|Bear the Mighty Dog Asleep on the Author's Camera Bag.|
Bear the Mighty Dog has shuffled off this mortal coil. He passed February 12, 2023. My loyal railfan companion is no more, and I grieve. A dog's loyalty and affection are beyond words, so I cannot describe the full measure of Bear's devotion. He was with me in good times and bad, winter and summer, health and sickness. Soon enough I will join him in death. For now, I offer this eulogy.
My wife found Bear at a local pet store hosting a "beauty contest" for shelter dogs, all lined up in separate cages, hoping upon hope for adoption. You could see it in the dogs' eyes. They wanted someone to take them home where they would remain loyal, obedient and trusting unto the end.
I spied a brown Dachshund who looked at me carefully and wagged his tail. I turned to my wife to suggest that we had found the perfect pet, but she ignored me. She was kneeling in front of a cage that housed a small black dog, with a white head, who looked part Chihuahua and part something else entirely. Unlike the other dogs, he was not nervous or excited. He just stood there on his four-inch legs, looking up at her with bemused curiosity. He was the only dog who did not express eagerness to be taken home. He seemed to be comfortable no matter what happened. If he was taken home -- great. If he remained at the shelter -- well, that was just fine, too. He exuded calmness as some people exude perspiration.
"This is the one," my wife said.
"Yes," she said. "Absolutely sure."
We paid seventy-five dollars to take him home -- the cost of his neutering -- and he spent the night in our den in a metal dog crate that my wife purchased at the pet store. We fed him in the kitchen, and he stood motionless, as rigid as petrified wood, while I spooned his food into a dog bowl -- both food and bowl also purchased by my wife at the pet store. At that moment, I realized while the pet store holds adoptions.
He was so intent upon his meal that I wrote a really terrible poem for him, titled "You Won't Feed Me":
You won't feed me,
And I am wasting away.
You won't feed me.
There's nothing more I can say.
I stand here in front of you,
Wondering what you will do.
I look you right in the eye.
If you won't feed me, I will die!
From that first night in our home, Bear was part of the group. Soon enough he was sleeping in a small bed in the closet. He was never nervous, never frightened, never upset. He acted as though he had known and lived with us for years, and that first night I thought, "I must learn to be as calm and happy as he is."
When we adopted Bear, the pet store told us that he had been abandoned in an apartment and left alone for several days, without food or water, before the landlord found him waiting patiently at the door for someone to let him out. A dog's ability to wait for hours or even days makes me think that canines may not experience the passage of time as do humans. When railfanning with your author, Bear could stay in my Jeep for hours while I climbed hillsides and cliffs, or crossed shallow streams and rivers. Often he would fall asleep. Upon my return, he would look at me quizically, as if to say, "Okay, what now?"
I often wished that Bear could understand what I was trying to communicate to him. Just as often, I think he wished that I could understand what he was saying. As we both grew older, communication became easier, usually just a glance or a small motion of the head. When he was tired, he would look up at me glumly, almost a frown. When I was tired, I would look down at him with the same expression. As we aged, we spent more and more time in the shade, waiting for a train.
Bear did not like loud noises. When my wife or I were chopping vegetables in the kitchen, he would depart for the guest bedroom and wait under the bed for the noise to subside. Likewise, if a passing train whistled, he would go for the trees. I learned quickly not to take him too close to the tracks. I also learned that Bear loved to ride in my Jeep. Hot or cold, summer or winter, the weather did not matter. He was always ready. Whenever he saw me gathering my camera gear, he would strategically position himself between me and the garage door, looking up quietly, not excited, just patient and completely trusting. He knew that I would take him anywhere.
Early one morning, I was packing my suitcase for a railfan trip to Colorado. Bear watched intently as I methodically loaded underwear and socks into my open suitcase on the floor of the bedroom. I walked to the laundry room to retrieve some jeans from the dryer. When I returned, I found Bear sitting inside my suitcase.
"Come on," his eyes said. "I'm ready to go."
On a trip to the Pacific Northwest with my wife and son, Bear disappeared one evening while we were eating supper on the deck of a rental house that overlooked the Columbia River. We were so enamored of the view -- wide blue water giving way to a range of hills overlooked in the distance by snow-covered Mount Hood in Oregon -- that we failed to notice that the dog was missing. We searched around the house and up and down the steep gradient of the street off the narrow driveway -- to no avail.
My wife was mad at me for not paying attention to the dog. I shrugged my shoulders in the manner of someone married over 40 years.
"Here he is!" my son shouted.
