By Joanna Smith
I took a roundtrip train trip from Wenatchee to Seattle last weekend and if it is not something you have done before, I would highly suggest adding it to your bucket list.
There is only one train and it leaves excruciatingly early at 5:30 every morning from Wenatchee. Arrival at King Street Station in Seattle is at 10:30 a.m., in time to grab brunch at Zeitgeist in Pioneer Square, just two blocks away.
The early morning drive to Wenatchee is beautiful, especially when a full moon is slowly setting and its reflection is sliding along the surface of the Columbia River. On this particular morning, the moon was exceedingly bright, highlighting the mountains and thinly scattered clouds.
Parking at the train station is free, and it is safe to leave a car there for several days. The Amtrak Empire Builder train is a double-decker, with bedroom suites, showers and bathrooms on the lower level, and spacious recliner seating on the upper levels.
After boarding the train I placed my travel bag in the roomy overhead storage rack and flipped up the leg rest on my comfortable recliner. I took an uninterrupted hour-and-a-half nap before waking to the first rays of sunlight rising over the mountains.
After an indulgent stretch, I made my way to the dining car, where the waitresses never let your coffee drop lower than two inches from the cup brim and call you “honey.” Breakfast was two scrambled eggs, perfectly cooked bacon, seasoned potato wedges and a whole wheat biscuit.
I had originally settled on the oatmeal/yogurt/fruit selection, but the calorie listing was 950 versus just 500 for the eggs and bacon. The man across the table ordered the oatmeal breakfast and I can verify the ample amounts of cream and sugar that deceptively raised the caloric content of that otherwise healthy option.
The train tracks follow scenic U.S. Highway 2, otherwise known as Stevens Pass Greenway, a National Scenic Byway. Catching the train early in the morning has the reward of catching the sun rising over rocky peaks, illuminating snow fields and glaciers. The tracks follow the Wenatchee River and views of waterfalls, lakes and cascading mountain creeks are plentiful. The morning forests are backlit with dappled sunlight through aspen branches sporting golden fall colors, their white trunks a patchwork of moss.
Train trestles spanned rivers and sleepy bedroom villages with overgrown gardens. A runner jogged in place, waiting for the train to pass while waving at passengers. A teenage boy with wispy facial fuzz and overgrown curly locks stood on a patch of rocks in the river. He threw back his head and howled as the train passed and I momentarily wondered if, after a full moon night, he was relinquishing his werewolf persona.
As the train pulled into the beautifully restored King Street Station, I admired the marble columns and high-backed wooden benches. Built in 1906, the station served the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway. The station was designed by the same architectural firm that also created New York’s Grand Central Station. Recent remodeling has restored the original ornate interior.
The train departs Seattle at King Street Station at 4:40 in the afternoon. The diner car offers a wide selection of chef-created dinners, including thick juicy steaks and fresh seafood. You arive back in Wenatchee by 8:30 p.m., plenty of time to sleep in your own bed.
For a weekend getaway to catch a game, a show or even to hang out at a pub and enjoy swampabilly blues with Junkyard Jane, take the train.