Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
(Final part of the voyage, see also Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5) The early morning bus dropped me off in Salem, Oregon, where I find out that the Friday train is $60 cheaper than the Thursday train. Friday fits my schedule better, so I decide to spend the day in Salem. It’s the capital of Oregon, a pretty city with lots of trees.
The Capitol building is near the train station. I dumped my gear at a cheap motel and take a walk. I always enjoy seeing who the local folks build statues to. In Oregon, they seem to put great stock in the early missionaries, with statues of them all around the Capitol. I didn’t take any pictures of them, don’t want to be struck by lightning for my impiety …
I came up to the capital from the back, where they have a curious display. It’s the remnants of several columns from the second Capitol building, which was destroyed by fire in 1935. The second capitol building was finished in 1876, an elegant building with tall columns at the front, and at the time they wanted fluted limestone columns … but being practical Oregon farming folk, they didn’t want to waste expensive limestone if they didn’t have to … so this was the result.
The Capitol is an impressive building, also made of gleaming white limestone. But after seeing the old columns, I had to wonder if that beauty is only skin deep …
In front of the Capitol, they have a semicircle of the flags of the indian tribes of Oregon, including the one above for the Coquille tribe along with about a dozen others. A bit further away, they have all of the state flags. On top of the Capitol building there’s a giant refulgent statue covered in gold leaf, and representing the “Oregon Pioneer” … at least they passed on the missionaries for their main statue.
The city is on the Willamette River, and has a most pleasant Riverside Park, complete with an old-school carousel for the kids.
And of course, as the name suggests, Riverside Park has the Willamette river itself, complete with bushes loaded with blackberries, which I left a bit less loaded with berries than when I found them …
I used the rest of the afternoon to wander the city, and then wrote up some of the trip back at the motel. The next day, it was time for one of my favorite modes of transportation, viz:
I rode this stretch of the railroad line once before, about forty years ago … but on a freight train, as I recounted here. It’s strange to see the same scenes from a much more comfortable, if less exciting, platform. First the train runs south along the valley floor, mostly following the Willamette River.
It soon forsakes that prosaic world for a trip up into the foothills, past vistas of surpassing beauty.
And from there up into the mountain wilderness, with the long light of evening slanting down.
Up near the top, we get to Lake Odel, a large natural lake surrounded on all sides by miles of forest.
Just beyond the lake we crest the pass, and the landscape changes quickly. It’s much drier on the east side of the range, and the forest is less dense and shorter overall. But about that time the sun sets, so I’m out of photos. I get a phone call from the Captain. After I signed off they had one final day’s run left to get to down the coast to their destination. He calls me once he’s back on land. He tells me that the wind kicked up on that day after I’d left. By dusk it was waves as high as the cabin top … turned out the Captain and I were right in knowing that the good weather couldn’t last, right in moving because we both felt that we were burning sunshine. Both of us have been at sea far too long, both of us have seen that coast be wild and wet and ugly, and neither of us wanted to tow a trimaran in that kind of weather. So we pushed the schedule hard, and we got there with zero days to spare … because on the final run south, they weren’t towing the tri, we had dropped it off the day before they left. So without a tow, it was just another run down the coast with Small Craft Advisories flying, and we’ve both done that more times than bear thinking. We laughed about that, how we’d dodged the bullet.
Of course, no trip is complete without curious happenstances, and on this trip it’s a three-hour unplanned delay in Klamath Falls to get a new train crew. At present, it’s 3:39 AM, and we’ve started moving again, so that’s good news. It remains to be seen how I’ll get home, the delay will make me miss my connections … ah, well, if I wanted lack of inconvenience I’d never leave home. I just figure it’s part of life’s rich pageant and keep rolling.
At 4 AM we’re passing Mt. Shasta, I can see it glowing pale in the moonlight … or maybe that’s just the Shasta Vortex I wrote about last week when I took this same trip by car. I’m gonna doze off if I can, but the light will likely wake me. Back in a bit …
Well, it’s now 6:15AM, and we’re working our way across Shasta Lake. It’s very low this year, due to the drought. You can make out the bare hillside above the water at the right of the picture, showing the normal winter lake level maybe a hundred feet (30m) above the current level.
So … it appears that I’ll be three hours delayed into Oakland, too late for my ride. Probably I’ll get a taxi to the airport and catch the Airporter bus up the coast to my home. Nothing is ever simple, I guess, that would be too boring. At least we’re rolling along at a good clip through the farmlands and ranchlands of California’s great Central Valley…
… and there are worse places to be. I should know, I’ve spent time in a good fraction of said worse places, and sitting in a warm dome car at dawn definitely isn’t one of them.
We spend the morning running alongside the Sacramento River, as we’ve been doing since before dawn. After going through the city of Sacramento, we continue following the river as it wends towards San Francisco Bay.
Anyhow, other than figuring out how I’ll make the last sixty miles (100 km) from the train station to my house, I guess that’s about it for my voyage And here near the end of these travels, thinking back on my time at sea, what do I remember the most?
What sticks out in my memory is the eye of the orca, when it rolled next to the boat and looked right at me. Six tonnes of athletic bone and muscle, with a most intelligent brain and a racy black-and-white exterior, peering in through the window of a fishing boat at the hundred and sixty pounds of strange creature within. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bleeding heart Walt Disney kind of guy about nature. I’m not saying that the orca and I were meeting as equals … but I’m still having a hard time figuring out which of the two of us is the most unequal.
Anyhow, thanks for coming along on the sea voyage, and my wish for all of us is that we all have lives as exciting and full and satisfying as … well, as the life of the orca.
All the best to everyone, we now return you to your regularly scheduled scientific programming.