Tunnel Quest

One of my favorite projects was my train tunnel finding adventures. This took all summer a few years ago to locate and photograph with an actual train in the picture! The tracks west of Denver are quite busy though, so it often took only up to an hour of waiting before a train came through, one direction or the other. The real fun was the hiking in, many times on rugged trails or along the railroad bed itself. Don’t remember how the idea came to me, but I wanted to photograph the trains for my stock photo business and finding the tracks and the tunnels was a fun way to do it I guess 🙂 The complete set of print and gift pictures from my adventures can be found here and the commercial stock version of those images can be seen here.

Rollins-Pass

For railroad buffs there is no better place than the Colorado Front Range mountains with tracks winding through the valleys through dozens of tunnels. Union Pacific, BNSF, Amtrack and the Santa Fe lines share the tracks as they haul freight, coal and travelers between Denver’s Union Station and the west coast.

Beautiful Union Station in downtown Denver is the railway hub of Rocky Mountain west. From there the trains head west through Denver towards the Front Range foothills. When train watching always remember to respect the boundaries of the train engineer. The engineers are responsible for the safety of their trains and don’t need the headache of worrying about an over zealous train enthusiast standing on or near the tracks. I recommend a vantage point at least 30 yards from the tracks, safe for the viewer and distant enough to keep the engineer from being nervous about your safety as well.

map_coalcreek

Tunnel #1 is one of the first places to catch a view of the massive steel snakes as they make their journeys to and from the great American West. To reach the the tunnel take Highway 93 north out of Golden to Highway 72 and head west. On the north side of the road look for the first huge knoll which is the formation that the tunnel passes through. Hike through the meadow to the north to see the north side of the tunnel or up the steep embankment to view the south entrance. Generally the wait shouldn’t be more than a half hour to an hour before a train comes through.

Tunnel #2 is on Plainview road, a dirt road that heads north from Highway 72 just east of Tunnel #1. The road is unpaved but easily passable with a passenger car. Proceed along the road and find a place to park when you come to the tracks. The tunnel is north of there and can be approached on foot by hiking north at a safe distance along the tracks. Watch locomotives proceeding in and out of the tunnel against the beautiful backdrop of the Boulder Flatirons.

Divide-Train-5

The tracks then proceed into the foothills through El Dorado Canyon State Park with Tunnel #10 being accessible from the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail. El Dorado Canyon is one of the most beautiful places this writer has ever come across. I have done a lot of hiking and climbing there but have never made the climb to Tunnel #10, which remains on my train watching bucket list.

Tunnel #2 Map

Another great place for train viewing is on Gross Reservoir Road near the town of Coal Creek on Highway 72. Follow Gross Dam Road to the tracks and find a suitable parking spot. Tunnel #19 can be found by hiking west along the tracks for a half mile or so, while Tunnel #18 can be viewed by hiking east. Fantastic views of the trains and the peaks of the Colorado Continental Divide to the west can be experienced by climbing to the top of the bluffs east of the road and north of the tracks. Trains can be viewed breaking through the foothills from El Dorado Canyon as you look to the east.

map_crescent

The little mountain town of Pinecliffe further west on Highway 72 is the next good viewing location. From there you can hike east along the tracks across a little bridge to view Tunnel #29 and the massive cliff above. This is a nice place to visit when the aspen trees are clothed in their golden autumn glory.

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Mountain wilderness limits accessibility to the tracks between Pinecliffe and Rollinsville but Rollins Pass offers some of the most spectacular train viewing imaginable with beautiful mountain scenery, trestles, bridges and the crown glory of the Eastern Slopes, the Moffat Tunnel. Completed in February of 1928, the Moffat Tunnel

Moffat-Tunnel

cuts 6.2 miles through the solid rock of the mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness and the Colorado Continental Divide. The tracks and road leading to the tunnel entrance offer wonderful nostalgic photo opportunities and a journey into American history. Rollins Pass Road is a rough ride but well worth the trouble. The engraved concrete Moffat Tunnel entrance set against the massive mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness is quite picturesque and the railroad activity there fascinating to watch. For the more adventurous, a hike to Crater Lakes in the high peaks behind the tunnel is worth the climb.

