Day 27 Sat Feb 14. Empire Builder – Portland OR

Eased slowly into the last week of the trip as I woke from another great night’s sleep on the rails to the sight of fog.  By the time I’d had a shower we’d joined the Columbia and the fog was starting to break up and ended up having a stunning trip along the river.  Upstream of The Dalles you could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the southwest with the barren hillsides and rocky outcrops, but as you start to approach the gorge the greenery starts to slowly assert itself, and by Hood River the landscape has changed completely. Large groups of tiny birds floating on the river in clusters – would actually look like an amorphous mas of something until you got closer.

Amtrak timetabling utilises a sense of logic known nowhere else in the universe – although we were 40 minutes late leaving Vancouver – the last stop before Portland – and the timetable says that section will take an hour, we arrived in Portland on time.  Go figure.  With only a day here was able to do an early check in of the ski bag for tomorrows trip.  Took the Max to the motel and dropped off the rest of the gear then took a walk down to and across the river and along the path on the other side – with about half the rest of Portland it would seem.  LOTS of walkers, runners and cyclists and it does make a great circuit though a noisy one – you’re underneath or beside freeways for much of it.

Just kept walking back up through Pearl District – which just happens to hold the local REI along with several fine coffee shops.  Without having to dodge rain showers got a much better appreciation of the city and really grew to like it – could easily spend a fair bit of time here.  Back to the motel to check in then a bit more wandering before ending up at one of the groups of food vans for dinner.  Had figured on grazing on several different options and started with some samosas and naan – quite nice but of course being America they were both HUGE and barely had room for some thai rice and shrimp to follow up.  Finally took the last of many MAX and streetcar rides for the day back to base and settled down with a heffe to look at motel options in Tahoe – the last part of the bookings to put in place.

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