Machine Shop

While in Nevada, we had the opportunity to visit the Nevada Northern Railway (NNRY) in Ely.   Located in White Pine County, Ely was founded as a stagecoach station on the Pony Express and the Central Overland Route.  It became a mining boom town after copper was discovered in the area in 1906.  Like other mining towns, Ely suffered through the boom and bust cycles the plagued town in the west.  The NNRY is is a working railway that consists of the original locomotives, track and buildings that served the Central Nevada coppery mining region, connecting one of the largest copper mines in North America to the Transcontinental routes.  Visitors are given the opportunity to go on a tour of the facility including being allowed into the machine shop and the engine house.

Machine Shop

Machine Shop

The image above is actually 5 different images processed with Photomatix Pro software to give it a slight HDR effect, which helped to bring out the detail in the shadows and add some range to the highlights.  Because everything was quite grimy (it is a working machine shop after all), processing the image this way also helped to bring some depth to the layers of grime covering the table and the tools.

The machine shop and the adjacent engine house (photos from there will be in a later post) were built in 1908, before being altered in 1917 and again in 1941.  I have to admit, in a day where the focus seems to be on making things smaller, lighter and faster, it is quite refreshing to walk around in a facility that goes to great lengths to keep the trains running.

The nuts and bolts of the operation.

The nuts and bolts of the operation.

I loved this sign outside of the machine shop.

Politicians Prohibited

Politicians Positively Prohibited

The rail yards are listed as a National Historic Landmark of the United States and it has been said that the Nevada Northern Railway complex is the least altered and best preserved yard remaining from the steam railroad era.

I will be posting more images from both the machine shop and the engine house in my Flickr album for the railway.

Until the next adventure….

The Middle of Nowhere…

Driving south out of West Wendover, Nevada on our way to Great Basin National Park, we came across a tree that had been “decorated” with just about everything you could imagine.

Clothing-Tree

 

There’s nothing else in the area, no buildings of any sort, not much else in the way of tall trees.  And yet, in this area of seemingly nothingness, there is life and the tree serves as a reminder that we are all traveling down a road to somewhere.  For some, it might be a vacation; for others, a start of a new life, but for all, the road leads us to something else, something new and exciting.

Clothing-Tree-2

As far up as people could reach, there were hats, shirts and other discards of where they had once been.  Tucked into branches were notes of places they were headed.  Each item, be it a hiking boot or a beer can tied to the tree with a piece of surveyor’s tape told somebody’s story.  Empty cans of Red Bull spoke of someone’s attempt to stay awake on a long, lonely stretch of highway.  On the ground near the tree was a little piece of card stock that someone had lovingly inked with a pen in to a breathtaking geometric design:

Roadside Art

Roadside Art

On the back of the art piece, the artist had written:

“You have found an

artistic piece of 

human kindness

Enjoy!”

An artist by the name of Sue Williams had left the card on her trip through the area as part of a project entitled “Tangled Kindness”.

A small sampling of items left at the "Giving Tree"

A small sampling of items left at the “Giving Tree”

 

On this lonely stretch of highway, this tree serves as a reminder to all who pass, that life is not about getting to the destination first, but rather it’s about taking the time to really stop and see the beauty in everything that surrounds us; whether it be a grand vista on the horizon, or a tree that has been “decorated” by hundreds of other people that have passed by.  And that each of us have a story to tell, no matter how big or small the journey  we are taking.

Until the next adventure….

 

 

Caught in the Middle…

A cattle drive headed down the road.

