Vail Daily letter: Close call with a train
Vail, CO, Colorado
Friday, Nov. 6, was one of those special fall days — sunny, warm, beautiful. Since reading about the Bull Gulch hike last June, it had been on my “want-to-do” list. After talking with several people who had done the hike, purchasing a USGS topo map and National Geographic map, a friend, her black lab and I set out early that morning on a Bull Gulch adventure.
We reached the designated area along the Colorado River where we’d park the car. Climbing onto the railroad track, I put my ear to the rail and didn’t hear a sound. The railroad trestle spanned the Colorado River, and we hustled across. You then hike along the track for a short distance and locate the gulch entrance. The gulch twisted and turned, with varied colored rocks, bedrock and some slick rock, and various pine and juniper trees. It was absolutely lovely. One felt transported to the Utah desert.
Following a short lunch, we made our way back to the gulch entrance, and onto the railroad track. again, I put my ear to the rail, and didn’t hear anything. It was a very relaxed mood following a great hike, and we traveled along the track at a leisurely pace.
Then, I noticed the black Lab was missing. We whistled and called. Finally the dog appeared, having gone down about 30-40 feet to the Colorado River for a cooling off. We proceeded, and started onto the railroad trestle.
About halfway across our conversation was interrupted by a shrill train whistle. The train had rounded a curve, and was headed straight at us. Run! Which we did and dropped off the track just moments before the train came to its emergency stop with the first engine already on the trestle. It was scary beyond words.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
The conductor emerged from the train, and he was hot with anger. We were informed under no uncertain terms that we had trespassed on private property — railroad property. If anyone in the train was injured because of the emergency stop, we were responsible. If anyone died, we would be criminally prosecuted.
He called in our license plate number. Crew members walked the entire length of the train, checking the wheels on both sides for damage, before the train could move on.
This is a heads-up for fellow hikers. Respect private property. Please be safe. We were fortunate the engineer was alert, pulled the train whistle, put on the emergency brakes, and that no one was injured.