CLIMBING UP TO THE MOFFAT TUNNEL ON THE CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR - (RELATIVELY NEAR) ROLLINSVILLE, COLORADO
Californian and Amtrak connoisseur Zak Long reports in with a double duty contribution to Field Assignment #1 - Topography and Climate and Field Assignment #9 - Transportation. He conveys the scope of elevatory rise from the Midwestern plains to a tunnel boring straight through the Continental Divide.
One of the surprising things I experienced while traveling cross country on Amtrak was the expanse of Great Plains from Chicago to Denver. For someone who had not been west of Chicago until a few years ago, I did not realize that Denver was actually several dozen miles away from the Rocky Mountains.
As I sat down for lunch in the diner car, I started talking with a couple who were from Baltimore and it had been their first time on Amtrak. I assumed they had been on the train for a while, but they had in fact gotten on in Denver. They had done extensive research about their trip beforehand and discovered that while taking the California Zephyr, most rail buffs recommend flying to Denver if you live on the east coast. This ensures that you’ll skip over the monotony of the plains and get right to the “good part”.
I told them I disagreed and that they missed out on a great sunrise over the Great Lakes outside of Cleveland… not to mention a layover in downtown Chicago.
One of the things I noticed as we ate lunch was how the train made sharper and sharper turns as it was going up an incline. We were headed for the Moffat Tunnel. Which is a tunnel built on the nation’s continental divide. On the approach, most of the land is grassy and brown, but after the several minutes of darkness through the tunnel, you’re suddenly surrounded by reddish canyons covered in dark green pines.
* * *
Zak Long is a State Guide to California and his home state of Ohio. Born in Cleveland, OH, and now residing in San Francisco, CA, much of his photography and videography explore first hand accounts of American rail travel. You can follow him on his personal Tumblr, zaklong.tumblr.com, and also on UC Research.