Caught in the middle … of a cattle drive

On a recent seventeen day road trip to southern Utah, we turned off of Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon in search of a one room school that was east of Baker City a little ways.  As we turned on to a road that looked like it would take us near where we thought the school might be, we found ourselves caught behind a cattle drive.  Now I have to admit, living in western Washington I’ve seen my fair share of cows, but I never thought the day would come when I’d be behind a cattle drive as it was progressing up the road.  One of the cowboys was on a four-wheeler and motioned us to follow him as he proceeded to cut a path through the herd and we slowly started making our way through.  However, as the cows in front were getting out of the way of the cowboy, the cows behind the quad were closing in around all four sides of the car.  There we were, going about five miles an hour and trying not to hit a cow while trying to pick our way through.  The cows would get close and then veer out of the way again as if they were trying to determine just what we were.  It wasn’t too long before another cowboy, this time on horseback, took pity on us and opened up the path again allowing us to get through.  After thanking them both, we set out towards our destination:

Blue-Mountain-School

Blue Mountain School

The Blue Mountain School is located in Baker County, Oregon, east of Baker City.  According to the sign on the building, it was in operation from 1915-1949.  It appears that it has been being used as a storage facility for a neighboring farm for quite some time, judging from the farm equipment sitting near it and the debris lying around it.  As of yet, I haven’t been able to find any other information on the school itself.

 

On a side note…

I’ve decided to change the format of this blog up a little bit.  For some reason, I never seem to have as much time as I would like to write it and by the time I get around to actually editing the photos for it and coming up with something to say, the adventure I’m writing about has been lost behind my newer and more recent adventures.  With that being said, my plan is to start writing shorter posts, albeit more frequently, with just an image or two from that particular part of the adventure.  Quite often, I visit more than one place a day when I’m on a road trip and by sharing a smaller portion of it at one time, I hope that this blog will be easier to read and inspire you to take some back roads on your own adventures…. you never know what you will find!

 

Until the next adventure….

Uniting a Country – the first Transcontinental Railroad

Prior to May 10, 1869, if you wanted to get from the East Coast to the West Coast, you had three options:  (1) the overland route, via stage coach, wagon or horseback which took four to six months; (2) the Panama route through the Panama canal which took about a month; (3) or the Cape Horn route around the Cape Horn of South America which took between six and eight months.  All of these options were expensive, slow and dangerous.  Isolated by plains and mountains; President Lincoln worried the Western States would secede as the South had done and he pushed hard for the railroad to unite the country, spread commerce and speed military transportation.

On July 1, 1862, the Pacific Railway Act was enacted to aid in the “construction of a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean;”  It authorized the Central Pacific to build east and the newly formed Union Pacific to build west.  Some important provisions of the Pacific Railway Act were that it gave 10 square miles of land to each company for each mile of track laid; set a deadline for the end of construction; allowed the President to choose the starting point and specified that the route would be the straightest way possible; designated that whichever company reached California’s border first was allowed to build on the other’s designated land (this is what caused the race); and set uniform construction standards.  It also specified that a multi-line telegraph would be built alongside the Railroad, making telegraph communication much faster.

On October 27, 1863, the first rail was laid; and, less than six years later, the golden spike was driven on May 10, 1869, at Promontory, Utah Territory, completing the first Transcontinental Railroad and aloowing people to travel cheaply, visit relatives, and see sights that are unique to the west.  Prior to the Railroad, a stagecoach ticket cost around $1000; whereas, a first class railroad ticket cost $150.

Replicas of the Jupiter and the No. 119 meet at the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad at Golden Spike National Historic Park.

Replicas of the Jupiter and the No. 119 meet at the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad at Golden Spike National Historic Park.

One of the interesting things I learned while visiting this park was that neither the Union Pacific train, Engine No 119 nor the Central Pacific train, Engine No 60 “Jupiter” were originally supposed to be at the golden spike ceremony.

Engine No 119 was stationed in Ogden, Utah, when the vice president of the Union Pacific Railroad, Thomas C Durant, telegraphed that he needed an engine.  He was on the “Durant Special” headed for the ceremony when a swollen river washed away some supports to the Devil’s Gate Bridge and his engineer refused to take the current engine across.  After nudging the lighter passenger cars across the bridge, Engine No 119 was sent from Ogden to take him and the people travelling with them the short distance to Promontory.  Built by Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works of Paterson, New Jersey in 1868, it was scrapped for $1000 in 1903.

No-119

Engine No. 119 was built by Rogers Locomotive and Machine Work of Paterson, New Jersey in 1868.