We walked inside to see Bear sound asleep inside my son's open suitcase on the floor.
Whenever we traveled, Bear preferred to sleep on a small pallet in the back floor of the Jeep, which I soon came to call "The Rolling Dog House." The vehicle quickly took on Bear's various odors, which I think is why he liked it so much. Once in Green River, Utah, in the dead of a hot summer, I was staying at a Motel 6, and I decided to bring Bear in with me for the night. I carried Bear into the room and placed him on the floor. He looked around, sniffed at the furniture, then turned and looked up at me with an expression that clearly said: "Really? This is the best you can do? I'd rather sleep in the Jeep!"
So I took him back outside.
Bear's one deficiency, at least from my viewpoint, was his tendency to run off while I was waiting for a train. He was not trying to hide, nor to leave. He was just curious, sniffing the ground, looking for scraps of food. He was particularly skillful at finding the bones of dead animals. Even in the middle of the Mojave Desert, Bear found what I believe was the leg bone of a rabbit. He sat contently in the sand, chewing, until the bone was completely gone, disappeared, as though he were a magician.
On our trip to Utah, while I was waiting for a Union Pacific freight on the old Denver and Rio Grande Western mainline, Bear disappeared. I did not want to miss the train, the only freight of the day, plus I was also fighting off swarms of flying insects called "noseeums," which leave some of the most irritating and painful bites imaginable, far worse than chiggers.
The train never appeared. I heard the crew on my scanner, talking to the dispatcher, but I saw nothing. The sun went down. Bear was nowhere in sight. Covered from head to toe with bug spray, I went looking for him, whistling and calling his name. I must have searched for an hour, at least, without success.
"My wife is going to kill me," I thought.
I returned to my Jeep, wondering if I should spend the night in the wilderness and resume my search in the morning. As I approached, I heard Bear's collar jingle as he walked out from under the Jeep to greet me. He had been waiting for me the whole time, probably wondering why I was walking around in the dark.
From the beginning of our relationship, Bear possessed what in humans is sometimes called an "irritable bowel," which I think means that certain foods throw your digestive system completely out of whack.
One afternoon while working in my garden, I found Bear beneath a cedar, munching contentedly on the intestines of a dead rabbit. I pulled him away, and he looked at me helplessly, as though I were pulling off one of his legs. I then dug a shallow hole, buried the remains of the rabbit and sent Bear to the house, where he moped for hours. He exacted his revenge that evening, when he vomited the remains of the rabbit on the carpet of my study.
Bear had a similar reaction to "people food." He wanted to eat it, but often when I fed him table scraps, he would poop them out of his system like a California mud slide.
The same thing would happen if I changed dog foods. I made that mistake one time on a trip to Wyoming. We were staying in Saratoga, a renown trout fishing location on the North Platte River, and I ran out of his regular dog food. The local grocery store did not carry that brand, so I purchased a similar variety that I foolishly thought would cooperate with Bear's digestive tract.
I fed him the new food that evening and put him to bed in the Jeep. The next morning when I let him out to do his duty, I discovered that he had already done it all over the back seat, which looked as though someone had sprayed sewer sludge across the inside of my relatively new vehicle. It was not his fault, of course. It was mine. My punishment was the hour it took to clean up, plus the additional hour it took to drive to Rock Springs to find a store that sold Bear's preferred brand.
When we arrived back home at the end of our Wyoming journey, my wife was so appalled with the condition of the Jeep, including what she called that "unbelievable odor," that she hired a company, at some considerable expense, to clean my vehicle. I think it was the sort of company that cleans a house after a natural disaster.
Bear was especially attractive to other dogs; I don't know why. On many occasions, while we were out in the country looking for trains, local dogs would approach us and swarm around Bear in friendly admiration, as though he were the leader of the pack. He did not mind and did not appear to have the slightest desire to lead, probably because he was too short to return their sniffs to his private parts.
He never barked at other dogs. In fact, he rarely barked at all, which is why I could carry him in a small shoulder bag into any motel -- at least the ones he was willing to sleep in. He never made a sound, even if other dogs were barking nearby. We sometimes stayed in a motel a week or longer, and Bear would sleep ini his bag near the foot of my bed. This usually occurred in the winter when it was too cold in the Jeep. The cleaning staff quickly became friends with Bear and would nod knowingly as I carried him in the "Bear Bag" outside to the Jeep. He never made a mess. Not once.
One time I brought him up into the bed with me. The next morning when I awoke, I found Bear had left the bed and was sleeping on the sofa in the small dining area of our suite. My wife has told me that I snore. Bear confirmed it.
