PDA

View Full Version : lowest altitude trip from virginia to seattle



venusdmille
04-03-2010, 02:14 PM
Hi everyone,
I hope this request isn't redundant, but I'm planning a trip to Seattle and need to travel in the lowest possible altitude due to health concerns. I checked with Amtrak and received different information, but according to one agent, Marias Pass is one of the higher altitudes on the trip. I'm not clear about the Cascades.

I'd also like to investigate the lowest altitude (northern or southern) trip by car since I'm hoping to move to Seattle this year and will need to bring my pets.

Any tips or info about where to purchase an elevation map would be so appreciated. I had surgery 9 years ago that strangely caused me to have some shortness of breath in high elevations. Never had a problem before. Thanks all!
Venus

Mark Sedenquist
04-03-2010, 02:59 PM
Very, very soon, RTA will be unveiling a new mapping application that will allow you to create road trip maps with all of the elevation points along the way available to you. -- But I'll do some tinkering with it now and get back here.

Mark

AZBuck
04-03-2010, 04:09 PM
Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

I did a quick check of both internet resources and topographic mapping routines and of your two best choices, the maximum elevation I could find for I-90 was 4,725 feet at Lookout Pass on the Montana/Idaho state line, while the highest I found for I-10/I-5 was 4,310 feet at Siskiyou Summit in northern California. For the few hundred feet difference the northern route saves you around a thousand miles of driving. I-80. I-70. and I-40 all reach elevations in excess of 7,000 feet.

AZBuck

Midwest Michael
04-03-2010, 04:34 PM
How much elevation is cause for concern? Anyway you travel across the country, you'll be dealing with some degree of elevation.

The lowest possible way is to take I-10 to I-5, but even there, you'll be up over 4500 feet when you cross the continental divide, and there are a few mountain passes over 4,000 feet on I-5, in Southern California and Oregon. Of course, this route also adds nearly 1000 miles of driving to your trip - so you'd also be looking at a minimum of 2 extra days driving, compared to a more direct route.

For comparison sake, Marias pass is at an elevation of 5200 ft. So you're really not up that much higher than taking the lower elevation option.

glc
04-03-2010, 04:42 PM
Can I suggest you talk to your doctor about portable oxygen bottles?

Foy
04-04-2010, 06:20 AM
Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

I did a quick check of both internet resources and topographic mapping routines and of your two best choices, the maximum elevation I could find for I-90 was 4,725 feet at Lookout Pass on the Montana/Idaho state line, while the highest I found for I-10/I-5 was 4,310 feet at Siskiyou Summit in northern California. For the few hundred feet difference the northern route saves you around a thousand miles of driving. I-80. I-70. and I-40 all reach elevations in excess of 7,000 feet.

AZBuck

Hello venus,
With all due respect to AZ Buck's research, I find two I-90 passes in central Montana which are higher than Lookout Pass at the Idaho border. The two are Bozeman Pass and Homestake Pass, at 5,819' and 6,385' respectively, and located near Bozeman and Butte.

But, for the great majority of I-90s traverse of Montana, it follows the Yellowstone River valley, the upper Missouri headwaters, or the Clark Fork River. Average elevations run in the 4,000' range through many hundreds of miles of I-90 in Montana, and are as low as 3,100' to 3,200' at Billings and Missoula.

The passes are also fairly short in terms of miles and time spent at higher elevations. I'd reckon < 20-30 minutes per pass would be involved with ascent from the 4,000' level, through the pass, and back down the 4,000 level. By contrast, long stretches of I-80 in western Nebraska and Wyoming are between 5,000' and 6,500'.

I also agree with glc in that perhaps bottled oxygen is in order if even 4,000-5,000' elevations are difficult for you.

Good luck and safe travels.

Foy

venusdmille
04-04-2010, 09:19 AM
Thanks for the information, everyone. It sounds like the train is the lowest route IF their information is accurate about Marias Pass. Still would love to access to those maps, Mark--whenever they're available. Thank you!

(I do have a doctor. Thanks!)

Foy
04-04-2010, 09:45 AM
Wikipedia shows the elevation of Marias Pass to be 5,213' and notes it's traversed by US 2, the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, and Amtrak's Empire Builder.

Foy

Foy
04-04-2010, 12:24 PM
My interest in changes in available oxygen over elevation changes (above sea level) has been piqued by venus' post. I was a bit surprised to find one making rather extensive travel plans based on elevation changes, quite frankly.

Anyway, I stumbled upon a series of charts purportedly showing available oxygen figures at various elevations. There are too many and they're too readily searchable to link here. Generally speaking, there is around 20% less available oxygen at 6,000' than at sea level. Some of the tables and discussions linked to them pooh-pooh the notion that material differences can be noticed up until something over 6,000', and some note airliner cabin pressure is maintained at something like an 8,000' elevation with respect to available oxygen. Nevertheless, the very facts that the Mexico City Olympics and other higher-elevation sports venues see differing performance levels means some may not notice the elevation but very clearly some do.

If I were venus, I'd ponder the elevations along the Amtrak route in particular detail. While the crossing of the Continental Divide at Marias Pass is lower than where I-90 crosses it at Homestake Pass, it would not surprise me to learn that the AVERAGE elevation of the rail line is materially greater than that for I-90 and is so for several hundred miles. As noted above, I-90 follows the lowest elevations in all of Montana--the Yellowstone River and the Clark Fork river. US 2 and the Burlington Northern are known as "The High Line" probably more due to the high, just south of Canada latitude they follow, but the route must be greater on average than I-90s route, and I would not be surprised to learn it's several hundred feet to just over 1,000' higher for a considerable distance.

Also as noted above, the Montana passes are but 3, and the I-90 approaches from each direction are short. By their very design requirements, rail lines seek longer gradients and can be expected to reach higher elevations sooner and remain there longer than even modern Interstate highways. It may well be less uncomfortable to experience 3 short-duration intervals of higher elevation than a single much longer one.

Foy

venusdmille
04-04-2010, 07:02 PM
Good points, Foy. Thanks for the research. All the more reason to try and find some maps with elevation indicated. If anyone comes across a source for maps with elevation on it, let me know. Thanks!

Foy
04-06-2010, 04:47 AM
venus,
Sunday evening I took a long look at my Benchmark Montana atlas and learned something in the process. The route of the Burlington Northern (therefore Amtrak's route through Montana to Marias Pass) follows the Missouri River to a material extent, then jumps over a low elevation divide to the Marias River basin, of which Marias Pass is at the headwaters at the Continental divide. The elevations the rail line follows all the way across the state are as low or lower than along I-90, being in the 2,500-3,200' range. From Browning to Marias Pass is where the elevation picks up, but there are no other places of of high elevation, unlike I-90s 3 passes.

I've found it easy to find local elevations with google. Search "Browning, MT + elevation". Simply picking towns a railroad or highway passes through can give you an elementary topographic profile of a route.

Foy

venusdmille
04-08-2010, 05:56 PM
Wow thanks so much for the info, Foy. I've used google for towns or specific places, but was hoping to check out a route, like you did. It still sounds like the train is comfortable choice. Thanks for research suggestions. Hoping to head out in June!