Monday, October 5, 2009

Point Frankeberger.

[click images for larger view]

At 7:30 this morning I was once again on the stretch from the Gold Hill Station to Boulder, a distance of 19.5 miles. This morning's ride was slow and observant. It took me 90 minutes to cover the 4.5 miles to Sunset, as I eased my bike over and around the boulders buried in and laying on the trail.That gave me plenty of opportunity to look around and take in the beauty and make a few images. Much more pleasant than the racing pace I did it in the other day, which jarred my bones and shook my brain.

What beauty it is. This image, taken a couple of weeks ago in warmer weather, is from just a little west of Point Frankeberger, before I actually discovered the true location for the camera. I was working from a memory of the Rocky Mountain Joe photograph and would have done better if I'd actually had a copy with me. Why Frankeberger? Named after the engineer that laid out the course of the ROW. (I'll return later to the striking differences in vegetation in the photographs taken in different centuries.)

Early October, it was a cold ride, temperatures in the 30's, occasional small snow pellets. I was interested to determine more exactly the spot identified as Point Frankeberger, where six levels of ROW are visible. Much to my surprise, it actually is a point, the apex of a narrow curve just above Mont Alto. And even more surprising, there is a cleared and flattened earthen platform about five feet above the ROW to stand for the best view.

Once again I had clear visions of passengers lining up for their turn to see this view of the remarkable feat of engineering that had taken them to this place. Ooohs and aaahs, and much silence.

I've lived in these mountains for several years now, just over five miles from this segment of the trail (as the crow flies). Though I see the trees and the rocks and the skies here every day, I continue to marvel at the magical place it is. As I rode along taking in the smells and the sights this morning, I imagined what it must have been like for someone from the flatlands to be feeling it all for the first time. Shangri La.

I'm becoming aware that much of my love of this project stems from the same impulse that has attached me to the earth sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy and the Running Fence of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. There is so much in the current American zeitgeist that says the human impact on the environment is destructive. These works, including the Switzerland Trail of America, demonstrate so clearly that the human imprint can also serve to magnify the glory of God's creation, as they focus the attention on the rolling mountains, the immensity of the scale, the distances spanned.

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