The only time I ever remember Bear's barking was when we were around cattle. If he were in the Jeep as we passed cows along the road, he would bark furiously out the window. If we were hiking outside and came upon cattle, he would bark and begin to herd them -- one of the most hilarious sights I have ever witnessed. This tiny dog with four inch legs could run in whatever direction he pleased, barking non-stop, and the cattle would follow his directions. It seemed that he was part Border Collie, though he was far too small for that.
In later years, he suffered the various infirmities of advancing age -- heart murmur, kidney degeneration, failing hearing and eyesight. He spent more and more time at the vets, where everyone fell in love with him and would greet him by name whenever we arrived. We spent a considerable sum on our seventy-five dollar dog. But every penny was worth it.
And so Bear follows my father and mother unto death. I have lost all three in the recent past and realize that I am next in the check-out line. Air traffic control has asked if I can see the landing field. I do not think so, I have replied, but the lights of the city are bright and growing larger.
Following are photographs taken on every one of my trips with Bear the Mighty Dog. There were a lot of trips and thus there are a lot of photos, but I think Bear deserves a proper send-off. Our first trip together was to Colorado. Our last was to the same state. Bookends.
Colorado -- First Trip
|Eastbound manifest along Colorado River -- just east of Kremmling, Colorado.|
|Eastbound coal leaving Radium, Colorado.|
|Eastbound BNSF OCS -- just east of Kremmlng, Colorado.|
|Westbound manifest approaching Kremmling, Colorado.|
|Inspiration Point -- west mouth of Gore Canyon.|
Colorado -- Last Trip
|Eastbound Rocky Mountaineer -- just east of Kremmling, Colorado.|
|Eastbound manifest leaving Radium, Colorado.|
|Eastbound Amtrak along Colorado River -- just east of Kremmling, Colorado.|
|Westbound BNSF approaching Kremmling, Colorado.|
|Inspiration Point -- West mouth of Gore Canyon.|
Baker City, Oregon
One summer, my family and I (plus Bear) drove to eastern Oregon to explore the remnants of the Oregon Trail and the Union Pacific line that roughly follows the grass covered hills from Huntington to Baker City.
|Two Union Pacific freights meet at the Pritchard Creek horseshoe in northeastern Oregon -- along the old Oregon Trail. The westbound train has stopped at the bottom of the grade, waiting for the eastbound manifest to pass, before attacking the hill.|
|An eastbound manifest approaches the Pritchard Creek horseshoe.|
|Pritchard Creek Horseshoe.|
Shortly before my mother's death, my wife, mother and I took Amtrak from Denver to Emeryville to Los Angeles and then spent several days in Palm Desert, where I photographed the Union Pacific line across Beaumont Hill. My son flew to Los Angeles from Oklahoma to join us and brought Bear with him in the Bear Bag. Our little dog was a perfect air traveler. He would wait patiently in his bag, tucked beneath the seat, neither squirming nor barking, until the plane had landed. He found the desert sun a little hot for his black coat and so spent most of his time in my rental vehicle while I hiked about the sand and rocks, looking for the perfect shot.
|A westbound manifest approaching the summit of San Gorgonio Pass.|
|Eastbound at Palm Desert.|
Belen, New Mexico
On a cold December, Bear and I took a short (four days) trip to Belen, New Mexico, to renew our acquaintance with the BNSF Transcon. Bear slept in the Jeep and was quite comfortable, bundled in his blankets.
|Eastbound coal climbs the grade to Abo Canyon.|
|A cold rain falls over the valley of the Rio Grande.|
|Rolling west beneath Manzano Mountains.|
Bear and I made two trips to Cajon Pass by airplane in which Bear waited patiently in the Bear Bag both on the plane and later in the hotel room while I completed my business. Once work was finished, we had extra time to explore one of North America's most fascinating railroad locations.
|A Union Pacific manifest climbs the Palmdale Cutoff.|
|Union Pacific meets BNSF.|
|The day-lighted Tunnel #2 at Alray, part of BNSF's third-track construction project completed in 2008.|
|BNSF approaching the summit.|
|Union Pacific downgrade.|
|BNSF at same location.|
Over the years, Bear and I took several trips to Canadian, Texas, about a four hours drive from my house, where the BNSF Transcon crosses the Canadian River and runs southwest through the small canyon carved by Red Deer Creek. The scenery is very pleasant, though civilization is not close at hand.
