Saturday, November 01, 2014

Siskiyou Summit

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Here's another old photo from a shoebox of old photos, taken while driving over Siskiyou Summit on Interstate 5 in S. Oregon, heading toward the California border. I didn't (and still don't) know this part of the state very well; to me the name "Siskiyou Summit" evokes car trouble, snow, and a long stretch of highway without convenient gas stations or restrooms. I know the Siskiyou Mountains are more than just an obstacle to freeway traffic, obviously, but I've never made a trip down there to go exploring. A large area due east of this spot is protected as the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. I'm not sure whether the freeway actually passes through the monument boundary or not. These photos were taken ages ago, before the monument existed, so there wouldn't have been any signs at the time.

The deep road cut should be a clue that this isn't quite a natural pass through the mountains. Until I-5 went in, the standard north-south route over the mountains went over nearby Siskiyou Pass. (There are no east-west routes; construction began on a road at one time, but the project was dropped due to environmental concerns, and the intended route is now within federally designated wilderness, including a stretch of abandoned highway slowly being reclaimed by nature.) Pioneer-era trails through Siskiyou Pass gave way to railroads and the old Highway 99. I'm not sure why I-5 took a different route instead of absorbing the older highway. The railroad is a rather steep and arduous route for trains; rail service ended through the Siskiyous in 2005, but in 2012 there was an effort to restore service with the help of a federal grant, and construction is supposed to be complete by July 2015.

The centerpiece of the rail line is the historic Tunnel 13, a 0.6 mile tunnel under the pass. On October 11th, 1923 the tunnel was the site of the last "great" Western train robbery. Western movies have given train robberies a sort of romantic aura, but this one was anything but. The DeAutremont brothers boarded the train near Siskiyou Pass and tried to rob the train's mail car, thinking there would be valuables in it. The plan quickly went awry, though, and the robbers killed four railroad employees and fled without obtaining anything of value. The brothers went on the run for four years. Hugh DeAutremont, the youngest brother, joined the army and headed out to the Philippines, where another soldier recognized him from a federal wanted poster. The older twin brothers were captured shortly after this break in the case.

Anyway, regarding the photo, yes, I did take it from a moving vehicle. Per the usual disclaimer, common sense and Legal both say not to do this. Not to make excuses or anything, but this was probably easier to pull off semi-safely in 1995 than it is now. I had a cheap fixed-focus, no-zoom 35mm point and shoot camera at the time, and all you had to do was point it vaguely out the window with one hand and press the button. No looking through the viewfinder or finding the power button first, or launching the right app, or anything like that. The downside, obviously, was not being able to share the photos easily, and you had to change rolls every 36 photos, and there was the time and expense of film developing... Ok, really there were all sorts of downsides. I mean, technically you could still do it this way now if you wanted to. You can pick up 35mm point & shoot cameras for less than a dollar at Goodwill, for the simple reason that nobody wants them anymore. Then you're good to go, assuming you can still find film and somewhere to have it developed. (Or you could go all out and develop it yourself, I guess.) The downsides are exactly the same as they were ~20 years ago, it's just that they're so much less tolerable than they once were.

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