What a difference a day out of town makes! Just two hours from here, in the foothills of Mt. Rainier, we went day tripping on an old, classic train.
We left here before 8 am as planned and missed almost all the worker bee traffic. The sun was trying to break through the overcast, and we were grateful it wasn't raining. Any respite from this interminable rain is welcome. Just south of Tacoma, we veered left onto a highway that we had never traveled before, so our adventure began.
This all came about one day when Chris came over to my desk, waving the AAA magazine, saying, "Guess what I think we should do?" I thought for a second or two, and said, "Train Trip!" much to his disgust! He though he would have me cold on that one. It was just a lucky guess, really. So we made plans, booked online, getting the AAA discount.
The trains run on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Seeing as we both have the freedom to pick out times, we decided Friday would be less crowded. The trip is about two hours, runs up to Mineral Lake, where they offer a barbecue (which we didn't do, took our sandwiches etc.) and music. There is a late afternoon run, too but we decided on the mid-day one, so we needed to be there by 11:30 to check in.
After getting off the freeways, the road quickly became more rural, and we drove through some quite blighted areas, before starting up into the foothills. Then we watched the hills change to forest, and the road became a switchback ride! Vistas of mountains, although we barely saw Mt. Rainier, as it never cleared up enough. The Nisqually River runs through there, and it was running fast.
Of course, we had to stop for fresh Rainier cherries at a roadside stand. OMG! They are soooo good, I could have eaten the whole lot, but was careful not to over-indulge as I knew there were no rest stops along the road!
We made good time and took a quick drive around Elbe, the dot on the road where the trains live. That took all of two minutes! There is a tiny church there that is on the National Register of Historic Places, built by German Lutherans back in 1906. I got to ring the bell in the 46-foot steeple!
It was still too early to check in so we wandered around, checking out the old cabooses that have been converted into accommodation. It's called the Hobo Inn, and looked as if it would be a fun place to stay.
Fellow train riders were arriving, masses of kids running around all over the place, all excited to be riding the train! We checked in and got our tickets for the sold out trip. Good thing we didn't do this on the spur of the moment!
We loaded into the three carriages. The seating isn't original, they have used park benches to accommodate more passengers. Each seat is supposed to have two passengers but there were a lot, and I mean a lot, of obese people who took up whole seats! Unbelievable how fat they are! Gross!
Anyway, we got underway, with lots of chuffing and whistle blowing, the kids (both small and big) excited about the ride. We traveled at 20 mph. Anything over that, the conductor informed us, we might derail! So it was a leisurely ride, through people's back yards (a lot of junk) and through scrublands and forests. We crossed trestles high above the rivers and ravines, and made winding turns up the hills. It was disappointing that we didn't get wide mountain vistas, just mostly the forests and occasional rivers.
About 45 minutes later, we stopped at Mineral Lake, which is fed from an underground river. It sounded too cold to even stick a toe in. Those passengers who had paid for the barbecue lunches sat at park tables and it looked like a good spread - ribs, chicken, salads but we had eaten our picnic lunch before departure. Chris threw horseshoes with another passenger while lunch was consumed and then we reboarded for the return trip, down the hill.
This was much shorter! But the kids were getting restless and some of them were roaring around the carriage, with parents constantly telling them to settle down! But they all had fun and fortunately we didn't have to stop the train to pick up anyone who fell out of a window.
Driving home, we took a different route and got a bit turned around in a construction zone, but my handy dandy Blackberry found us and we navigated out of the mess.
As an added treat, we stopped for Mexican food on the way home. The helpings were huge and we doggie bagged the majority of it. So yippee! I don't cook today.
Oh, and it's raining again today, in fact pouring. But we got a decent one yesterday, so I am grateful for that.