Like Engine 119, Central Pacific’s Jupiter (Engine No 60) also wasn’t supposed to be at the Golden Spike ceremony.  Leland Stanford, president of the Central Pacific Railroad was traveling aboard the Antelope which was following closely behind the Jupiter.  When the two trains passed through a cut where there was a logging camp, either the Jupiter didn’t display the proper flag to alert to another train following close behind or the workers didn’t notice the flag.  Consequently, as the Jupiter passed, workers rolled a large log down the mountain, striking the Antelope and damaging the engine.  After radioing ahead to hold the Jupiter at the next stop, Leland Stanford rode it into Promontory for the Golden Spike ceremony. Like the No 119, the Jupiter was also scrapped for $1000 in 1909.

Engine No 60, the Jupiter, was built by the Schenectady Locomotive Works of New York.

Engine No 60, the Jupiter, was built by the Schenectady Locomotive Works of New York.

in 1975, the National Park Service embarked on a project to reproduce the Union Pacific No 119 and the Central Pacific Jupiter as they appeared in 1869.  Over 700 detailed drawings were made by O’Connor Engineering Laboratories of Costa Mesa, California by looking at photos of the actual engines and researching similar engines built around the same time.  Once the trains were built, Disney artists painted the trains, and they were completed in 1979.  They were first put into operations on May 10, 110 years after the original Golden Spike ceremony.

Getting-Prepared

Getting ready to run a demonstration on the Jupiter.

Until the next adventure…

The Painted Hills….and more

I recently spent an evening with the Cascade Center of Photography out of Bend, Oregon doing some photography in the Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Part of the Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Part of the Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Named for early 19-th century fur trader, John Day, the John Day Fossil Beds was established as a national monument on October 8, 1975.  The park is comprised of three geographically separate units:  Painted Hills, Clarno, and Sheep Rock.  Formed when the area was an ancient river flood plain, the Painted Hills are named for the color layers of soil that correspond to various geological eras.  The red soil in the above image is laterite, formed by floodplain deposits when the area was warm and humid.

It had rained a couple of days prior to our visit and, as a result, desiccation cracks formed in the muddy sediment surrounding the hills.  It made for some very interesting abstract images (as well as for some very muddy shoes).

Mud cracks remain in the soil after a recent rain storm

Mud cracks remain in the soil after a recent rain storm

It wasn’t long before the sun started to go down and the “golden hour” started to paint the hills (pun intended) with amazing light.

Evening light paints the hills a brilliant gold color

Evening light paints the hills a brilliant gold color

Once the sun had set, we packed up our gear and made our way back to the van.  We weren’t done for the night and we made our way to an area called the “Oregon Outback” to do some star photography and a little bit of light painting.

 

 

The Milky Way glows bright over a Western Juniper in the "Oregon Outback"

The Milky Way glows bright over a Western Juniper in the “Oregon Outback”

It wasn’t long until it was after midnight and the evening came to and end … the weekend, however was just beginning, and after catching some much needed shuteye, it was time to start searching for some historic schools.

 

Until the next adventure…

Oregon Caves National Monument

My days exploring Redwood National & State Park were rapidly coming to an end and before I knew it, it was time to start heading for home.  On the way, I decided to make a short side trip (anything to put the inevitable off a little bit longer) and pay a visit to Oregon Caves National Monument.

Entering Oregon Caves National Monument

On the road to the Oregon Caves National Monument.

Elijah Davidson, a hunter, is credited with first entering the caves in the Autumn of 1874 (though it is likely that the Native Americans knew of the caves existence) after he entered the caves in search of his hunting dog, Bruno, who had taken off chasing an animal.

There are a couple of different tour options to choose from when exploring Oregon Caves National Monument:  a general cave tour, an off-trail cave tours (offered summers only), a candlelight cave tour (Friday and Saturday evenings in the summer), and during October, a haunted candlelight tour.  Since I did have to make my way home and three of the tour options were not available (something to save for another day), I opted to take the 90 minute general cave tour (my only option if I was going to see the caves on this trip).  The cave tour lasts 90 minutes, covering a half of a mile and more than 500 stairs.  If visitors find themselves uncomfortable, they do have the option of leaving the cave early (approximately half way through the tour).