|Westbound in the valley of Red Deer Creek.|
|Westbound autos headed to Amarillo.|
|Grain bound for California.|
Carrizozo, New Mexico
Carrizozo, New Mexico, sits in the valley between the San Adres Mountains to the west and the Sacramento Mountains to the east. Union Pacific's line from Kansas City to El Paso runs through the valley along the edge of the Carrizozo lava flow, one of the largest in the world, over 42 miles long from north to south.
|Northbound stacks beside Carrizo Peak.|
|A small thunderstorm (tornado?) in the New Mexico badlands. It appeared to be heading my way, but as I jumped in the Jeep, the storm lifted and then disappeared. Bear remained blissfully asleep in the back seat.|
|Northbound stacks beside the Carrizozo lava flow.|
|Empty grainer climbing out of the Carrizozo Valley, headed to Kansas City -- BNSF power on the point.|
|Northbound stacks leaving Carrizozo.|
I live about a 45 minutes' drive from the old north-south Rock Island mainline through Oklahoma, which follows the older Chisholm trail between Kansas and Texas. From time to time I drive over that way, looking for the few Union Pacific freights that run in the daylight. Bear often accompanied me on those short trips.
|Mighty Dog inspects a southbound UP manifest waiting in the siding at Kingfisher, Oklahoma.|
|Southbound grainer beside winter wheat awaiting harvest.|
|Northbound manifest approaching Minco Hill.|
Bear and I made a three days' drive to the Columbia River to photograph the BNSF. The scenery was spectacular, though by this time of his life, Bear was asleep more than awake.
|Amtrak along the Columbia River, overlooked by Mount Hood.|
|An eastbound manifest meets westbound trailers at Wishram, Washington.|
|A UP eastbound manifest races along the south bank of the Columbia.|
Bear traveled with us to British Columbia when my wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We flew from Oklahoma City to Spokane, then rented a Jeep and drove north. While on the plane, Bear waited patiently in the Bear Bag. We thought we would need his vaccination papers when we crossed into Canada, but the Border Patrol did not ask for them.
|Northbound grainer crossing Columbia Lake (headwaters of the Columbia River) on CP's Windermere Subdivision.|
|Field, British Columbia.|
|Spillamacheen, British Columbia.|
|Cathedral Mountain, Kicking Horse Pass.|
West from Belen, BNSF's Transcon climbs the hills out of the valley of the Rio Grande, then almost immediately begins a long descent into the valley of the Rio Puerco. This entire area is approachable only on sandy, primitive roads that can snare like fly paper even the most capable off-road vehicles. Bear and I spent several days there one beautiful January, blissfully free from other vehicles and people.
|Westbound autos race downgrade toward the Rio Puerco.|
|Eastbound climbing out of the valley of the Rio Puerco. Mesa Lucero towers in the background.|
|Eastbound Office Car Special with Mount Taylor in the background.|
Bear accompanied me on two trips to Dragoon, Arizona, the highest point on UP's Sunset Route west of El Paso. Both trips were made in January, and the almost 5000 feet summit was very cold at night, but Bear stayed toasty warm, bundled in blankets on the floor of the Jeep's back seat. He loved to travel. No matter the weather, he was always ready to go.
|At dusk, eastbound stacks climb to the summit.|
|Westbound stacks rolling downgrade.|
|Wilcox Playa -- the eastern base of the grade.|
|Approaching Benson, Arizona.|
Bear and I drove to Echo Canyon, Utah, one late September and were surprised to find that the small trees in the valley had turned various shades of orange, yellow and red. One morning while waiting at the rest stop along I-80, we met a truck driver taking his small dog for a walk. Bear immediately made friends with someone his own size, and the two canines sniffed each other for several minutes before parting.
|A single DPU helps eastbound stacks climb the grade.|
|Westbound stacks headed to Ogden.|
|A westbound local with loaded oil tankers.|
Flagstaff in the Snow
For many years, I wanted to take photographs of Flagstaff in the snow. Circumstances, however, conspired against me. When there was snow in Flagstaff, my legal practice would grow extremely busy with court dates and other nuisances. Late in Bear's life, though, Flagstaff was blanketed with over a foot, and I had nothing much to do. Bear and I jumped in the Jeep and headed west.
|Eastbound at Darling -- with the San Francisco Volcano Field in the background.|
|Westbound approaching Darling.|
|Westbound at old US 66 overpass.|
|Eastbound rolling downhill.|
|Eastbound at old US 66 overpass.|
Rio Puerco of the West
There are two Rio Puercos in New Mexico -- one east of the Continental Divide, flowing into the Rio Grande, and one west that flows into the Little Colorado. One very hot July, Bear and I spent several days in the valley of the western sibling, photographing the Transcon near the Arizona-New Mexico border.