Crater-Lakes

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

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Little Grouse Mountain

Woke up early this morning with no real plan for the day, but as always I threw my camera in the truck… just in case. The doggies both did their business quickly, which is a good thing, and a big time saver! So instead of my usual trip to the gym I decided to head for the high country in hopes of seeing some wildlife, especially perhaps some bighorn sheep. I have heard rumors of sightings along the route to Cripple Creek and the 50 cent breakfast at Bronco’s was appealing to me as well, so that’s where I headed.

Curious BurroUnfortunately no bighorns, but I inquired as to the possible location of the burro population in town in hopes of seeing them for the first time in the wild in Colorado. So after breakfast I took a couple of roads to the outskirts of town in hopes of spotting the herd. No herd, but while on the hill I did see a big commotion and some ambulances at a casino… probably one of the ancient decrepit souls with oxygen tanks smoking a cigarette that seem to so often frequent those places. Lol I don’t know, just a guess but that is what came to me when I saw the scene. Then as I was on my way back down the hill I heard a big fight going on around some pickup trucks and motorcycles with lots of yelling and cursing, followed by sirens and cop cars. Another foray into the countryside revealed more cop cars and some sort of biker gang having a meeting. Certainly not my idea of a day photographing wildlife surrounded by the peace and solitude of the Colorado Rockies!

Eventually I decided to give it up, but on my way back down Bennett I spotted a burro, then another… hanging out at the jail museum west of the casinos. I wondered, will they let me just walk up to them and take pictures? I had heard they were used to people so I put on the wide angle and sauntered up. Sure enough, they paid me no attention and I started snapping some pictures. About that time a guy came of of the museum and told me they had burro treats inside. So I went in and made a donation and got a little bag of treats to reward them for being such good subjects. In fact they were so good the wide angle was definitely required to get any kind of shot of them due to their curiosity about the camera and determination to put a nose print on the lens! They like to be petted and also like the treats and were happy to eat all that I could give them. Eventually they lost interest when I was out of the treats and moseyed on over to the water tank that the museum provides for them. A big shout out to the museum for taking such good care of them!

Unfortunately, having to have an extra job is taking a toll on my concentration, my body and my photography skills. I knew something was off by the sound of the camera, but paid no attention to my instincts. Turns out the camera had been accidentally set to Tv  at a 20th of a second. I’m lucky I got any pictures at all of the burros, very disappointing… But just the same I am happy this one turned out, it was one of my favorites. Oh well, now I have an excuse to go back soon and see those sweet natured beasts again 🙂

Upon returning to the truck I discovered that Son Boy had found a hitherto forgotten packet of BBQ sauce and had managed to explode it all over the inside of my truck 😦 Actually it was a big relief when I finally ascertained what had happened because when I first saw him I about had a heart attack, thinking he was bleeding from his mouth!!!!!!!!!! Luckily the packets don’t hold much so I was able to clean up in short order and be back on the way. That reminds me… there is still sauce on the ceiling that I need to deal with 😦

Collegiate Peak Mountains in ColoradoWell then, off to Victor… There were a couple of spots along that road I wanted to photograph in the morning light… On the way I spotted an overlook I have never noticed before, so I pulled in to check it out and discovered a nice hiking trail to a small mountain appropriately named “Little Grouse Mountain”, just short enough for the doggies including 14 year old Kitsu to come with 🙂 Nice little hike with all sorts of historic landmarks and interpretive signs along the way. Turns out Grouse Mountain is rich in mining history and there are a number of abandoned sites to study along the way. At the top there is a magnificent view of the Sangre De Cristos and the Collegiate Peaks to the west and northwest.

Finally I had escaped the hubub of a tourist invasion in Woodland Park for “free fishing day”… which reminded me of Tricia. After she was diagnosed with cancer she said she just wanted to go fishing. She had never been and finally decided she would like to just retire and spend some time along a stream fishing. Unfortunately she kept finding too many things to do and never got to go. My advice on that subject? If there is something you really want to do don’t delay, there are no guarantees for a tomorrow in this life. As I wandered the summit of the little mountain and took in the magnificent views I wondered… did the miners appreciate this solitude as much as I was on this day? Were they as appreciative of the stunning views as I was this morning, or were they blinded by greed and the gold dust. I could sense their ghosts as the breeze whispered in the pines, occasionally accompanied by the mournful sound of the historic Cripple Creek Victor narrow gauge railroad train whistle. It had to have been a brutal lifestyle, I wonder if it was worth it? All the work and suffering for that gold only to leave it behind on the journey into the afterlife. And I wonder, am I just like they were? Only with a camera, prospecting for a different kind of gold in the harshness of life in these mountains two miles above sea level. I don’t know, but just the same I thank the Almighty for the legs and the lungs and the opportunity to be able to climb to a place like this and the eyes to see the magnificence of His Creation.

