Tag Archives: scenic

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!

North Rim

Nancy and I took a trip to Arizona and Utah many years ago.  It proved to be a really excellent trip and we saw some amazing locations.  The first stop on the trip was the Grand Canyon.  While the majority of visitors go to the South Rim of the canyon, this trip took us to the North Rim.  The two locations are not far apart but to get from one to the other involves hours of driving.  Apparently, there is some canyon in the way!

The North Rim is accessible for a smaller part of the year because it gets snowed in and doesn’t clear out until late in spring.  The views are supposed to be similar on either side but the lack of people at the North Rim makes it a more peaceful place to visit apparently (I haven’t been to the South Rim so can’t speak with authority).  The scenery was definitely beautiful.  We had some cloudy times and some very clear weather.  At night you could look at an amazing night sky.

The problem with the Grand Canyon is that there is little you can do to convey the scale.  Images are really not able to provide an understanding of just how vast the place is.  You can see it is pretty, but the experience is not reproduced.  To be honest, even when I was there, I found it hard to appreciate the scale.  With so little to reference, you struggle to realize what is close and what is far away.  Occasionally, if you see a boat on the Colorado River, you realize just how immense it all is.  Awesome is a word that should be used when describing the Grand Canyon!

I haven’t looked at these pictures for years.  I realize that I took some of them as examples at the time and then focused on those.  I haven’t been through some of the others.  With newer processing techniques, there is plenty to be done with some of the shots I have overlooked.  I shall be playing with this for quite a while I think.

Pretty Mountain Backdrop

My effort to shoot an arriving A350 at SeaTac provided a secondary benefit.  The majority of arriving aircraft land on the outer runway.  This is further away and also has a threshold further up the field.  This means the aircraft are higher up on the approach.  On a clear winter’s day, the planes have the backdrop of the snow covered Olympic mountain range.  They were a bit far away but did provide a rather scenic view.

Ullswater

C59F2350-Pano.jpgUllswater is gorgeous. Not a lot more to say to be honest. A large lake surrounded by impressive hills. Add a sunny day and what more could you want. This place is lovely and, since it is not on a main thoroughfare, once you are out of the main tourist season, it is not terribly busy. What more could you ask for?

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Calistoga

wpid12391-AU0E3317.jpgDuring the summer I traveled to Clear Lake for the Splash In which I covered in this blog post. The drive back from that event took me through Calistoga. You descend from the hills to drop down in to the town. That evening, the sun was settings and the light on the hills was absolutely gorgeous. I resolved to go back at a later stage to check this out in more detail. Our Healdsburg trip had us up in Calistoga so I thought it would be worth a second look. Unfortunately, the weather was not too special and the rain was coming down.

wpid12401-AU0E3350.jpgWe started up the road climbing as we went. The view back over the valley was pretty attractive and we climbed higher. Of course, it didn’t take too long to get high enough that we disappeared into the cloud base. From there it was just rain. We found the first good option and turned around to head back down. Then we stopped off at some of the overlooks to check out the valley.

wpid12395-AU0E3334.jpgThe colors of the vines were very attractive and the geometry of the vineyards looked great. The hills in the background were also shrouded in low cloud and there was smoke rising from the fires in the buildings scattered across the low lands. While I did take some pictures – obviously since they are here – I did also just stand and enjoy the view for a while. It isn’t easy to appreciate the scale of a view from a photograph. Sometime I like to get the panorama shots just to have something that gives the width of the view. These are best when printed large so don’t translate well to the computer screen. However, they are always stored for possible future use.

Sheffield Park Gardens

wpid7948-C59F9138.jpgOne of our transit days in the UK had us moving from the Cotswolds back to Surrey for my Dad’s birthday party.  En route, we decided to take a detour to an old favorite location of ours.  When we lived in Sussex, we were not too far from Sheffield Park.  This is an estate that has been divided up with the National Trust owning the gardens and parkland and the house being privately owned.  The gardens are a delight to visit.

wpid7933-C59F9102.jpgOver many years, a collection of different botanical species have been cultivated at the gardens so they have a great diversity of plants and trees including some sequoias.  The gardens are built around a series of lakes that make the whole place look just gorgeous.  Some of the older trees are really solid and gnarly looking.  Nancy thought it looked like something from the Wizard of Oz.  One of the National Trust guys told us to look for a spot that had a great view back up the lakes to the house.  It took a bit of searching since the tree cover is quite dense but we found it.  It was certainly a nice view.

wpid7940-C59F9117.jpgGreat to get back to this place after being away for so long and to see it on a lovely day was even better.  If you are ever thinking of visiting, they apparently have a nice day trip from London to get there.  You can take the normal train to East Grinstead and from there the Bluebell Railway runs a steam service to Sheffield Park.  A shuttle from the station operates on busy day but it is not a long walk if not.  Not done this myself but it sounds like a nice way to make a day trip of the whole thing.

Na’Pali Coast

One of the beautiful features of Kauai is the northwestern coastline.  Last year we took a look at it from the air and you can find the previous piece here if you want to look back at it.  This year, we went the opposite way and went for the boat trip to see the coast from below!  We were on a catamaran with a group of about a dozen other people.  We cruised up the coast looking at the various features as we went.  We could pull in to inlets, look at the caves, check out the water falling from above and see the mountains above.

The weather was a bit mixed with some cloud rolling in but it was still pretty good.  The area is gorgeous and seeing it from this perspective was a really great thing.  Bobbing about on the waves was very relaxing and we were at the end of the day so the whole trip had a very calming feeling to it.

The return leg was less calming though.  The weather decided it wasn’t going to be calm any more.  The wind got up a bit and the rain started.  We bounced about on the way back.  There was an area on the boat under cover which was welcome but, with the boat pitching about a bit, you needed to keep an eye on the horizon to avoid feeling rough.  This worked fine and we got back without any problems (or loss of lunch).  The rain did have some advantages with it providing a great rainbow at one point.

I would not say that there is a best way to see Na’Pali.  If you can, the combination of air and sea is great.  It certainly isn’t cheap but the two methods really do give you a great perspective on a beautiful area.