|Eastward to Belen.|
Kansas City Southern
When the Kansas City Southern began cutting down trees from Heavener, Oklahoma, to Rich Mountain, Arkansas, your author and Bear could not wait to sample territory that had been overgrown for more than 30 years. We made several trips, and below are a few of the many resulting images.
|A southbound (compass east) grainer approaching the Arkansas border.|
|Rich Mountain, Arkansas.|
In the middle of summer, Bear and I spent a few days in and around Kingman, Arizona. The temperature was above 100 degrees Fahrenheit each day, and we drank copious amounts of water.
|Eastbound (compass north) through the Sacramento Valley.|
|Eastbound stacks approaching Kingman.|
|Westbound in Kingman Canyon.|
The Maricopa Mountains are the remnants of a once much larger chain southwest of Phoenix. Bear and I drove there shortly after the death of my mother, seeking solitude. The desert provided it and helped me understand why one would choose to live in what, at first glance, appears to be such a hostile place.
|Eastbound stacks climbing the grade toward Tucson.|
|Eastbound autos at dusk.|
|Westbound to Yuma.|
|Climbing east out of the valley of the Gila River.|
Mescal is liquor distilled from the fermented sap of agaves. If you have not tasted it, you should. Mescal is also the summit of the Sunset Route between Benson, Arizona, on the east and Cienega Creek on the west, where the old El Paso and Southwestern mainline crosses the original Southern Pacific main. When Bear and I visited in the winter, periodic rain showers dampened our bodies but not our spirits.
|Westbound stacks on the original El Paso and Southwestern main.|
|Eastbound grainer on the original Southern Pacific mainline, which runs along Cienega Creek.|
|In the rain.|
Curtis Hill (where BNSF's Transcon crosses the Cimarron River in northwestern Oklahoma) is about a two and one-half hour drive from my house. Over the years, Bear and I made many trips to photograph the red bluffs and plethora of trains.
|A westbound is climbing the grade out of the valley of the Cimarron River.|
|Running beside the sand dunes of Little Sahara State Park.|
|Crossing the Cimarron River.|
Southwest of Elko, Nevada, sits the ghost town of Palisade, a once thriving mining community now reduced to rubble and dust. The Humboldt River carves a canyon through the desert hills, where first came the Union Pacific, then the Western Pacific. Today UP runs both lines. On the way back from Oregon, Bear and I spent several days in this wilderness, searching for trains, which were few and far between.
|A westbound UP manifest rolls beside the Humboldt River on the original Overland Route. The old Western Pacific mainline is in the foreground.|
|An eastbound winds through the desert. The Humboldt River is out of sight beneath the steel girder bridge.|
|Deep in the canyon.|
|Westbound stacks on the original UP Overland Route cross under the original Western Pacific main.|
Red Rock Subdivision
BNSF's Red Rock Subdivision runs from Gainesville, Texas, to Arkansas City, Kansas, and passes within about two miles of my house. I often sit on my front porch and listen to trains whistling through what used to be open country and now is urban sprawl north of Oklahoma City. Bear and I would occasionally wander into northern Oklahoma to photograph this rarely photographed line.
|Northbound north of Edmond, Oklahoma.|
|Southbound south of Perry, Oklahoma.|
|Southbound on Waterloo Hill.|
When Bear and I visited Peru Hill, his nose swelled to twice its size, and he could barely breathe. Thinking he had been bitten by a rattlesnake, I took him to a kind local veterinarian in Green River, Wyoming, who examined him thoroughly and said it was more likely that he had been stung on the nose by a bee. When the swelling went down the next day, she was proven correct. Still, rattlesnake or bee, it must have hurt.
|Point of Rocks, Wyoming.|
|Eastbound grainer rolling down Peru Hill.|
|Westbound climbing Peru Hill.|
Powder River Basin
About a year before Bear's passing, we visited the Powder River Basin to see firsthand what destruction had been wrought by THE WAR ON HYDROCARBONS. Traffic was heavier than expected, though much lighter than in the early 21st century. One hopes that the nation comes to its senses before more damage is done, though until rolling blackouts hit Washington, D.C., that hope is probably in vain.
