Starting The Day A Mile High

Pete and I had gone to bed at around 9:30 the night before and with the clocks being set back an hour to Central Standard Time, we woke up pretty early.  Breakfast was available from 6:00 AM onward and was on a first come first served basis (no reservations are taken for breakfast).  We were up by 6:15 so we changed into our clothes and made our way to the dining car by 6:30, quietly making our way through 4 cars of sleeping coach passengers.  Soon we were eating French toast,  and scrambled eggs with bacon as the sun rose over the plains.  We were seated across from a couple who were visiting family in Colorado Springs, and one of them was a train buff.  We shared stories of various trains we had traveled on and before we knew it, breakfast was done and we were just about at Denver.   By the time we arrived back to our room at 7:15 our beds had been made up into seats, there was fresh water in the room, and fresh coffee at the refreshment stand. Soon the train began to slow, and we prepared to disembark. Denver is a refueling stop of over 30 minutes and that gave us time to get out, stretch our legs and get some fresh air.  As we got off, our room attendant and one of the conductors were on the platform.  They said good morning and starting cracking jokes about us being early birds.  We asked if we could take their picture and they said yes, but only if Dee (our room attendant) could pose hugging her favourite conductor.  Later she confessed … she tells them all they are her favourite conductor, but that was a secret for only us to know.

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OUR ROOM ATTENDANT DEE HUGS RICHARD, ONE OF THE CONDUCTORS ON OUR TRAIN.  THE AMTRAK STAFF WERE A LOT OF FUN.

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The train station in Denver went through a massive modernization, and was officially reopened in July of 2014.  Unlike most dingy larger train stations, this one was cheery and bright and filled with services and amenities.

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THE TERMINAL AROUND THE TRACKS IS SLEEK AND MODERN

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PETE STANDS BESIDE A MOVING SCULPTURE ON THE UPPER PLATFORM OF THE TRAIN TERMINAL

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INSIDE THE TERMINAL THERE IS A BRIGHTLY LIT WAITING AREA AS WELL AS SHOPS, RESTAURANTS AND EVEN A HOTEL WHERE TRAVELERS CAN STAY.

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FRESH FLOWERS CAN BE PURCHASED FOR THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE IF YOU ARE MEETING THEM AT THE TRAIN.

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IF YOU GET TO THE STATION EARLY, YOU CAN PLAY ON THESE SHINY NEW SHUFFLE BOARDS FOR FREE WHILE YOU WAIT FOR YOUR GUESTS TO ARRIVE.

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Denver is known as the “Mile’High City” because its official elevation is 5, 280 feet above sea level.   Of course, Colorado has also legalized the use of cannibis (only in private abodes, not in public except in designated places) so that contributes to the Rocky Mountain high.  We didn’t take advantage of the local laws, but we can say that the air in Denver was clear and fresh and the mountains in the distance beckoned us to take them on.  We had a quick stroll around the block near the terminal, and then got back on the train and visited the lounge car to get some snacks for the day.  We picked up a few danishes for later in the morning to go with a mid-morning coffee, and since we were there, picked up a cheese platter and a half bottle of wine for the afternoon.  You are allowed to drink your own wine or liquor in your roomette.  While its true you can buy this more cheaply at a local store before you get on the train, we thought the prices were decent with a half bottle of wine from the lounge car only running at $16. In coach class, you are only allowed to drink the liquor Amtrak serves, and it can only be consumed in the lounge car.   We took our food and wine supplies for the day and made our way back to our room to watch the scenery.

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SCENERY WATCHING IS ONE OF THE PRIME ACTIVITIES OF TRAIN TRAVEL.

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HEADING OUT OF DENVER, YOU CLIMB THE FRONT RANGE OF THE ROCKIES TOWARDS THE MOFFAT TUNNEL

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THE TRAIN BANKS BACK AND FORTH THROUGH A SERIES OF TEN CURVES AS IT CLIMBS AWAY FROM THE PLAINS BEHIND.

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THE TERRAIN GETS MORE AND MORE MOUNTAINOUS. THE FRONT OF OUR TRAIN IS IN THE MIDDLE ON THE LEFT OF THIS SHOT.  IF YOU CAN’T SEE IT, CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

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EVENTUALLY WE HIT THE SUMMIT OF THE PASS, BUT THERE WERE MANY MORE MOUNTAINS TO CROSS (OR GO THROUGH).

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IN THE DISTANCE GROSS RESERVOIR SHINES IN THE SUN … THIS IS THE PRIMARY WATER SOURCE FOR DENVER

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The first 50 miles of the journey coming out of Denver were filled with vibrant colours and beautiful forest and rock, but soon we would be crossing the Continental Divide through the 6.2 mile Moffat Tunnel.  The tunnel opened in 1928 and cut the distance the trains had to travel to get to the coast by 176 miles (as they used to have to go  a long distance around through another pass).  Of course, the thing with tunnels is that there is nothing to see when you get inside, but here is a shot of the entrance to the Moffat Tunnel … the first of 31 tunnels of varying length that the train went through over the the next 12 miles of the journey.  At this point in the journey our train had climbed to an elevation of almost 9200 feet above sea level.

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THE MOFFAT TUNNEL IS 6.2 MILES LONG AND CROSSES THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE.

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The tunnel section of the trip dives deep into the mountain and then comes out in canyons whose walls rise up steeply beside the tracks.  The first of these is the Fraser Canyon which follows the Fraser River for 10 miles.

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CANYON WALLS LOOM ABOVE THE TRAIN TRACKS

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WIRES ON POSTS PREVENT ROCK SLIDES FROM CROSSING ONTO THE TRACKS

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EVENTUALLY THE CANYON WIDENS INTO A VALLEY AS YOU FOLLOW THE FRASER RIVER

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At mile 1113 of the journey, you go through Granby, which is known as the gateway city to Rocky Mountain National Park.  At this point the journey parallels the Colorado River for the next 235 miles.  The river isn’t as wide and spectacular as further down its course, but it still makes for stunning scenery along the way.

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EVENTUALLY THE FRASER RIVER JOINS INTO THE COLORADO RIVER. 

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SOMETIMES THE HIGHWAY IS NEAR THE TRACKS … HERE … JUST ACROSS THE RIVER.

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THE HIGHWAY ALSO GOES THROUGH TUNNELS

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By now it was closing on noon, and the dining car was open for lunch. Lunch reservations are also on a first come first served basis.  We made our way to the dining car and spent lunch with a retired couple.  A minister who spoke 8 languages who had done missionary work in Northern Africa and his wife who was a teacher trainer and spoke 4 languages.  They currently reside in France and had come on this trip to see the scenery.  They were fine lunch companions and our conversation was animated.  After lunch, we headed back to the room and had a bit of a nap.  Train travel is about relaxing and a 20 minute nap would set us up for the sights we were going to see in the afternoon.

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Trip Pix 434PETE RELAXES AFTER LUNCH

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Tomorrow …  red rock, rafters and Utah Badlands.  Until then, here’s a candid travel shot from …

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Fenton & White

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