Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Train Photographers

There is no doubt that we really enjoyed riding the 2010 Steam Photographers Heavyweight Special train of the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad last week, as well as photographing it. But there was another photographic subject out there too--the other photographers. Like I said, there were 74 passengers on the train and they were carrying--and using--all sorts of fancy, ordinary or very simple equipment.

Lots of the people were doing sound recordings to accompany their photographs. Here is the largest microphone I saw.

And this fellow--who spent the morning photographing and recording the train and the afternoon working as relief engineer, driving the train--had a small recorder with a common sponge covering the microphone to filter wind noise.

Not all the photographers were riding on the train. Some were driving their cars on nearby roads, chasing the train from one photo stop to another. Look high on this hill and you will see four of these folks.

When you are using large, sophisticated cameras with long telephoto lenses, you need a tripod to get good pictures. That means a heavy load to schlep off the train and through the bushes at each stop.

John was one of those using just a small digital camera. But it also takes videos and made the one I included in my last blog.

Some of the photographers want to get shots from way up the hill above the tracks. It isn't easy to club up the hill with a camera and tripod.

However, sometimes a tripod makes a good hiking pole, easing the way down the same hill.

And here are some shots of the photographers in mass:

Often the photo line stretched a long way, making sure no one got into someone else's picture. They were there to take pictures of this beautiful engine with its vintage passenger cars, not the other photographers.

Sometimes we participate in an activity that has more elements involved than we expect. We had been on one previous rail fan photography trip, but I don't remember being very aware of the other photographers. This time I found them a major interest. It sure was a fun and interesting day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

She's Comin' Round the Mountain

Choo choo, choo choo. Woo, wooo, woo woo.

That is what we listened to Thursday when we rode on the 2010 Steam Photographers Heavyweight Special train of the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad. We have ridden this trip from Alamosa to LaVeta and back twice before, but this time we had the opportunity to get off several times to take photographs.

Before boarding at 7 am, I took this shot just as the sun come over the horizon, giving a golden glow to everything on the platform.

The train of vintage passenger cars—ours was built in 1928—was pulled by Alco Locomotive #18, a 2-8-0 steam engine that is 100 years old this year. Photography opportunities allowed us to film the train on a neat S-curve and coming around numerous bends.

If you enjoy the sight and sound of a steam locomotive, watch this short video from the trip.

This gives you a good view of the steam engine.

Steve Goodman was riding in this car, the Calumet Club, when he wrote the song, "The City of New Orleans." It has been recorded numerous times by folks like Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson and John Denver. Click here to read the words as sung by Arlo and here to hear Willie sing the song.

We saw cattle grazing early in the day and elk running from the train near days' end.

Sometimes we were on a hill looking down on the train.

Nan and Norm, two other volunteers at Lathrop, rode the train with us. This shot was taken early in the day.

Later in the day, I stayed in the train during the photo ops. John took this picture of me sitting in the open car as the train passed his position.

The standard gauge tracks we were riding over La Veta Pass we laid in 1899 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. We were able to see some of the structures built to service that route years ago, including this old-style snow fence.

Nearby we passed these shoots and corral for loading sheep on the train.

Since we didn't return to Alamosa until 9 pm, I was able to get some good shots as the sun set. Here is the engineer on top of the tender, checking to see how much water he had for the steam boiler.

We were ready to say goodnight as I took this shot of the skyline.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seeing the Sights

This week we decided to take a little vacation. Tuesday morning we hitched up the RV and drove 80 miles to Alamosa. Tomorrow we will ride the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad photographers' special train on a round trip from Alamosa to LaVeta and back.

This is a view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains out of our dining room window.

Today we decided to drive around and see some of the other sights in the San Luis Valley of south central Colorado. Before we left the RV park, we ran a couple of miles--at this elevation of 7500 ft. It was tough. Yesterday, as we drove over LaVeta Pass in fog and rain, we saw a man riding his motorized wheel chair over the pass. He was followed by a motorhome, but we were not able to read the side to see what was going on. Today we discovered the motorhome here in the park.

We still don't know much of the story, but we did learn that, for $1, you can sign your name on the RV, wishing Matt good luck on his wheel chair journey across the country.

We also discovered two vintage automobiles, part of the Model A and T club that is spending this week in Alamosa. Don't you love the trunk on the back of this spiffy old car?

We also spotted this interesting composite RV. It took someone very creative to put it together.

