Tag Archives: hike

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.

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!

Climb to the Top of Hurricane Hill

B11I8118.jpgHurricane Ridge is a popular place to visit but go a bit further along and you come to the trailhead for the climb to Hurricane Hill.  We felt up for a bit of hiking.  The hike is not terribly long but it has two elements to consider.  One is a fair bit of climbing with some reasonably steep grades.  The other is that you are quite high so the air is noticeably thinner.  That is a great excuse for taking things at a steady pace.  It isn’t me, it is the altitude!

B11I8122.jpgIt certainly is a popular trail.  Plenty of people passed us as we were going up and coming back down.  The views as you climb get better and better.  Some wildlife shows up as well.  We saw a marmot at one point.  It only lives between certain elevations so this was the only place we were going to catch it.  Once you get to the top, you have a view down to the coast.  Port Angeles lay beneath us and you could see over to the islands in the distance although the view was a little obscured by the haze.  The trip back down was okay but walking downhill is something I don’t enjoy if it is steep.  Climbing may be tiring but I find it less hard on the knees.  This wasn’t too bad though.  You stop less on the way back down since you have seen all of the views on the way up when you were more than happy to pause (only for the photo – not tired at all).


Malham Cove

Scan 2-183.jpgI can’t remember how the conversation developed the way it did but I was talking with a friend and got on to the subject of Malham Cove.  Located in Yorkshire in the UK, this is a stunning location.  It is a horseshoe shaped rock formation that once was an impressive waterfall.  The water is still there but now the majority of the rock face is dry and it provides a great place for a hike.  To illustrate this post, I am digging back in to the archives in a big way.  This involves a trip I took there with an old friend of mine.  I will not give his name but I will be interested to see if he reads this and what he thinks of photos of himself from twenty years ago!

Scan 2-190.jpgYou can park your car in Malham and walk straight up to the cove.  However, we took an alternative route to make for a more interesting walk.  We walked up a narrow valley named Gordale Scar.  The valley gets narrower and narrower until you come to a waterfall.  Provided the water is not flowing too hard, it is possible to climb up the side of the waterfall.  Once at the top, you continue on a steady climb alongside a river – Gordale Beck.  Even as young and energetic fellows like we were in those days, I recall this being a pretty hard slog and, while neither of us was going to show weakness to the other, I seem to recall a few stops to enjoy the scenery – nothing to do with catching our breath.

Scan 2-181.jpgThings gradually flatten out and you cross some fields to come to Malham Tarn, a moderately sized lake.  This is the turning point for the walk.  Now you head back towards Malham itself.  You end up coming across a limestone pavement to the tome of Malham Cove.  Here you will meet a bunch of people that have walked up the steps from the valley below.  Having made a far longer trek, you are tempted to be a little dismissive of these people taking the easy route but there are still a lot of steps so they have had to make some effort.

Scan 2-187.jpgThe view from the top is stunning.  The drop down is a long one – about 80m (240’) – and there are often climbers testing themselves against the rock faces.  The cracks in the limestone can be quite large as you step across and it is fun to imagine the whole thing being under rushing water.  The formation is about 300m wide so, while it might be busy, you probably won’t feel crowded.  When you have finally enjoyed the scenery enough, you can descend the steps at the side to head back into the village.  This still gives you a chance to appreciate the view back up at the cove as you head away.

This place is stunning, particularly on a lovely day.  If you live in the UK and have never been, try and get there.  If you don’t live in the UK, add this to your itinerary when you go.

Sunol Wilderness Park

AU0E8879.jpgHead south along I-680 from us for a short distance and you came to an area that includes Sunol Wilderness Park. A large expanse of land with many trails across it, this is a fun place to go hiking, particularly early in the year. The recent rains meant the hills were quite green and the temperatures have not got too high yet. The sun is always strong but the conditions were great for a hike.

