Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tungsten and Sugarloaf Station.

better viewing: click on the image to make it bigger.
Looking south from the Trail at about 6:45 in the morning, I could see Thorodin Mountain in the distance, home of Golden Gate Canyon State Park and an icon to residents of Nederland, Rollinsville and Gilpin County. This was my early September ride by mountainbike from the Peak to Peak Highway (State Highway 72) to Boulder--downhill, of course.

It was on this ride it occurred to me it would be fun to show the prominence of Sugarloaf Mountain in the city of Boulder terrain.

At 3% grade, it's an easy coast-along mountainbike ride. The condition of the Trail is rough, though, and in many places it's much more like riding a dry river bed than a genuine trail. Because it was on a Monday--work day--I didn't want to dally too long along the way. In fact, I went much too fast for the conditions of the trail, and despite a hefty front suspension on my bike I got a pretty good jarring.

It also meant I didn't get to look around nearly as much as I wanted. My eyes and attention were focused pretty intently on staying upright and astride the bike.

But even to a divided attention the world around me was breathtaking. I have this notion that Time stands still when we're confronted with Beauty, and it sure did for me along the way here. A few weeks previously I'd done a Saturday morning trailrun along three miles of this stretch, so I had some familiarity with the terrain. I'd been surprised that so much of it overlooked the Pennsylvania Gulch side to the north. But again and again and around each bend this morning I was startled by the splendor of what I was seeing.

It all reminded me of the mystical, magical landscape of the film A Walk in the Clouds, sunlight broken by soft mist, breaking through the dark evergreens in streaks of gold, a cool breeze sweet with the scent of forest.
I wanted it to last forever, but was pulled along by the urgency of getting to work and even more by my curiosity to see the stop at Tungsten, which I've had a difficult time locating in aerial orthophotos.

By Forest Crossen's account, when the important Sugarloaf Station was first completed the grade under the tracks didn't settle immediately, causing locomotives to slide off the track when they started up. Engineers found it necessary to continue on to Tungsten, a little over a half-mile to the west. Passengers and freight would then have to hike or be hauled back, as Sugarloaf townsite and mill were further east, the other side of the mountain.

Knowing that detail put me on the lookout for what might be Tungsten as I rode along this morning. I had no idea what to look for--would it be a widening of the road, a patch of aspens, a homestead? I've seen all three variations of previous stops.

Finally after a few false stops--which included image-making, just in case--I came to what is undeniably the site of the Tungsten Stop.

Here I'm approaching the stop, off to the right, as I follow the Switzerland Trail ROW almost due east at the left side of the image. Having searched unsuccessfully in aerial photographs for it for mapping, I was relieved to see it so clearly. I spent a while walking around, actually savoring its historic qualities. There were trails leading away from it in every direction, clearly indicating it as a hub of activity in earlier times--no doubt now as well, with all the outdoor activities we enjoy in this part of the country.

Continuing on, I came to my first siting of Sugarloaf Mountain. Here's an image from my earlier posting of the location of Sugarloaf relative to Boulder.

I was struck with what a challenge it would have been to hike, no less carrying a pack or supplies of any kind, back to the Sugarloaf townsite. This was not an easy distance by foot, and I could appreciate in a moment the true challenges of traveling in these previous times.

Soon enough on mountainbike I arrived at the site of the Sugarloaf Station.

This is the largest clearing I've yet seen of a Switzerland Trail site, no doubt a reflection of the contemporary use of the area as a launching point for backcountry adventures.

Here's a sign on Sugarloaf Road coming out of Boulder Canyon, pointing the way to the location of the Sugarloaf Station site.

Many years ago this is the sign I was searching for, in my first encounter with the mythical "Switzerland Trail" I had heard about and was due at for a training session with Front Range Rescue Dogs.

Like my reaction to the absence of historical references at the Georgetown Loop Railroad, I find it disconcerting that a site like this has nothing indicating its significance in the history of Boulder County.

I've worked on this project now for several years, and I can say with some authority not one person in ten in Boulder has a clue what Switzerland Trail means.


As I wandered the site of the station, I saw one striking detail of its location. This is the best south view I've yet seen of the magnificence of Longs Peak, the 14,000-ft flagship of Rocky Mountain National Park.

I was transfixed with the discovery, stunned with the glory of this magnificent view. Living in Colorado, in recent years less than four miles from this site as the crow flies, I sometimes think I'm a bit jaded to the wonder of it all. Not here.

Imagine what an earlier traveler from Kansas might have thought on viewing this for the first time.

No comments: