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Old 03-08-2011, 03:50 AM   #5
Greg P
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Baltimore MD
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I've done both. I did a trip to the Loop and several trips to Cajon. I've spent days studying maps of the loop and I just don't see as many options as the Cajon offers.

The loop and the whole trip seem to be situated around a lot of private property with some over zealous law enforcement from what I've heard. (It's UP after all.)

I've been to the Cajon Pass 4 times, and I've only hit about 1/3rd of the spots.

Sign up for Railfanguides on yahoo, and Socal Railfan has a great Google earth map. Use Suncalc.net and a map to explore the pass. Most of the dirt roads are public, especially any road listed with a name or number. You may need to grab a Forest Pass from the Ranger at Silverlake or the Mobile Gas station halfway up the pass.

Become a Citizen for Rail Security here: http://www.citizensforrailsecurity.com/

Print out the card, and keep it with you in case you come across BNSF or UP Police. The UP Police I've heard are the trouble makers. There are also forest service police, but if you follow the forest rules you should be ok. Understand BNSF and UP have huge issues with vandalism of trains on the pass.

The beauty of the Cajon is that it is located in San Bernardino National Forest, and the forest is public land. There are tons of spots for shots, any time of the day, any time of the year.

Why stop at the Cajon though, the BNSF Needles subdivision crosses the Mojave desert and provides a number of excellent shots, and some stunning natural beauty. US-66, while beat up, parallels the railroad across the desert. If you stay out after dark, the sky is unbelievable.

Safety Notes for Cajon and Needles subs.

Prior planning is important. Gas, water, and food can only be found in a few places. Cell phones don't work everywhere and daytime highs in the summer can be 120. Now in the Spring, I understand it's quite beautiful.

Rattlesnakes are something to keep an eye out for in the desert and in the Cajon pass. Be smart, don't walk along the edge of roads or paths, and bring your camera bag. The bag, even empty, if thrown at the snake at the split second you sprint away, can buy you the seconds needed to outrun the snake. I've been many times, I've heard rattlers but I've never seen one.

The other risk if your going to do Needles, is that you could be miles and miles away from the CHP or any law enforcement. Beware of other cars.

That said I've never had a problem, knock on wood, but I follow those safety tips since California is so strict on it's gun laws.
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