Approximately 500 steps are encountered during the tour.

Approximately 500 steps are encountered during the tour.

As you make your way through the tour led by a ranger with the National Park Service, you will see a myriad of flowstone deposits.  These sheetlike deposits of calcite are formed when water flows down the wall or along the floors of caves.  Stalagmites and stalactites are readily found in the cave, as are soda straws, columns (occurs when a stalagmite and a stalactite join together), draperies, and cave bacon.

Stalagtites

Stalagmites, stalactites, and columns in Oregon Caves National Monument.

 

 

Flow-Stone-B-&-W

 

Flow-Stone-2

Flowstone, draperies, and cave “bacon” in Oregon Caves National Monument.

As you make your way through the cave, you will come across a spot where there is a group of signatures preserved forever.  The “cave graffiti” was left in 1883 by Oregon’s first state geologist Thomas Condon and a group of his students when they signed a stalagmite in pencil.  Now before you get outraged at the damage that this caused, be aware that in 1883, times were way different than they are now (as if you needed to be told that) and people thought that stalagmites built up over a period of maybe a dozen years, and no more than 100 years.  They didn’t know that it took millions of years of steadily dripping calcium-laden water for a stalagmite to form.

Oregon's first state geologist, Thomas Condon, and his students signed a stalagmite while visiting the caves in 1883.

Oregon’s first state geologist, Thomas Condon, and his students signed a stalagmite while visiting the caves in 1883.

 

Until the next adventure…

Fern Canyon – Where Dinosaurs Once Roamed (in the Movies)

As soon as you enter Fern Canyon, you can immediately begin to see why Steven Speilberg chose it as one of the locations for Jurassic Park 2:  The Lost World.  I have to admit, I’ve never seen any movie in the Jurassic Park series and the fact that it was one of the filming locations had nothing to do with me wanting to visit it again.  It was also a filming location for IMAX’s Dinosaurs Alive and BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs.  I had been there one other time a couple of years ago and wasn’t thrilled with any of my images I got from that trip so I had to visit this remarkable place again when I decided to make a spur of the moment trip to the Redwoods over Memorial Day weekend.

Getting to Fern Canyon can be an adventure in and of itself.  Begin by driving through Elk Meadow (an excellent spot for watching the elk graze) and traveling approximately 6 miles down a very scenic dirt road until you reach the Gold Bluffs Beach Kiosk.  Depending on the time of year, the road can be quite rough and motorhomes and trailers are not allowed.  After paying the $8.00 day use entry fee (the California State Parks pass and the National Park Service passes are valid for entry fee), continue driving down the dirt road paralleling Gold Bluffs and the Pacific Ocean and crossing several small streams (easily passable by car) to reach the trail head parking lot.

The road getting to Fern Canyon involves crossing a couple of small streams

The road getting to Fern Canyon involves crossing a couple of small streams

Approximately 1/4 of a mile from the parking lot, you will cross a small foot bridge and begin your trek into the canyon on flat trail that is home to Home Creek.  During the summer months, there are footbridges over sections of the creek to help you keep your feet dry.  Though they weren’t in place yet this year, it is still possible to keep your feet dry if you are relatively nimble; or, you can wear sandals and walk through the water – a much better way to explore in my opinion.

A footbridge across Home Creek as you begin to make your way into Fern Canyon

A footbridge across Home Creek as you begin to make your way into Fern Canyon

As you make your way into the canyon, it’s not long before you are walking between 50 foot walls covered from top to bottom in eight different species of ferns, including five-fingered ferns, sword ferns, and lady ferns.

Home Creek and Fern Canyon

Home Creek and Fern Canyon

 

Around every bend, there is more wondrous beauty to behold.  Vibrant shades of green greet you every step of the way.  If you are lucky, and can get there relatively early, you can almost have the entire canyon to yourself.

Wading through Home Creek while exploring Fern Canyon.

Wading through Home Creek while exploring Fern Canyon.

