final week. My Dad could fly home from there. And my brother Eric and his wife were expecting a new baby in July, so we were hoping to see them also. So we added Banff NP and started considering options for the second week based in Seattle. Vancouver and Victoria Island? Crater Lake?
NEXT: (Automobile Transportation and Changing Parties)