Passport to Adventure: Salt Lake City to Green River
At Amtrak we believe every trip you take has the potential to become your next great adventure. That is why we partnered with Passion Passport to help capture a look at the services we offer and the many destinations we serve across the country. Read on for a little trainspiration brought to you from the California Zephyr:
Catching the 3:30 am train from Salt Lake City was more a matter of staying up late than waking up early. Blake Pack, my friend and fellow photographer, and I arrived at the station with plenty of time before our scheduled departure and anxiously waited for our train to start boarding. The anticipation of the journey ahead was more than enough to keep us awake and we both figured we’d have plenty of time to rest on the train to Green River.
When it came time to board however, we quickly realized we wouldn’t be getting much rest that morning. Carefully stepping around the sleeping passengers, we explored the other corridors of the train. We passed sleeping families, couples, solo riders, and exchanged smiles and friendly nods at our fellow passengers who were still awake at the early hour. Once we settled in our seats we both stared out our respective windows from this new vantage point at our familiar, but fleeting city. Neither of us had ever taken the train out of Salt Lake City and the excitement of this new experience was evident.
When it got closer to sunrise we made our way through the different passenger coaches to the observation car. Up to that moment we had only enjoyed glimpses of the dark landscapes through the windows of our seats, and the occasional open curtained window of the passenger coaches. Once we made it to the observation car we were treated to an amazing sunrise where the rising light crept in over the passing hills and the scenery began springing to life. We passed over calm rivers and rolling plains, then through dark mountain tunnels, and along winding canyons. The train took us past rocky cliffs and jagged terrain then opened up to beautiful landscapes and we gazed over vast stretches of wilderness. The ride to Green River was breathtaking and to experience the journey by train was something we’ll never forget.
The train ride from Salt Lake City to Green River was about four hours long and we were fortunate to still have the whole day ahead of us. We were the only ones to disembark at the station and once the train continued on we were left alone to explore the town and establish our base camp from which we trek towards the city of Moab. Tom, our taxi driver, drove a dust colored van, wore a straw hat with white hair matching his beard, which reached the middle of his chest. He was a geologist in a previous life who turned tour guide/taxi ride in Moab. Some of the most insightful moments during this trip were getting his thoughts, musings, and wisdom concerning the rocks and formations as wemade the 45-minute drive.
When we reached Moab, by way of a taxi ride with a former geologist, who provided endless knowledge of the rock formations we passed on the ride. We knew we only had a couple hours till sunset and we knew we wanted to be at Delicate Arch by then. We also knew that we had roughly two hours of driving and hiking ahead of us. We hopped in a jeep and set off to Arches National Park to see the incomparable natural beauty ofthe area.
We only drove about ten minutes before we had to pull over to take in the towering rock formations right along the main road of the park. We also took this opportunity to take the roof off of the jeep and Blake spent the rest of the ride with his eyes fixed on the red rock formations that we passed on both sides. As we rounded the bend by the La Sal Mountains’ viewpoint and saw the light raking across the valley and perfectly lighting The Organ and Courthouse Towers. Against our better judgment and against the clock we stopped, even if it meant risking missing the sun setting on Delicate Arch. We knew this one was worth the stop. But the sun was starting to set and we rushed to Delicate Arch to see the iconic Utah landmark before the day ended.
The rest of the trip would go this way: we moved when we felt like it, and stopped when something caught our attention. We ended up getting eaten alive by mosquitos, out ran a lightning storm, and photographed rock formation after iconic rock formation. The next two days were spent trekking through Arches and Canyonlands from our home base in Green River, and we roamed around in search for the famous vistas we had grown up seeing in books and pictures. The Doubles Arches were my favorite formations and we stopped there before continuing on to see the fragile Landscape Arch and Double O Arches.
In Canyonlands we looked out over Dead Horse Point in awe of the huge canyons that the park is named for. The Island in the Sky mesa rests on sheer sandstone cliffs over 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain. Every overlook offers a different perspective on Canyonlands’ spectacular landscape. Blake ventured to the edge of one of the cliffs to take in the huge panoramic view of Island in the Sky. We saved the best for last and finished our afternoon with a walk out to Mesa Arch before heading back to Moab.
We grabbed some dinner then took the drive back to Green River to watch the sunset from the train stop and take some time to reflect on the memories we had made. We went back and forth talking about our favorite moments of the trip and agreed that this will be a weekend trip we won’t soon forget. Its a blessing to live so close to SouthernUtah and knowing that these natural wonders are just a short train ride away opens the doors to many more trips like this down the road (or tracks…)
Authors: Zach Fackrell and Blake Pack are photographers based in Utah. They met on Instagram due to their passion for photography and exploring in the Cottonwood Canyons. They have documented adventures from the American West to the South Pacific and beyond. Zach Fackrell is a staff videographer at Passion Passport.