Amtrak Cascades

In my last post, I told you how my friends and I travelled to Seattle. Wanna know how we got home?

We took the train.

Semiahmoo Bay

Semiahmoo Bay

I’ve been down Interstate 5 to Seattle more times than I care to count, both by car and by bus. The I-5 extends from the American–Canadian border all the way down the West Coast of the United States to Mexico. If you’re inclined to drive that far, it would be quite the road trip.

But, as efficient as they are, American interstates aren’t known for their beauty. I’ve always felt that taking the I-5 was a bit of an endurance test to get through before the prize: your final destination (in my case, usually Sea-Tac Airport). And thanks to the collapse three days ago of the Skagit River Bridge on the I-5 just north of Seattle, that will most definitely be true for many months to come until the bridge is repaired or replaced.

But the train! What a revelation that was.

The Amtrak Cascades is the name of the Amtrak route from Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, Canada. The northbound leg from Seattle to Vancouver hugs the Pacific shoreline for the first while, moves inland for a bit through some of Washington’s fertile farmland, and then heads back to the coast and crosses the Canadian border at White Rock, BC. Unless you’re paying close attention, you don’t even realize you’ve crossed the border. (All passengers, both northbound and southbound, go through customs in Vancouver.)

After rounding Boundary Bay, the train takes you across the municipality of Delta (named after the Fraser River delta) and east along the Fraser to New Westminster, where you cross the rail bridge beside the Pattullo Bridge. Then it’s a quick ride northwest through Burnaby to Pacific Central Station near downtown Vancouver.

Pattullo Bridge, with the Skytrain Bridge behind

Pattullo Bridge, with the Skytrain Bridge behind

If you book your tickets far enough in advance, the train costs about half of the bus fare. It’s a far prettier route than the I-5, and the wait to go through customs is far shorter. My second travel tip of the week? Take the train.

Pacific Central Station

Pacific Central Station

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