TagMountain beauty

From a moving train

shoot-556There’s something about taking pictures from a train. You get to take shots you can not take any other way.

I always spend time looking at the window and shooting. West from Denver is the absolute best train ride in America. The tunnel district with thirty tunnels, leading to the seven mile long Moffat Tunnel. The Big Ten Curves climbing out of Denver. The steep granite sides of Glenwood Canyon. The vastness of the deserts of Utah and Nevada. There’s nothing like it I’ve ever seen. Only the trip to Machu Picchu on Peru Rail comes close.

shoot-555You pass through Ruby Canyon and see things you can only see from a train. You go through ghost towns like Cisco, Utah and Hazen, Nevada that you would probably never see otherwise. Small town America, rolling through back yards and road crossings and along rivers. It’s a part you can’t get to from the interstate off ramps, and it doesn’t even register from thirty thousand feet. These are opportunities you’d never know existed any other way.

shoot-553Oh sure, it has it’s faults. The windows are always dirty. The footing is never certain, and centrifugal force is always waiting to trip you up. Things are bouncing, rocking and rolling. The sun is always throwing reflection on the windows and trying to fool your meter in to a bad exposure. The deck is stacked against you, from the words “all aboard.”

shoot-554It’s always nice to get a shot when the deck is stacked against you. I never feel like I’ve won a confrontation or anything, I just feel like my skill has been tested and I was up to the task. It makes me smile. And the feeling of nailing the shot from a moving train just makes the discovery that much sweeter.

Photos taken on FPP Retrochrome in a Contax RTS II with a 45mm/f2.8 Tessar and Kodak Portra in an Olympus XA.

Sometimes, you have to take the advice of Muir, and listen

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”- John Muir


As I write this, the snow is blowing hard and fast, visibility is down, and windchill is up. And yet, I still hear the mountains calling. I can’t see them for the blowing snow, but I can still hear them. These months when the snow is heavy on the ground I do not see them as much, and I miss them.

I’ve been thinking of a particular stretch of them lately. My favorite place in Colorado. The Lost Creek Wilderness.  The creek’s real name is Goose Creek, even though I have never seen a goose on it. It vanishes in to the ground at spots, and pops back up later, becoming the Lost Creek. It hasn’t been a wilderness area for very long, parts of it added only in 1992. Which means is it not crowded as others, and it is in no way developed. It is the backcountry. It is twenty or so miles down a forest service road just to get to a trail head, out in the middle of the remains of the trees that burned in the Hayman Fire. The trail winds through their blackened trunks, but among these remains, at the right time of year, is a riot of color as mountain flowers spring up and wild raspberries ripen. It follows the creek along with vistas of Harmonica Arch and fantastic rock formations up to an old camp where they tried to create a reservoir and failed. The shaft house is gone, but you can see where they tried to plug the creek underground in a plan that was farfetched. shoot-23

And while it is fun to clamber around old steam winches and boilers, look in old cabins, and around a Model T they left behind, that is not the true draw. The wilderness is. Rocks reaching for the skies above. The sigh of the wind through the trees. And in the best part of it, boulders larger than two-story houses that have rolled together to create a cave. Within these rocks, dappled by streams of light from above, is a rare beauty I love. It is the only place like it in Colorado I have ever seen.


It’s a good day’s walk. Ten miles or so to go in and come back out. A good day hike if one starts early enough. The whole trail loop is thirty miles, give or take. Long enough for a weekend expedition. It has more water than is typical of the mountains in this state, which is a good thing. It makes it an easier walk. It’s peaceful. Perfect. Beyond price.

I’m loathe to put directions to the place up. It’s not a secret, but it is a singular, wonderful place I happened on to by accident. I am reluctant to deprive someone else of the same sort of happy accident.

Muir’s most famous quote is “The mountains are calling and I must go.” Perhaps I heard the call before I moved here, but I never heeded it. I should have. All I can tell you now is, listen for the call. And go. I can’t wait for the spring to come, when we will go and be among them again.