#4 Mountain Trains

Well my thirst for exploration has led me to this post! After a productive week in Sonoma I have made my way back down to San Diego! The weather in California has finally cleared up and I’ve been able to dry out my mattress and the back of my truck so I’m ready for some camping adventures this weekend! Stay tuned for that!

After spending the night in San Diego I woke up early knowing that I had to get out and shoot something. Unfortunately it was the last day of crappy weather but I had a feeling it might pay off and provide the ingredients for some awesome shots! The location was a long haul out of San Diego but I had the whole day to kill and was feeling adventurous. I arrived at the location and packed all my gear into my bag as the rain slowly peppered my head. As much as I like solo missions sometimes I wish I had a companion. Hiking deep into the mountains by myself in a territory that is potentially littered with mountain lions was looming ominously in the back of my mind… however as the old saying goes “No Risk, No Reward”. I began the jaunt and within a matter of minutes I reached the first set of beautiful trains. The view was nothing short of exceptional… desert mountains looming in the distance with ominous rain clouds and beautiful abandoned trains sitting in the foreground. At that moment, like every time before… I knew that it was totally worth getting off my ass and rallying for this adventure. I pulled my camera out and began snapping wide shots with my Zeiss 15mm prime.

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After getting my shots at the first set of trains which wasn’t far from the car, I began on the second leg of the journey. The second set of trains is about a 3 mile hike on an abandoned train track through the mountains. Viewing it on Google Maps prior to the exploration I saw two train trestles which was my biggest concern knowing how old and unstable they could be. I definitely didn’t want to fall into a canyon, especially due to the fact that I was exploring solo!

The desert terrain is something that I have a special love for. I grew up watching Western movies and have always been fascinated by the landscapes of the west. The walk along the train tracks was nothing short of spectacular, continuously reminding me of the landscapes I had been inspired by in western movies. As I walked along the tracks I found my mind drifting off…. imagining times when cowboys/settlers/miners and the like used to ride through these same mountains on horseback and camp under the stars. I appreciate these moments of imagination because they help put things in perspective. Prior to this adventure I had my apprehensions but as I walked along the train tracks thinking of times past it dawned on me how good we have it in the 21st century. I had a full bottle of water, beef jerky and the necessary layers to stay warm, where as many in the past had survived off much less. It was a moment of clarity and a nice insight into the past, however I was still on full alert for mountain lions….!

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The hike was filled with turns and tunnels throughout the mountainside which provided many surprises. Initially I was under the impression there was only two trestles on the way to the trains but there ended up being six! Cautiously I  walked across the first two trestles, sticking to the main beams hoping to god they didn’t snap. The remaining trestles had billy goat paths that were easily maneuverable which made for a more comfortable ascent. After going through two tunnels and over six trestles I rounded a bend only to be met with the beautiful sight of 3 abandoned train cars across the valley. The hike which I had mapped out to be only 2.5 miles long seemed surprisingly much longer but was certainly worth it. I snapped some shots from a distance with my Zeiss 35mm prime and then ran my ass over to the trains to start shooting as fast as possible before it potentially rained.

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After shooting my little heart out I decided I had captured everything I wanted (aside from night shots) and packed my gear up. Coincidentally it began to start pouring rain so I kicked it into speed walking mode and began the trek back. On the way back I climbed onto the first set of trains and ran across the cars like a Wild West movie which made me feel like a little kid again! This was definitely an adventure i’ll never forget and like always I’m glad I got out of my comfort zone!

-J.J

 

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