Cardinal AppalachianSo, today, I set my alarm to wake me at 4:20 a.m. so I could be early enough to catch the hotel shuttle to a monorail to a commuter line to a connecting train pausing at Washington, DC, so I could board the Cardinal. After that, I was going to spend 24 hours in a seat (albeit business class) until I got to Chicago at 10 a.m. local time Thursday morning. That has to push the patience of even the most ardent train fan.

All things considered, though, I think it’s worth it.

The Cardinal is a thrice-weekly train operated by Amtrak that is reputed to be the most scenic to operate east of the Mississippi. After leaving DC, it passes through rural Virginia before heading into the wilds of West Virginia and the Appalachians. The highlight is the New River Gorge. While it initially doesn’t look like much, as you head along, you notice that the river gets faster, and the hills on either side get steeper, and taller. Pretty soon, what communities you pass cling to a narrow ledge between river and cliff. The tunnels you pass through are long and dark.

Although I personally rate the Adirondack about as high for scenery, I don’t think I’m seeing the Cardinal at its full potential. The wild weather that passed through New York yesterday (which I somehow managed to duck around) has stuck around for some heavy clouds and fog. Right now, it’s so green, it’s frustrating: all of the trees are getting in the way of my mountain views. I didn’t have that problem in Jasper! But imagine what this run must look like in the fall? Even in the spring, there are some breathtaking views. It’s no wonder this run often sells out.

The Internet connection is spotty, so no pictures until tomorrow.

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