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Traveling America with a Railpass and Camping Backpack

by Liz Childers

As a big fan of contemporary folk music, Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes tend to be at the top of my iTunes “Top 25 Most Played.” Each band has a very different sound, but they all boast impressive lyrics, beautiful banjo pickin’, and an eclectic assortment of bluegrass and alt-country instruments and voices.

Whether you enjoy this kind of music or not, you can probably get on board with their inspired 2011 idea: the Railroad Revival Tour. The three bands boarded vintage railroad cars in Oakland, CA and traveled to New Orleans, LA. They played six sold-out shows to cities along the route. The tour was meant to harken back to former heydays of music and the glory days of the America railroads, a la Woody Guthrie’s freight train travels or The Band and The Grateful Dead’s Festival Express tour.

To me, this seems like an incredible way to see America and expand the horizons of camping. The Amtrak website has a great interactive map of routes, so after much musing, I started planning/daydreaming a railroad trip.

My favorite path goes from New Orleans, where I live, up to Chicago, and then through the American West to San Francisco. On the route, I’d pass through Denver and Salt Lake City and get to witness the incredible geography of the Midwest and the West. With a 30-day rail pass, I could get on and off the train in the cities I wanted to visit.

I love taking camping trips in new locations throughout America. A night spent in the Appalachian Mountains is so different than a night at a campground outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The hugely different geographies bring unfamiliar air, different wildlife, and new woods to enjoy and explore. With my standard camping backpack and a 30-day rail pass, it would be easy to broaden my camping experiences.

Has anyone ever tried a cross-country camping trip via American railway? Or have you ever thought about it? I would love some feedback.