Lunar Eclipse Over Donner Summit (detail)
April 14/15, 2014
(click in the image to see it larger)
A Heart at the Summit
In preparing the hi-resolution version of my recent Lunar Eclipse Over Donner Peak image, I discovered a interesting detail just below the old bridge: someone had arranged rocks into the shape of a heart. It was too dark for me to see this when I was there on the night of the eclipse (and even when I was there during the day late last week I never noticed it), and it's too small to show up on web-sized version of the full image, but it is visible in larger sizes. I love finding little surprises like that in photographs! It adds another dimension to the image, especially for those who have a strong connection to this area.
Echoes of the Train
Another interesting detail in the image is the long dark line running along the side of the mountain. Since darker details don't show up well in the night exposure, those not familiar with this area might think that this is simply the road leading away from the bridge. Actually it is a remnant of the old Central Pacific Railroad line that was in use here until the early 1990s. In order to prevent the tracks from being blocked by heavy snows, or completely destroyed by avalanches, the railroad constructed a series of long snow sheds, first out of timber and later from metal and concrete.
The first experimental snow sheds were completed in 1867 and by 1869 they were deemed a success, allowing trains to pass through the mountains in winter with only minimal down time from heavy snowfall. The tracks and fittings were were removed from this section of the route in 1993 and all rail traffic now passes through a long tunnel under nearby Mt. Judah. You can still walk through many of the abandoned tunnels and snowsheds. Here's a link to a Wikipedia article for more information on this area.
Books on the Trans-Continental Railroad
and the Donner Pass Crossing:
Nothing Like It in the World by Stephen E. Ambrose
Donner Pass by John R. Signor