AU0E8890.jpgThe area is distinctly lacking in flatness. Every trail we took seemed to be a climb or a descent but that was part of the fun. Our initial route took us up a lot. We seemed to always be going up – sometimes rather steeply. Even as we were getting in the homeward stretch, we still seemed to be going up. I guess with hindsight, a hill called Flag Hill was always likely to be one of the highest points!

AU0E8847.jpgThe downside to all of this is that the last section is a steep descent. I actually prefer climbing to descending. The knees have to work a lot harder on the way down and it seems harder to have a steady footing than when hauling yourself upwards but, with the end in sight and our food back at the car, we were motivated to get finished. A lot of the time we were away from any other walkers so it was a very relaxing place to be. No doubt we will be back there again before it gets too warm.

Los Vaqueros Watershed

wpid13753-IMG_2510.jpgA short drive from Dublin can take you in to the hills and some pretty queit places. There is a reservoir that is just across the county line known as the Los Vaqueros Watershed. We thought it would be a good place for a hike while the temperatures are still cool. When things warm up, I suspect this will be a pretty hot part of the area. As it was, the temperatures were nice and the recent rains meant the hillsides were very green.

wpid13755-IMG_2517.jpgThe purpose of the visit was to have a hike so I decided not to take my cameras with me. However, the phone is always with me so there is a camera if the view warrants it. The shots here are all from the camera. It was amazingly quiet while we were there. Plenty of people were fishing down at the water’s edge but on the trails we were almost alone for much of the time. As we were heading back to the car, a few more groups showed up but most of the time we were nowhere near anyone. The exception was a bobcat that appeared on the trail below us. Nancy spotted it about the time it spotted us. We stared at each other for a while before it got bored and wandered off. Needless to say, the wide angle lens on the phone was not up to getting a shot so you will have to take my word for it.


Mt Diablo Hike

wpid9646-AU0E0935.jpgWe may have lived in Dublin for over six months now but, for some reason, we had yet to go and stretch our legs on Mt Diablo. Such a large mountain so close to us, it is hard to miss when you are in this area but we hadn’t got around to going there. It was time for a change and time to get a good hike in since we haven’t been out for a while.

wpid9642-AU0E0920.jpgOur hike started out in Clayton on the opposite side of the mountain from us. It wasn’t a terribly long hike since we haven’t exactly been keeping in shape. However, while it was only just under 6 miles, the terrain was a bit more interesting than we had expected. We certainly got some climbing in as well as some descents that had footing that took a little practice to master. The aim was to get to a trail that loops around some falls. We weren’t expecting to see anything at the falls since it has been a very dry winter but they were still flowing although not with any great force. The top of the valley provided a great view of the land below as well as the terrain around the falls and Mt Diablo above us.

wpid9644-AU0E0931.jpgIt is hard to give a sense of scale in images like this. As I look at them, it reminds me of how cool it looks but also of how an image on the screed is no reflection of the grand vista I saw at the time. It was really lovely even if we were a bit hot and tired by the end of it. It will be interesting to see it at different times of year.

Diamond Head Hike

Just beyond Waikiki in Honolulu rises the remains of an extinct volcano.  Diamond Head is the most obvious geological feature in the vicinity of the city and is a famous landmark.  The crater (not such to be honest whether it counts as a crater or caldera but who is keeping score?) is home to a park.  You can drive in to the park through a tunnel and then park up to climb to the top.

We took the advice of the guide books and went early in the day.  Given how hot we got, I hate to think what those who went later in the day and had the midday sun to deal with felt like.  It is quite an exertion.  I don’t consider myself an athlete but I am not too out of shape either.  This was quite a climb.  There is a trail that is well maintained and the final stages include several flights of stairs – some quite steep.

When we reached the top, we were both pretty relieved to be there.  It was worth it since the view across the city was very good.  We enjoyed it a lot and anyone who suggests that our extended viewing was an excuse to take a rest can’t prove anything.  The trip down was a lot better than the climb up!