 

Before long, the official trail veers up some stairs to the left climbing up to the top of the canyon and making it’s way through the forest back to the trail head.  However, instead of following the “official” trail, I continued to make my way up the canyon until I reached the end before I turned around and made my way back down the canyon.

While this hike is really short – only a mile or so round trip – it provides something for everyone to enjoy from little kids to adults of all ages.  It’s like taking a time machine back…to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

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Looking back up Fern Canyon.

 

Until the next adventure…

Take a Walk…on the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail

My last hike of the day was to be a short one on the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail in Redwood National & State Parks.  Walking through this particular grove is like a walk back in time.  In the 1920’s, as the realization that old-growth redwood forests were disappearing at an alarming rate, three state parks were established, with the establishment of Redwood National Park occurring in 1968.  The Lady Bird Johnson Grove was established in 1969 when Presidents Nixon and Johnson, along with Governor Reagan, dedicated a 300-acre grove to Lady Bird Johnson and her campaign to preserve America’s natural beauty.

The bridge from the parking lot to the start of the nature trail.

The bridge from the parking lot to the start of the nature trail.

As I crossed the bridge over Bald Hill Road to get to the grove, I marveled at how quiet the forest was.  Because it was close to sunset, I had the entire grove to myself, the only sounds were of the wind blowing through the trees and the birds singing the songs.  The was no road noise from passing cars and no words were carried through the air from other conversations taking place.

A place to stop, sit, and take it all in...

A place to stop, sit, and take it all in…

The fog started rolling in as I wandered the path into the main part of the grove, stopping at each number to read the corresponding section in the pamphlet I picked up at the beginning of the trail.  It wasn’t long before I came upon this bench and took a moment to just stop and listen to the sounds (or lack of them) around me.

 

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The fog started getting thick and the light was fast disappearing so I didn’t have as much time to linger as I would like.  I snapped as many images of the trees in the fog as I could before it got dark as I didn’t know if there would be fog again in the morning or at any other time during my short time in the park.

The fog rolls in among the trees in Lady Bird Johnson Grove.

The fog rolls in among the trees in Lady Bird Johnson Grove.

The short walk didn’t take too long to complete, and before you knew it, I was making my way back down the mountain in the darkness, ready to start another day of adventure in the morning.

 

Until the next adventure…

 

 

Hiking Through History – the Lyons Ranch Trail

Amazing view abound as you travel up Bald Hills Road above the towering Coastal Redwoods that provide the namesake for Redwood National and State Park in northern California.  While most people visiting the park, tend to stay in the general area of the big trees, there is a whole different aspect to the park that is available for exploration – the grassland prairies on the hills above the redwoods.

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Bald Hills road travels past the Coastal Redwoods and into the grass prairies and oak groves on the way to the Lyons Ranch Trail.

After leaving Tall Trees Grove, I decided to explore a part of the park I had never seen before, the grass prairies on the Lyons Ranch Trail.  From the trail head, approximately 17 miles up the Bald Hills Road, the trail follows an old farm road to the abandoned Lyons family homestead, where the Lyons family ran a self-sufficient sheep ranch from 1865 to 1969.  Once known as Home Place, the family barn, shepherds’ cabins, and orchards are all that remain today.

Sweeping vistas abound as you make you way up the Lyons Ranch Trail.

Sweeping vistas abound as you make you way through Schoolhouse Prairie on the Lyons Ranch Trail.

The wind seems to blow constantly as you wind your way around the hillside weaving in and out of groves of oak trees and walking through the prairie grasses.

Looking back towards the trail head.

Looking back towards the trail head.

Passing through stands of oak trees on the way to Home Place.

Passing through stands of oak trees on the way to Home Place.

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The Lyons family barn.

As you round one final bend, the barn comes into view – and as you make your way past the barn, you come across a couple of shepherd’s cabins.

Shepherd's cabins at Home Place.

Shepherd’s cabins at Home Place.

Inside the cabins there are relics of a bygone era, including old cans, horse shoes, old bed springs, newspapers, and birdcages.

