This years Freeze Your Tail Off trail ride was a great success with more than thirty people showing up in single digit weather to brave the cold and see some spectacular scenery.
The night started off with everyone meeting up at the Sinclair in lovely downtown Delle, which consists of, well, a Sinclair station. After indulging in some surprisingly good pizza we all loaded up and hit I-80 again towards Wendover. At the exit for the famous Bonneville Speedway we topped off our tanks one last time and made for the darkness of Leppy Pass and the Sun Tunnels beyond.
Once hitting dirt we were greeted with the worst washboard road many of us had ever encountered. Those with a strong constitution put the peddle to the metal and flew along the very straight yet bumpy route while other hung back hoping to spare their suspensions some abuse. After rattling along for an hour or so, we made it to the Sun Tunnels at about nine at night. Everyone found a spot to park and the fire building got underway.
As the night progressed, the temperature plunged ever further and as many a Pie Iron meal was prepared, everyone clustered around the fire for warmth. If you didn’t know everyone before you got there, chances are good you knew them by the end.
Standing around the fire [Chun Wei Lin]
For those brave enough to wander away from the fire for any period of time, they were greeted with spectacular views of the moonrise through the Sun Tunnels. Generally being out in this part of the state on crisp (OK, frigid) nights offers up stark, beautiful scenes hard to match anywhere else.
Moon over the Sun Tunnels [Chun Wei Lin]
Around 2:30 in the morning the fire began to dwindle and people started heading to their cars and tents to dive into sleeping bags layered with quilts and blankets to stave off the cold while they slept. Some people with questionable mental states slept under the stars even.
Sleeping in the open [Roger Moody]
In the morning we were greeted with absolutely stunning views of the sunrise through the Sun Tunnels. This is a truly unique experience, and if you haven’t had it try to make it once in your life.
Sunrise through the Sun Tunnels [Chun Wei Lin]
Sun over the Sun Tunnels [Roger Moody]
We quickly got the fire going again in the morning and began making breakfast, coffee, tea and hot chocolate to warm our innards while we discussed the day ahead. Some of us decided to head north over the old Transcontinental Railroad Grade while others headed south to the Silver Island Mountains.
Morning around the fire [Bob Nielson]
Once all the gear was packed up and the fire smothered, the two groups congratulated each other on surviving the cold and headed our separate ways. For the northern group, our first stop was the ghost town of Lucin. A former town that still straddles the current Transcontinental Railroad route. Not much is left of the town but the man made pond, earth berm homes and some waterworks.
Lucin pond [Stephen Nielson]
Earth berm house chimney [Stephen Nielson]
Lucin remains [Stephen Nielson]
From here we crossed the current tracks and hopped on the old grade.
The grade is extremely straight, as one would expect, with some sweeping turns here and there. This allowed for high-speed travel until you come upon the numerous old bridges that crossed gullies. Seeing as these bridges haven’t had any servicing since 1942, they all need to be bypassed.
Bypassed bridge [Bob Nielson]
Along the route are the remains of various towns and sidings, most notably the cemetery at Terrace and what’s left of Kelton. Some of these places also served as turnaround points for helper locomotive’s that aided heavy trains in crossing the hill at Red Dome. Since these turnarounds are off the main grade, old ties remain.
Old ties [Stephen Nielson]
Along the route one can’t help but be struck by the emptiness of the land. Standing on the grade and looking south towards the Newfoundland Mountains you just feel… lonely. I can’t imagine how it must have been for travelers on those early trains heading west to look out there. None of our modern conveniences or communication devices, just you and your fellow train passengers hoping that nothing went wrong.
Newfoundland Mountains [Stephen Nielson]
Those travelers ultimate destination was often the terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad in San Francisco. Which at some points seems an awful long ways away.
Our journey along the old grade ended logically at the Golden Spike National Historic Site where we got to wander around the place where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads met and completed the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10th, 1862. If you’ve never been to the Historic Site, it’s definitely worth a visit with many interesting artifacts to look over including the replicas of the trains used at the joining of the rails.
Replica trains [Chun Wei Lin]
And that was the end of Freeze Your Tail Off 3! Hopefully everyone that came out had a cold, but good time. If you didn’t make it this year, make sure to plan for next year!