Around the U.S. by Train #4: Sunset Limited (March 2017)

Amtrak Sunset Limited Los Angeles California

The Sunset Limited starts in New Orleans and takes the most southerly route in the U.S. all the way to Los Angeles, California. Those who stayed awake during high school history class will remember that this southern route was made possible by the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, not to mention the Mexican-America War of 1846-48.  The train left the station at 9:00AM, so we had the whole day to observe its passage through the wet, coastal plains of Louisiana, into the pine forests of eastern Texas, and on to the clenching humidity of Houston, Texas.  Night fell after we left Houston and the light didn’t return until we’d reached Del Rio, Texas and started into the scrub deserts of West Texas.  We made a stop in Alpine, Texas (which I’d last visited a few years ago enroute to Big Bend National Park) and then pressed on to El Paso, Texas.  Beyond El Paso, the tracks run right up to the Mexican border, right up to pieces of the new (but likely futile) border wall, and soon enter New Mexico.  The Amtrak station in Deming, New Mexico stands out for being a lonely little open shelter with two benches in a gravel parking lot.  Night fell again just as we reached Benson, Arizona and that was it for any more sightseeing on this trip.

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Emory Peak (Big Bend National Park) 01-Jul-2014

Chisos Mountains Big Bend National Park Texas

My brother-in-law, nephew, and I had talked for years about getting together for a hiking vacation but our respective schedules never meshed. With my nephew now teaching in Houston, and with none of us having been there before, Big Bend National Park seemed like the obvious choice. Although the week before 4th of July is not the most popular season in Big Bend owing to the high temperatures, it was the time our mutual schedules allowed. By going at this time and doing most of our hiking high in the Chisos (“Chee-sos”) Mountains, we avoided the really high temperatures, had the trails largely to ourselves, and still saw quite a bit of wildlife (Spring is the birding season in the park but there are still plenty of resident species).

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