First off, Cascade Peak got it's last set of waterfalls, most foliage and trees will be phased in over time, but at this point, the peak is "done".
Bear Country and Beaver Valley
On the other side of Cascade Peak, Beaver Valley and Bear Country are taking form, and unfortunately, they got the short end of the stick when it comes to space. Basically, from the various expansions from Rainbow Ridge, the Living Desert, and Cascade have left very little space to make an accurate Beaver Valley and Bear Country. Their close proximity to each other and other elements offer various design challenges to make everything fit well, so there will be some serious compromising.
To Give you an idea of how these areas are all packed together, take a look at the aerial shot, taken from the always trusty, tripod structure, Cascade Peak.
The peninsula protruding towards the currently truss-less trestle is Bear Country, with the grey area at the tip being where the bear figures will eventually be (that end of the peninsula is suppose to be twice as wide to be accurate, but there is no space, and thus compromising). The black pained areas towards the tunnel (which has it's rock face portal, by the way) is Beaver Valley, with sections of the river stepping down at various heights to represent the dams plugging the river. Not to far to the left of that are some moose standing in for the battling elk. Everything is very close together, so I'll have to get creative with natural barriers and trees if I want everything to be separated visually (for the miniature passengers, of course).
With the tight space, big design problems came up, one of which is the river in Beaver Valley. On the real Nature's Wonderland, the water source for the river in Beaver Valley came out of the hills just beyond Rainbow Ridge. Water started high in the hills and trickled down into the stream that flowed past the trains. Unfortunately, once again, I have no such space for a stream. Since Rainbow Ridge is just on the other side of Beaver Valley, the river just abruptly starts from a wall separating the two areas.
Since I can't have the long stream come out of the hills, I had to come up with a solution. I considered other alternatives, like having a waterfall come out from the top of the wall (that "wall" needs to be there, to support the pack mule trail) or even a pipe looking outlet, but that just didn't have the right feel. Finally, I found my answer: don't come up with a solution, use visual tricks.
Just have the river disappear into the woods! Basically there would be enough foliage and trees to hide where the river starts and this way, I wouldn't have to "answer" to how the river got there. Genius!
Since there is so much potential for animation in this area, like the bear scratching it's back, the battling elk, and the marmots popping up and down, I decided to hold off on anymore progress until I get the mechanics built and installed because now is the time to do that; I really don't want to go back later on to add them which would end up being more time consuming and harder.
With that entire area of the layout closed down for now, I decided to back to Rainbow Caverns.
The last time I worked on Rainbow Caverns was February where I simply lost interest; I can't blame myself for that, this is the fourth version of the caverns and it's much smaller and tad less impressive. But, I pushed myself to work on it and get it done.
If you can recall from my last Caverns update, I'm going for something that just fits in the space, nothing too accurate. The two main water features in the new caverns will be Geyser Grotto and Rainbow falls. The new caverns will utilize UV LED's rather than a fluorescent bulb as I did in the past; this was I can control the lighting and they are far more power-efficient.
Construction of the new caverns was pretty much the same as the previous version, with black crumpled aluminum foil, foam stalagmites/tites, clear plastic water falls, styrene and hot glue geyers, and blacklight paint. One thing new that I did add was the clear silicone caulking to the water features, the same stuff I've been using on Cascade Peak's waterfalls.
So here's a shot of the new Caverns now, finally finished. A little smaller than I would have liked, but still neat to look at.
The deep purple glow the UV LED's give off is impossible to photograph, so I had to simulate it with a few color adjustments in Photoshop.
Official first critter in Nature's Wonderland. The smallest sculpt I've ever done--about the size of a dime