First we drove south to Antonito to watch the morning tourist train of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad pull out. We have ridden that rail line a number of times and love it, but this year we didn't find time to ride two tourist trains. This is a shot of Engine 484 as they left the station.

Being rail buffs, we took numerous photographs in Antonito, but I haven't the time to post them and others may not have the interest to look at them. I do want you to know that this sign is completely accurate. While taking pictures of the train, I got three soot spots on my white shirt.

From there we drove through the town of Manassa. How many of you are old enough to recognize the name The Manassa Mauler? He was born in this house.

As you drive down the main street, it would be hard to miss the museum with this sign in the yard.

As we drove the scenic road toward the Great Sand Dunes National Park, we got this beautiful view of 14,345 ft. Mt. Blanca, the fourth highest mountain in Colorado and seventh highest in the continental United States.

The first known written reference to the Great Sand Dunes appear in the 1807 journals of U. S. Army Lt. Zebulon Pike--namesake of Pikes Peak. He described the dunes as looking like a "sea in a storm." These are the tallest in North America, with the highest dune rising 750 from the valley floor. The park's visitor center is at 8,200 ft. Bright summer sun means the sand can reach a temperature of 140 degrees. As you can see from this picture, the dunes sit against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

The national park encompasses both the dunes and the entire mountain, valley and wetlands ecosystem. It became a national monument in 1932 and a national park in 2004. We have been here three times in the past, once in early summer when Medano Creek was running at the base of the dunes. Today we took a short hike up the forested hill behind the dunes. Then we drove out of the park and over to San Luis Lakes State Park, where we could look across the lakes to the sand dunes. We saw this small group of American White Pelicans.

I also got a photo of the pelicans with the sand dunes in the background.

Monday, August 23, 2010


We've been here at Lathrop State Park, at about 6200 ft. elevation, for a month now. We try to run three miles, three times a week. Finally, today, I was able to run the entire three miles. Up until now, the routine has included several periods of walking to catch my breath, during the three mile run. Now I have acclimated to this altitude. It is all down hill from here, literally. We will go to the Denver area, where we till be at about 5700 ft. Then we are off to Arizona where we stay at about 1300 ft.

Our run here is mainly on the Horseshoe Lake dam, a really beautiful place to exercise in the morning.

John took that picture in July, right after we arrived. Here is one I took of him last year, running on the Martin Lake dam here.

Last year we were here in May and June, so many morning were cooler than we have had this year.

In addition to the fact I am now able to run the entire three miles, I am happy to report I haven't had any problem with foot pain in two or three months. I attribute that to taking time off to let the plantar fasciitis heal as well as buying a "boot" that keeps my foot flexed while I sleep so thefoot remains stretched.

I really enjoy being able to run. It feels good to get my heart and lungs working hard. And I feel so good when I'm done. I hope I can keep it up for years to come.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wahatoya Trail

This week we decided to hike the Wahatoya Trail, the one we set out to hike two weeks ago, but didn't find. In reality, this week we hiked the road that leads to the trail head. I had read that we needed a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach the start of the trail. Our Chevy 2500 is that, but we really didn't want to take it on the road. Do you blame us, or are we chicken?

The scenery on the way to our parking spot is really beautiful.

As we hiked up the road, the first view point gave us this sight.

A little farther up (and I do mean up) the road, we were able to see one of the dikes that have developed in the area.

The forest along the trail is incredibly thick and diverse. All the trees appear healthy, unlike the one in Rocky Mountain National Park that I blogged about last month.

As we walked along the road we saw this smiley face. We decided to climb the small hill above it and see if it was leading us to an overlook. It was.

Isn't this a beautiful place to have lunch?

Along the way, we saw mushrooms and flowers.

It has been a very hot summer in Colorado and I am ready for it to cool down. But surely it isn't nearly fall, is it? I wonder what these yellow leaves mean.

After hiking over two miles up the road, we decided to turn around. We didn't know if the trail head was further up the road or if it was unmarked. But we were tired. A little way down the road, we encountered a jeep driving up. Obviously, we were still on the road. When we told him where we turned around, he said that was only about one-quarter of a mile from the Spanish Peaks Wilderness boundary and the trail head. Here is a view of the jeep rapidly going up the road.

The Spanish Peaks area is beautiful and we don't mind steep trails, though we prefer a few switchbacks, thank you. Next time we'll look for a trail that doesn't have an approach road over two miles long.