Sunday, September 18 Along the Columbia River

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

SUMMARY:  Yesterday when we got back to East Glacier (thanks to Terry, who gave us a ride!),  the first thing we did (besides eat!) was find out if there was room for us on the Amtrak train.  Yes!  They had room!   By the time the train left East Glacier, there was a bitter cold wind blowing hard, and the rain was falling.   You could not even see the mountains.  We were so glad we made the decision to “run” for the border on the road instead of hike the trail.

During the night last night, our Amtrak train split in half, and our half headed directly to Portland, Oregon, on a route I have never seen before–following the Columbia River on the Washington side.  At first it looked a lot like the desert we hiked through on the CDT, before Rawlins, Wyoming, except for the great blue river.  I was sort of glued to the window, looking at everything, including the very gray clouds, and so glad to be done–no more worries about weather on the trail.  But we are still concerned for the hikers we know who are still out there in Glacier Park and we prayed that God would take care of them as He has us.

Finally we got to the “green part” of the Columbia River gorge, with the waterfalls and magnificent trees and lots of fishermen out on the river in their little boats, and it wasn’t long before we were pulling in to Union Station in downtown Portland.   A short ride on the “Max” and we were at our friend’s house, warm, dry and very well-fed.

Tomorrow we will drive HOME!

DETAILS:  Last night I was walking through the observation car on the train, and met Stop N Go.  I hung out to talk to him a bit.  He said, “When I finished the PCT, I was feeling great and thinking ‘If I had time, I’d turn around right now and do it all again, southbound.’  But now I’m done with the CDT, I’m totally DONE.  I just want to go home.  It’s been really hard.”  That’s exactly how Fixit and I have been feeling.  Our reaction to doing the PCT was, “That was awesome!  Let’s do it again!”  The CDT….I’m with Stop N Go.  All I want to do is go home.  I’m done.

During the night last night, our Amtrak train split in two, with the front end going to Seattle, and our “back” end going to Portland.  Oh bummer, the dining car was part of the train going to Seattle!  We had been really looking forward to a nice big breakfast in the dining car.  So we ended up with coffee and a muffin from the snack bar car.  We were so hungry–I felt like I could have eaten a lot more.

When it was finally light enough to see, we found ourselves in eastern Washington, traveling along next to the Columbia River.  Wow, was it different from the OR/WA I’m used to seeing, which is the Willamette Valley and coastal mountains (and of course, the PCT up in the Cascades!)  I was glued to the window looking at everything.  There were miles of  grassland, with not a tree in sight.  It sort of reminded me of southern Wyoming.  But the river was a gorgeous blue, and what a contrast to the golden-colored grass!  Overhead, the clouds were thick and gray, with no views of the mountains.

We ended up talking to two ladies who were sitting right across from us, and it turned out that they were Christians, too.  Since it’s Sunday, it was especially good to meet some other people who know Jesus, too.

Finally the train entered the Columbia Gorge that we’re familiar with.  The shores were lined with huge trees, there were boats and fishermen, and grand cliffs with waterfalls coming down.  Often I’m driving a car along here, so can’t really look at the views–it was nice to be on the train, and able to see everything.  We passed the Bridge of the Gods, which is part of the PCT (I don’t like heights, so crossing that bridge on foot, with its mesh roadway where you can see waaaaaay down to the river below, was scary for me.  I just looked straight ahead and was very happy to reach the other side!)

Finally the train also crossed the river, and came in to Union Station, Portland.  When we all got off the train (it was the end of the line) I looked for Stop N Go, wanting to say goodbye, but I never did spot him.  Bummer.  He was also headed back for the San Francisco Bay Area, as are we.  The Union Station is really awesome–a huge, big, oldfashioned railroad station right by downtown Portland.  We shouldered our packs and walked over to the Max (Portland’s light rail system), passing a lot of homeless people camped out in doorways.  Welcome back to “civilization” and big city life!  And what a contrast to the folks we met in Montana!  Those Montana people are hardy, self-reliant and hardworking.  You don’t see them lying around in doorways.

But oh, hooray, there were FLOWERS!  Oregon is a wonderful place for flowers, and Portland is called “The City of Roses”.  Unlike Montana, where as the locals put it, “We have 9 months of winter and 3 months of company”, and there are hardly any flowers at all, in downtown Portland, there were flowerbeds in full bloom.  I wanted to keep stopping to look at them and feast my eyes on them, but we did have to get to the Max, because our friend was waiting for  us at one of the Max stations.  It was still gray and cloudy and even a bit drippy, but we did not care.

Our friend John was waiting for us at a suburban Max station, and we went with him for church, then took him and his wife out for lunch.  Fixit spent the afternoon first organizing a rental car for tomorrow, then resting and talking to our friend, and I sat in a very comfortable chair listening to a recording of a poem based on the book of Job in the Bible.  Then we had an awesome dinner (thank you, John and Davilyn!) where we just ate and ate and ate.

Tonight we get to sleep on a bed, and tomorrow, we go HOME!

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