On every Great Northern Railway brochure and billboard were three words: “See America First.” The slogan was part of a promotional campaign The Great Northern used to promoted Glacier National Park as “America’s Switzerland.”
I missed the original campaign (beginning around 1914) by more than a few decades, and Kathy and I have been passengers on cruise ships to the Caribbean several times, Mexico and Alaska once, and we have traveled on trains in both Alaska and eastern Canada. But this time, when contemplating a rail adventure through the Canadian Rockies, which I understand is spectacular, Kathy and I decided to see America first*. So, we started looking at rail trips that would take us to several of North America’s great national parks. Canada will just have to wait.
*Disclaimer: we acknowledge that both Mexico and Canada are a part of the Americas too, and we’ve not forgotten that Alaska is part of the United States. We enjoyed our eastern Canadian rail adventure several years ago and would not hesitate to travel back to our great northern neighbor again in the future. However, we believe James and Louis Hill where referring to the United States of America in their “See America First” campaign, since their railroad did not reach into either Canada or Mexico.
After contacting Vacations by Rail (highly recommended by a good friend who had gone on a Canadian trip with them last year), we reserved two spots for their Yellowstone and Glacier Adventure Tour, an 11 day cross-country journey along the storied lines of the California Zephyr. We drove to St. Louis and caught an Amtrak to Chicago. Our tour began in Chicago, and after a night on the rails spent gazing at the changing vistas, the train arrived at Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake, we enjoyed a tour of Utah’s capital city and had plenty of free time to explore and recuperate from 34 hours aboard the train. The following day we continued to Jackson, Wyoming. From there, it was on to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. From Glacier, we returned to Chicago aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder. The 11-day journey was filled with just the right balance of travel, spectacular scenery, great food, first-class accommodations, and down-time. Robin – the Vacation by Rail tour manager, and Adriaan – our bus driver, were outstanding. We will benchmark all future tour managers and bus drivers against their performance.
Visit our vacation photos gallery and we will share some of the amazing vistas with you.
(Although we took this trip in 2017, for some reason I never published the draft of this blog until now – March 2019.)