The train ride between Pittsburgh and DC is a pure delight to me. I’m a big fan of travel on Amtrak as it is, with its comfortable seating, loads of leg room, plenty of restrooms, power outlets by the seats, café car and a windowed observation deck where you can look out on the world (this blog post is not brought to you by Amtrak). This particular trip, however, winds beside a river for most of the trip, and for almost all of the trip, the track passes through forests full of deep green, full-leaved deciduous trees.
So many shades of green!! On a rainy September day like today, the green glows below the soft grey blanket of the sky, dripping rain, and here and there shot through with yellow, orange and red, early hints of the autumn just around the corner.
Between the tree trunks and by the riverside, I catch glimpses of a world tantalizingly untamed. This morning, I have seen 2 blue herons, a white heron, and a wild turkey. In the shadows of the trees, I’ve glimpsed makeshift campsites, pop-up trailers next to small wooden structures that appear both very old and as though they they’re not built to last. I see handpainted no-trespassing signs, the burnt-out remains of a campfire encircled by large rocks in a clearing by the river, and a tiny platform built high in a tree near the tracks, just big enough for the two rusting metal chairs that someone has left there.
What visible human activity I’ve seen this morning has been restricted to a couple of sets of fly fishermen, a man and a boy walking by the river in drab green jackets and flaming orange baseball caps, and a lone hunter scrambling up a steep bank and emerging onto a dirt road. Viewed from above, they look like toy soldiers, small enough to be discarded by a child, left in sandboxes, beside stick-forts built beneath trees, swept under couches, forgotten.
Signs of civilization consist mostly of small farms, tidily situated on cleared off hills or on flatlands in shallow valleys. Earlier, we passed a set of three windmills on a hilltop, like giant white three-armed extraterrestrials, turning slow and ghostly in the morning fog.
Inside the train car, most everyone is still asleep, and the car is silent with the exception of the rumbling of the train and the snoring of the passenger behind me. I sip a (surprisingly decent) cup of coffee from the café car, and blink hard, realizing how my eyes have been strained by trying to take in every detail of the stunning wild beauty of the world outside.
It has been a beautiful morning.