03/03/2012 10:32 am ET

Riding An Amtrak Train Cross-Country: A Unique View Of America (PHOTOS)

There I was, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, looking down at the Colorado River. Animal tracks in the snow made a dotted line beside the water. But where, I wondered, were the bighorn sheep? The black bears? I pressed my nose to the glass and followed the tracks carefully, expecting — any second now — to see wildlife.

I was in my 40th hour aboard Amtrak, nearly 2,000 miles into a 3,218-mile cross-country adventure. I’d packed five books, my laptop, several movies and hours of music, figuring that I’d have plenty of time to kill. But I hadn’t unpacked any of it. Instead, I was so enthralled by the landscape that I’d forgotten I was supposed to be bored. And at this moment, I was convinced that if I focused with all my might, I would spot an animal.