I was so enjoying the solitude, the happiness of finally getting to climb a mountain even if it was only a little one, a place all to myself save for the critters who call that mountain home. But sprinkles soon made my decision for me and it was raining steadily by the time we made it back to the truck. The puppies gladly hopped out of the rain into the camper topper and I decided it was time to return to the madness of the city. But it was a good day in the mountains, not what I had planned but that is ok with me.

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Close Call

Well I managed to cut that one close. Have to get an article out to the Examiner a minimum of every two weeks to maintain my hard earned “newsworthy” status. This turned out to be a rough two weeks another bout of pneumonia to deal with running myself ragged trying to get my patient to all the doctor appointments and pick up all the prescriptions. I tend to need a lot of peace and quiet for any ideas to come into my idea resistant brain, but much to my surprise on the very last day it occurred to me that I might know something about hiking boots.

Crystal Falls on the north slope of Pikes Peak

Crystal Falls on the north slope of Pikes Peak

So I went online and did a search of this year’s new models and as I paged through the results I realized that I was more of an expert than I thought. I perused the high end Lowa, Vasque and Rocky boot sites and then went on to look at the less lofty Merrel and Hi-Tech models. As I did so I realized that I have owned and literally walked the soles off of all except the Lowa brand. Well, actually my Vasque’s have proven impervious to wear at this point, but with any luck I will get the chance to wear those out as well.

So anyway I managed to put together the article and get it published by the deadline and in doing so was able to give myself another walk down memory lane. My first good boots were actually Coleman Dry’s and I wore them out snowshoeing and replaced them with some cheap non-waterproof boots from Walmart. Don’t remember what they were. It was my photo trip to the Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival that I decided I would have to get some good boots. The mass launch was very early in the morning and I determined that a climb to the top of the hill just east of the Chatfield beach would give me a bird’s eye view of the whole thing and by the time I had slogged through the wet grass to the top my feet were cold and soaked. Soon thereafter I purchased my first Gore-Tex lined Rocky’s. Those boots carried my feet to some of my best photo memories and snowshoe adventures in my memory. They took me to the top of Mount Evans and high into the Indian Creek Wilderness to Crater Lakes. I walked countless miles of tracks getting my collection of railway imagery. Finally just after moving into the shadow of Pikes Peak I was walking my dogs one day when I noticed my feet seemed unusually cold. Close inspection revealed that the soles had become separated from the boots. Then came a pair of waterproof Merrel’s which I wore out on the trails of the Pike National Forest near the north face of the big mountain. More of the same removed the soles from a pair of Hi-Tec’s and now I’m working on my most durable pair yet, the Vasque’s. God willing I will wear those out exploring the Lost Creek Wilderness and maybe even the Collegiate Peaks.

And by some stroke of good fortune, my hiking boots article may have landed another story in my lap. Much to my surprise, someone from Vasque must have liked my story and it looks like I am going to get the chance to field test a pair of Vasque’s new Breeze 2.0 model. Be sure to find out all the details on this fantastic looking boot by getting your free subscription to my Examiner news feed in time to receive the report!

Quiet Time

Amazing what a little quiet time can do for the imagination. All the medical crisis we have encountered in 2014 have drained my strength and my creativity leaving me bereft of ideas for Examiner articles. I have struggled to come up with enough ideas this year to meet my one article a month minimum. However this morning I arose early to meditate, drink my coffee and pray for divine guidance. In the predawn quiet, ideas began to flood my mind.

I had been saving an article about train watching for the end of the month to stall for ideas but today’s brainstorming gave me the impetus to go ahead and submit it.

I pulled out my day planner to map out a time line for my new writing ideas and noticed that there is a quote for each week. The relevance of this week’s quote amazed me and convinced me that I was not alone in the dark. This quote from Christopher Reeve, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure, in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” ,could not be more appropriate.