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A birdcage sits on old newspapers inside one of the shepherd’s cabins

The sun was starting to drop lower in the sky and I had one more stop I wanted to make before I called it a day, so I made my way back to the car, pausing only long enough to allow the herd of elk that was grazing along the trail between me and my car to move on over the hillside, and I was on my way for a brief stop at Lady Bird Johnson Grove, hoping that I had time to get some photos before it got dark.  On the way back down Bald Hills I made a brief stop to photograph the fog as it rolled back up the valley

Evening fog rolls in along Redwood Creek in Redwood National & State Parks

Evening fog rolls in along Redwood Creek in Redwood National & State Parks

 

Until the next adventure…

Walking Among Giants … Exploring in the Redwoods

It’s always great to go hiking in the forest; but when the forest is composed of trees that are hundreds of years old and many are over 300 feet tall, it becomes a truly magical experience. In addition to protecting ocean beaches, oak prairies, and rivers, Redwood National and State Parks also protects the trees for which it is known – the Coastal Redwoods, the tallest trees on Earth.  I began my exploration of this ancient forest with a brief stop at the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center in order to obtain a permit to explore the Tall Trees Grove, home to the Libbey Tree, which, at one time, was the world’s tallest known living thing.

Part of the reason I chose to visit the Tall Trees Grove first is because it is one of the most difficult groves to reach.  Though the permit is free, a limited number of cars per day are allowed entry in order to protect the grove.  Once you obtain your permit, it’s a 45-minute drive to the trailhead (though you lose the majority of any traffic you have at Lady Bird Johnson Grove which is also accessed via Balk Hills Road).  Once you have unlocked the gate (using the secret combination provided with your permit), drive through and re-locked the gate, it is now an approximately 6-mile drive down a dusty logging road to the parking area for the trailhead.  Then you begin your hike of 1.3 miles to the grove.

After securing the gate, it was time to continue down to the trail head for the hike into Tall Trees Grove

After securing the gate, it was time to continue down to the trail head for the hike into Tall Trees Grove

Once you start hiking, the trail descends pretty quickly and is lined with a dense ground cover of ferns and an under story full of wild rhododendrons, huckleberry and small redwoods.

The trail as it descends down to the Tall Trees Grove.

The trail as it descends down to the Tall Trees Grove.

As the trail continues down towards the main attraction, you begin to get a sense of the size of these trees when you pass through a “tunnel” that has been cut from the trunk of one of the massive giants that fell across the trail.

The trail to the Tall Trees Grove passes directly through one of the giant Redwoods.

The trail to the Tall Trees Grove passes directly through one of the giant Redwoods.

The trail levels out as you reach the highlight of the hike; Tall Trees Grove, a rather narrow growth of Coastal Redwoods.  Far removed from the vehicular noise that occurs along many of the groves along Highway 101, the only sound you hear in the Tall Trees Grove is the creaking of the tall trees as they sway in the wind and the twittering of the birds as they make their homes in the branches.

A walk through the giant Coastal Redwoods makes one feel mighty small.

A walk through the giant Coastal Redwoods makes one feel mighty small.

The Coastal Redwoods are not the only thing you will see in the Tall Trees Grove.  Ferns reach almost 5 feet in height, Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana) carpets the forest floor leaving smaller paths to guide one to the trunks of the giants that dominate the forest.  As you get closer to Redwood Creek (a great spot for a snack/lunch) the trail passes through Big Leaf Maples, their trunks covered with moss making it seem like they are covered in green hair.

The trail wanders away from the Redwoods briefly immersing you in sword ferns and big leaf maples.

The trail wanders away from the Redwoods briefly immersing you in sword ferns and big leaf maples.

 

 

The forest floor is covered with Redwood Sorrel and a variety of ferns.

The forest floor is covered with Redwood Sorrel and a variety of ferns.

Before long, it is time to start the trek back to your car.  Be prepared for a steady climb and a deceptively steep grade as you make your way back up to the trail head.  However, if you get tired and need a break, there are plenty of rest stops along the way.

Time for a break on the way back up to the car

Time for a break on the way back up to the car.

Until the next adventure….