The Santa Express. I’ve been waiting for this day and this shot for years! It rarely ever comes together so nicely during this time of the year and mother nature always has a way of punishing you severely in the mountains but today she was calm. And then this image almost didn’t happen for me as it took a little luck to pull me through. I have never been to Brush Tunnel where I wanted to take my shot but I was determined that I could find it. I mean this was my chance to get a shot that has been lingering in my mind for so long, and when I heard 6-8 inches of snow was coming to Cumberland coinciding perfectly with Santa Express, it was my chance to lose.
I stop at a local gas station to see if I could get some directions and everyone inside were donning their hunting gear on. Either they didn’t know where it was or they just thought I wouldn’t make it without a 4x4; I ended up walking out without any helpful answers. I parked my car and started my hike where I thought I would find this railroad. Three kids playing outside were nice enough to tell me a direct route and I started feeling all giddy since I had plenty of time to hit the train at 11:30. I hiked up the mountain, and kept walking, walking and walking until I just had enough after what seemed like a good five mile trek. I must have gone too far and by now I could hear the train whistles echoing throughout the valley. No way to lock in on the sound, I turned around thinking it was time to head back to the car and save it for another day.
Thirty minutes later I realized I didn’t see any of my prints and now was a little confused where I made the wrong turn. I heard a rifle shot and the first thing in my mind was I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had no bright colors on and my mind flashes with a bullet finding my head, and then I came across a deer that has been fatally shot, fresh blood still oozing out and staining the perfect white snow. I finally found my original trail when a hunter came up to me on a 4 wheeler. He said he’s been looking for me since he saw my tracks crisscrossing across private property and I politely told him I was looking for the railroad tunnel. He offered me a ride and it turned out I was a long ways off and the railroad was only a mile from my car. I realized my mistake but was totally ecstatic about getting a second chance! After two hours waiting in the freezing cold with soaking wet clothes, the Santa Express came rumbling down the tracks and in less than a minute she was gone. Eerily quiet again it was time to go home.