|Loaded coal on BNSF headed to Shawnee Junction.|
|Loaded coal on BNSF headed to Donkey Creek Junction.|
|UP empties approaching Shawnee Junction.|
|With signals from BNSF's Orin Subdivision in the foreground, another empty UP coal train approaches Shawnee Junction.|
|A coal load on the Orin Subdivision.|
The Palouse of southeastern Washington contains a series of rolling hills serrated by coulees scoured during ice age floods. Bear and I visited during a dry summer when the only sounds for miles were the distant growls of approaching BNSF freights climbing the grade of Providence Hill -- some of the most congenial country I have ever seen. If God were to choose a way station, I think He would choose the Palouse.
|An eastbound grainer climbing Providence Hill -- deep in the Palouse.|
|Westbound in a coulee carved down to basalt.|
|Headed to Spokane at sunset.|
Sierra Blanca is a much eroded, grass-covered mountain in far southwest Texas. The town named after it is the seat of Hudspeth County, with a population of approximately 500. Dry and desolate, this country is where the original Texas and Pacific main west from Fort Worth joined the original Southern Pacific Sunset Route. Mountains rise in all directions, dry mountains in dry country, where dust is as constant as cacti. When the wind blows, which is often, the dry dust fills the sky and turns red at sundown, as though the whole country is bathed in blood.
|An eastbound manifest has crested the summit at Carrizo Pass and is headed downgrade to Van Horn.|
|Eastbound stacks beside the Baylor Mountains.|
|As though bathed in blood.|
Steins Pass sits almost directly on the border of Arizona and New Mexico and constitutes the last major grade for eastbounds on the Sunset Route between Cochise, Arizona and El Paso. Interstate 10 runs close to the tracks, closer than your author would prefer, but with a little effort it is possible to take railroad photos that omit the highway.
|An eastbound approaches the summit.|
|This eastbound has crossed the pass and is headed to Lordsburg, New Mexico.|
I have made several trips to Tehachapi over the years but only one with Mighty Dog. We originally planned to photograph the BNSF Transcon on the Colorado Plateau east of Flagstaff, but the weather did not cooperate, so we headed west until we found the first rays of sunshine, which turned out to be in Tehachapi. We only stayed two days before the weather cleared and we returned to Arizona. Because I have taken so many images at the loop, we did not photograph there. I do not know if Bear was disappointed. He did not say.
|UP stacks have come out of the Caliente horseshoe and are headed downgrade to Bakersfield.|
|A BNSF manifest is about to enter Tunnel 7.|
|A UP manifest exits the horseshoe at the Cesar Chavez National Monument.|
|BNSF exits Tunnel 5. The road outside the tunnel is the shoe-fly constructed after the 1952 Tehachapi Earthquake. Trains ran on the shoe-fly until repairs were completed on Tunnel 5. Tunnel 4 (just to the left of the power) was too badly damage for repair and was daylighted.|
Over the years, Bear and I made several trips to photograph the BNSF Transcon, resulting in literally hundreds of images from Curtis Hill to Cajon Pass. Following is a tiny sample.
|Curtis Hill, Oklahoma.|
|Loma Alta, New Mexico.|
|Manzano Mountains, New Mexico.|
|Crozier Canyon, Arizona.|
|Ash Hill, California.|
|Cajon Summit, California.|
At Trinidad Hill, the old Great Northern mainline climbs out of the Columbia River Gorge to the plateau (scoured by coulees) created by the Columbia River Flood Basalts approximately 5,000,000 - 15,000,000 years ago. The terrain is breathtaking, almost unbelievable, a land sculpted by a force beyond imagining. I think Bear was mesmerized by this land. He sat in the Jeep for hours, not sleeping, instead staring into the vastness of the primeval gorge that even today defies all but the most heroic attempts to cross.
|A westbound Z in full dynamics.|
|Another westbound beginning its descent into the gorge.|
|The Columbia River Gorge.|
Welcott was a station stop in Wyoming on the Union Pacific's Overland Route and in the 19th century claimed about 100 residents. Cattle were loaded and unloaded here, and remnants of the pens are still visible today, though the town itself has vanished. The road leading down into the valley from Interstate 80 is crumbling, filled with potholes the size of basketballs. Trains roar through in both directions and give not the slightest hint that anyone ever lived in this place.
|Accelerating past Wolcott.|
|Eastbound stacks are curving around the remnants of Wolcott.|
|Not in Kansas anymore.|
I wanted Bear to avoid death as one might avoid the flu, because I wanted Bear to join me on many future railfan trips, but at the end he let me know, as my father had before him, that long life is not necessarily a blessing.
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life. -- Hamlet
Good-by, old friend.
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