From Los Angeles to Seattle (Day 1)

I had thought I would be telling the tales of our trip to Vashon as they happened, with regular updates from the road. But (happily) I found that there was simply too much to see and experience for me to want to stop and sit in front of the computer for very long. I was also surprised by just how exhausted I was when we returned home last weekend. I guess my body (and my brain) needed a bit of time to process everything. When I finally sat down to start writing and sorting images, I realized there’s just no way that I could share all my photos (1000+!!) nor describe every detail, but hopefully this retrospective will give you a taste of where I’ve been…

As you may recall, we decided to travel via the Coast Starlight train. After my mother-in-law kindly dropped us off at Union Station, we boarded the train and were shown to our sleeper car. For those of you who’ve never traveled in this manner on the train, let me say that the seating is pretty comfortable in the daytime, but the fold-down seats and upper berth which become bunk beds are (understandably) not the most desirable of sleeping surfaces. But… we were not taking the train in order to get a good night’s sleep. We were eager to travel in a way that would allow us to see new places as we made our way up north — we were not disappointed! The first really interesting locale we passed through was the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park. Apparently, a historically notable spot for having once been a stagecoach route, as well as being the site of a movie ranch.

Santa Susana State Historic Park
Santa Susana State Historic ParkMy photos do not do these stone outcroppings justice… The back of one of the large movie set facades as we sped past… Am I the only one who sees a large dinosaur poking its head over the top of that hill? (*grin*)
As we continued past Simi Valley and traveled through Moorpark, Camarillo and Oxnard we saw a lot of agriculture and farm animals. These two fields were right next to each other and reminded me of a classic “Before & After” shot.

Agricultural fields
Around Ventura, the train moved towards the coast where it mostly paralleled the Pacific Coast Highway for a while. We passed through Santa Barbara and Goleta, then somewhere around Gaviota State Beach, PCH diverges inland but the train continues to hug the coast for quite some ways. Much of this area is encompassed by Vandenberg Air Force Base and I wonder (outside of this train route) how easy it would be for the average person to see this stretch of coastline? I had so many beautiful images (despite the difficulties of shooting from a moving train!) that I had trouble narrowing down which ones to share. As you can see, the textures and layered colors of the passing landscapes were a photographer’s delight!

California coast
California coastBe sure to click on the images to see a larger view!
Finally, around Grover Beach, the train headed inland once again. The sun set on our first day of adventuring as we we headed north of San Luis Obispo. I never did manage to take any great photos of the sleeper car, but this last photo shows the parlour car where we spent a fair bit of time looking out the windows, eating, and talking to other folks on the train. The social aspect of traveling via train is one that some might not like, but we really enjoyed meeting and chatting with people from other places (a few of whom were quite knowledgeable about the areas we were passing through and were able to give us some insight into the locales we were whizzing through). I must also mention that the train staff was almost universally friendly and very accommodating. They made our trip as comfortable as possible and kept us smiling.

Coast Starlight parlour car

Harsi / March 19, 2011 / not nature, travel


  1. Ro - March 20, 2011 @ 9:10 am

    Thank you for sharing your trip. I have never taken a long train trip and wondered what it was like. I’ve only traveled to San Diego and back and I remembered it took a long time because the train kept stopping. I can’t wait to see more. Glad you’re home and enjoying RAIN!!!!! xo

  2. Harsi - March 20, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    My pleasure, Ro! I think you would really like this route up the coast and assuming you are willing to (possibly) sacrifice a good night’s sleep I enthusiastically recommend the trip! It does take a long time, but there was so much cool stuff to see that we didn’t mind that at all. I’m glad to be home too and the rain today has been fantastic. Did you hear those BIG thunder booms a little while ago? The sky really opened up after that we had heavy rain and hail for a bit. Oh, BTW, the newts are really in their prime now — I counted at least 50 (!!!) on my walk yesterday. Let’s try and figure out a time for you to come and see them, OK?

  3. Chris - March 20, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

    Very glad you enjoyed the trip! Love the scenic from-the-train shots; California has some beautiful coastlines and you did well to capture them (especially from a moving vehicle!). I’ve never been on a major train trip either and I will admit that several days after you left I had to look into it, and it definitely seems like something I’d like to do (if only it were slightly cheaper). Still not tired of the rain though 😉 ? I thought it was raining all the while you were up there. I love me some rain every now and then but this week I had outdoor plans that now look like they’re going to be foiled. Haha. Happy first day of spring!

  4. Harsi - March 21, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

    Chris! So good to hear from you. Thank you for the compliments on the photos. It was a bit difficult to get decent shots from the train… The secret to my success — try your best to anticipate the upcoming scenery and pre-compose the shot, then take LOTS and LOTS of photos. (Trust me, there were a bunch that got deleted that did not look anywhere near as good.) Sadly, the cost of traveling by train is not small and certainly not competitive with cheaper methods like flying. Probably better to compare the price tag in your mind to taking an extended road trip where you might have to stay in various motels and eat out frequently. I do hope that you manage to find a way to give it a try some day though… perhaps you could take one of the shorter day-trips up the coast (e.g., LA to San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara) and see if you think the experience is worth saving up for a longer trip. Aaah… the infamous weather issue! Well, I’ll tell you what Chris… I don’t know what is typical for this time of year in the Washington area, but for the 8 or 9 days that we were there, we saw significantly less rain than southern California has had just in the last few days. It’s not that it didn’t rain at all, it’s just that it was usually a very light rain and it stopped frequently. There were at least 6 days or so that were what I could only call SPECTACULAR! Blue skies with intermittent sun and huge expanses of moving gray and white clouds over sparkling water… well, you’ll see! The upcoming photos in my future posts should prove my point nicely. *grin*

  5. Ben - March 31, 2011 @ 11:56 am

    So I’m scrolling through my bookmarks the other day and land on Solace Images. OK, click. Hmm. What happened. Site moved? But where? Ahh. Here! Looks like an awesome trip, the coastline shots are gorgeous and I like that dino popping out from behind the hill. Hope you’re well! B

  6. Harsi - March 31, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

    BEN!!!! Yay! I’m so glad that you found my new blog. Solace Images will exist again soon — Ezra is in the process of building me a new gallery site at that address which I hope will be finished before Summer. It really was a fantastic trip and I’m lagging on posting more images because I’ve been spending too much time outside here in the canyon. But, it is Spring after all, and every day brings new birds and bugs that I simply cannot resist going out to photograph. (*grin*) I have been doing very well and hope that you and your family are also thriving! Though we haven’t been in touch for awhile now (!), you are in my thoughts often and I’m thrilled that you stopped by.


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