Tag Archives: cascades

Tunnels on the Great Northern Railway

More from our hike on the Iron Goat Trail.  I described the snow sheds in this post previously.  There were some areas of the route that suffered such regular disruption that an alternative solutions was needed.  When the track got taken out, trains could get stuck in the mountains, sometimes for days while things got repaired.  One of the trestle bridges was washed away in a land slide and, since this wasn’t the first time, the chosen solution was to cut new tunnels.

A tunnel was also cut at Windy Point to avoid a tight curve on an exposed promontory.  These tunnels are still there.  They were cut from the rock by hand.  Timber linings were inserted to prevent anything falling on to the track but the timbers are no long gone in most areas.  However, you do see a few pieces lying at odd angles in places.  There are also some access tunnels that were used for the crews to access the tunnel during construction allowing multiple faces to dig at the same time to speed construction.  It must have been tough work up on the mountains in all weathers hacking through the rock to build this.

The tunnels are not considered safe to enter these days.  Some are blocked by falls.  I wasn’t interested in heading in there anyway.  I wasn’t equipped for it and the hike was why we were there.  However, I did peak in to the entrances of several tunnels to see where they had been cut in to the rock faces.  We had made an easy drive to get to this location followed by a simple walk but, when this was all being built, this was the middle of nowhere.  The process of picking an alignment and building it all from scratch is most impressive.  Ultimately, a new Cascades tunnel was cut and the train no longer needed to take this route.  Instead of turning up on to the lower grade, trains now continue up the valley and enter the new tunnel to head east.

Trees Growing Out of the Rock

When starting up at rocky mountainsides, it is easy to spot trees that seem to be doing an amazing job of growing out of somewhere that looks like it shouldn’t be possible.  Normally I am a lot further away that is practical to get a good look at how they do this.  However, while hiking in the Cascades, we came across a spot right next to the trail where some trees were growing right out of the rocks next to us.  It was so cool to see how they develop a root structure in solid rock from which they can grow and flourish.  Here are a couple of shots to show how they have successfully embedded themselves in a rocky surface.

Snow Shed Remains

Our hike on the Iron Goat Trail was more than just exercise.  It proved to be quite an educational experience.  There were many relics of the old railroad and a lot of signs telling the tale of how the railroad was built and why it was abandoned later.  The Cascades get a lot of snow and in the early 20th century, the snow depths in winter were a lot more than they are now.  It was not uncommon to get 15-20 feet of snow along this part of the alignment in those days.

This snow caused trouble with avalanches as a result of the amount of trees that had been cut for timber when building the railway.  Landslides were also a problem in other seasons.  To protect from the snow, sheds were built over the track at places most vulnerable to avalanche.  This practice is continued to this day in the mountainous areas of US railroads.

These snow sheds had a reinforced concrete wall on the uphill side.  A timber structure was then built out over the track to provide cover with concrete bases for the supporting timbers on the downhill side of the structure.  Most of the timbers have either been removed for reuse or have decayed after a century up on the mountainside.  The concrete walls are still in reasonable shape.  Some spalling of the concrete has occurred but otherwise they look solid.  A lot of plant life has grown over them and they do have water cascading over the top in many places.  The bases for the timber supports are still visible in many places.

There are many of these sections along the trail.  The first one you come across is quite a surprise but, after you have seen a few of them, they start to be normal when you get to another section.  They are pretty large structures though.

Iron Goat Trail Hike

With the weather nice and a holiday weekend upon us, we wanted to get out and get some exercise while staying away from the crowds that seemed to have forgotten about a pesky virus.  We took a trip up into the Cascades to check out the Iron Goat Trail.  I shared a picture of the caboose at the trailhead a couple of years ago in this post.  This time we decided to stretch our legs a bit more.  The trail is a pretty straightforward one for a lot of it because it is an old railroad right of way.  Consequently, the grade is gentle.  However, the connection sections are a different story.

The lower grade section is a lot more clear and wide so makes for a very easy stroll.  The upper section was more heavily overgrown when we were there and the trail was a bit of a test of faith at times.  The path was probably down there!  It also went across some of the old railway infrastructure so a couple of narrow concrete sections were negotiated.  However, the upper grade did provide some lovely views of the surrounding mountains.

