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Moving through the mountains


Near GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. — The Rocky Mountains come bursting out on to the planes, without warning, and almost out of nowhere.

We’ve been riding through the planes for most of the day — all the way through North Dakota, and most of Montana, the landscape is flat, with only short moments of relief. But now, as we begin to approach Glacier National Park, the Rockies appear, dominant on the skyline. And they are spectacular.

Now that we’re in range, though, I can tell that the landscape is changing. A few miles out, foothills start to take shape. And though it’s mid-May, there are patches if snow all along the side of the
hills. In this part of the country, everything begins to change: the once-barren landscape is now abundant with cedar, birch, maple and pine. Streams run alongside the tracks. There are signs of life.

One of the great benefits of traveling the Northwest by rail is the unshakable sense of grandeur that you get along the way. The Empire Builder cuts through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Washington and Oregon. All together, it stretches nearly 2,000 miles.

If you really want to, you can look out the window and see every one of them go by.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.