Amtrak Stories: Laurie and Tessa’s West Coast Reunion

Amtrak Stories: Laurie and Tessa’s West Coast Reunion


When my daughter, Tessa, told me she was walking the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), from Canada to Mexico, solo, I knew I had to find a way to be involved. Not a long-distance walker myself, we came up with the plan for me to meet Tessa when she arrived at the PCT’s southern terminus at the California-Mexico border. We knew we would eventually need to get back to Seattle, where my daughter lives, so thought, why not make the return trip an adventure all its own? That’s when we turned to Amtrak.

I am a systems engineer by trade but an avid photographer in my spare time. Amtrak helped me create a return home journey for Tessa with lots of photo-opportunities for me. With help from Amtrak, we planned a trip from San Diego, California to Seattle, Washington, that allowed us a few stops for exploring along the way.

An Adventure Ends…And Begins

I flew to San Diego from my home in Washington, DC, and then drove to the southern terminus in Campo, California. I knew I wanted to walk north a little ways on the trail to meet Tessa. In researching this part of the path, I learned this particular area of high desert is a haven for rattlesnakes. Thankfully, I saw no snakes and, as you can imagine, was incredibly emotional to see my daughter finish 3½ months of walking—an impressive feat.

We returned together to San Diego, and the city did not disappoint. We visited La Jolla’s Children’s Pool, drank margaritas and ate fish tacos in Ocean Beach, and relaxed at the historic U.S. Grant hotel. After three serene days, we were excited to hit the rails for a new adventure together up the West Coast.

We left San Diego and headed to Los Angeles on the Pacific Surfliner. We felt like we could step right off the train and onto the beach. Tessa watched the breath-taking scenery slip by our windows, seeing the miles she had walked unfold in reverse. We arrived in Los Angeles and jumped aboard Amtrak’s Coast Starlight where we would spend the next 22 hours. We had reserved a roomette, but because the parlor car provided views of the most spectacular scenery, we spent a great deal of our time there.

Observation Car

Hop on, Hop Off

Next stop: Klamath Falls, Oregon. We arrived at 8 o’clock in the morning and rented a car to drive to Crater Lake. Little did we know, the night before, the skies had opened up and left two feet of snow on the Crater Lake rim. It was a winter wonderland. We stayed two nights at The Lodge, going for short hikes in the snow and relaxing by the great fireplace.


We then headed back to Klamath Falls to get back on board the Coast Starlight heading to Portland, Oregon. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to hop off Amtrak when we wanted to explore! We stayed in a quaint B&B in Portland, and explored the city and attractions nearby. We visited Multnomah Falls, east of Portland, and Haystack Rock, at Cannon Beach, west of Portland. We ate Voodoo Donuts, visited a local farmer’s market, and checked out the local restaurant scene. The following Monday we were back on the Amtrak train and headed to Seattle, Washington getting Tessa settled in back home. Autumn was just arriving in the city, and it was beautiful.

Cannon Beach

Our time traveling up the West Coast was stress-free and an adventure we will never forget.  Amtrak made it possible for us to travel without the burden of driving or the bustle of flying. The views from the train were priceless and the hospitality of Amtrak staff warm and helpful. I can say that the prospect of rattlesnakes (and, really, Tessa’s whole adventure) had me worried,but Amtrak helped make our reunion worry-free. I can’t wait to do a trip like this again!

About the Author: Laurie Collins was born in Washington, DC and it’s where she has raised her family.  She is a Systems Engineer by trade, an avid photographer, and serves as a community manager for Instagram’s local DC group, IGDC. You can find her on Instagram at @dccitygirl