The railway needed some significant infrastructure elements to make it functional.  These will be the source of some follow up posts because they are interesting enough on their own.  In the mean time, I shall share some shots here of the run through the wooded areas and the views across the Cascades that we had on a lovely July day.  I think a return trip is in order.  However, I suspect we won’t do the same route as this time because we ended up covering nearly nine miles and some very steep ascents and descents so were a bit bushed by the end of it.  I will pick the route sections a bit more selectively next time!

Polarizer Effect on the Water

If I remember – which I frequently don’t – I take my polarizer with me when I am going to photographing scenery.  With our trip up into the Cascades, we went to the overlook of Diablo Lake and the sun was reflecting off the surface of the lake waters.  I took two shots – one with the polarizer rotated to remove the glare and one with the glare in full effect.  I was interested to see which of the shots I preferred when I got home.  The color of the lake is very nice but sometimes the reflections are more interesting.  I include both here to show just how much of a difference the polarizer makes and for you to decide which is to your taste.

Diablo Dam

My sister was visiting so we took a trip up into the Cascades across the North Cascades Highway.  Having traveled this way before, I had photographed some of the dams already.  This time, we got a closer look at Diablo Dam.  You can drive down to the dam and across the top of it to get to the facilities on the other side.  The dam is wide enough for two vehicles to pass although that might not be obvious given the way some of the drivers behaved.

The spillways on either side of the dam look a lot bigger when you get close to it than is the case when looking from a distance.  The chance to see it up close, given that so many of the dams in the mountains are rather inaccessible, was pretty cool.

Washington Pass

Our trip over the Cascades took us through Washington Pass.  There was an overlook area with parking which allowed us to stop and wander around a bit.  The view of the pass was gorgeous.  There was snow on the peaks surrounding things and a hint of snow on the ground too.  The road drops down dramatically from the pass and comes down the valley below the overlook.  You were almost looking straight down on vehicles as they passed beneath.

There were plenty of places to walk.  The overlook area itself was not far from the parking lot but a short trail wandered up and around the rocks to give a wide variety of views.  The autumnal light was nice and low even though it was very sunny.  Being quite high up meant the sun was a bit stronger than normal.  The panoramic views meant standing and staring was the order of the day.  We ended up staying there for quite a while.  It will soon (if not already) be snowy up there.  As I write this, the road is already closed for the winter.  Hopefully we shall head back up that way when spring arrives.

Diablo Lake Vista Point

Diablo Lake sits behind one of the dams as you head across the Cascades.  Overlooking the lake is a vista point and we stopped there to have our lunch.  We certainly weren’t the only ones to think of this.  The parking lot was pretty full and there were tons of people enjoying the view.  For being up in the mountains, you certainly weren’t a long way away from civilization!  On a sunny day, it wasn’t hard to understand why it was so popular.

Across one side of the lake you could see the top of the dam.  Meanwhile, you had great views in all directions.  The vista point was quite high above the water level and looking down on the water and the islands in the lake, you had a perspective that almost felt like flying.  One of the islands had a nice jetty and the water was clear enough to see down to the bottom in the shallows.  I guess the water is snow run off from the mountains so it probably doesn’t pick up too much sediment.

Lichenfall

Walking along a path up the Cascades, I went passed a rocky wall that was totally in the shade.  The shady and damp environment makes it the perfect place for lichen to grow.  The whole of the rock surface was covered in this lichen and it blurred the shape of the surface.  The effect was to make it look like water was washing down across the rocks but, since it was lichen rather than water, I felt it should be called a lichenfall.

Gorge Creek

The North Cascades Highway crosses a bridge at Gorge Creek.  We had stopped to go to a lookout point on the lake side of the highway and the trail to this point ran alongside the creek.  As we headed back, I wanted to take a quick look from the bridge.  I walked out a short distance and could see the creek below.  I almost turned back at this point but, fortunately, I kept walking a bit further and suddenly a waterfall came into view.  I could easily have missed it.  Indeed, Nancy almost didn’t come out when I told her to come and have a look as she similarly thought she had seen all there was.

The falls were slightly tricky to photograph.  The top section of the falls was the first to be seen as you walked out on to the bridge.  The bottom section was obscured.  As you walked out further, the bottom came in to view but the top started to become obscured.  Getting the full scale of the falls in one shot is not really possible.  While you are there, you appreciate it of course but it is not so easy to portray to someone remotely.  With the shadow of the gorge as well, getting a shot meant dealing with a wide dynamic range.  This would have been a good time to try a pano in HDR.  The latest version of Lightroom has that functionality automated but it hadn’t come out when I was there and, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered trying it!