Ye Old Railway Tunnel in Norden

Ah, Lake Tahoe! Quite possibly one of my favorite places in California. I used to go up there every so often as a kid. Happy memories. When my family and I stayed there, we’d camp out at a cabin in King’s Beach. It belonged to a relative. Just four rooms with a steep roof and large backyard, it was the perfect getaway for a few days. Close to the beach, too.

This time, I’d be staying with a relative right smack in the desert: a beauty in its own right. But before arriving there, I’d planned to a few things along the way. I mean, if I’m driving three or more hours (traffic dependent) from wine country to Reno, I may as well make a day of it.

Right?

Since it was a Sunday, I went to the early morning service for church and left almost immediately after that. After I stopped to get an iced tea, of course. And then: ROAD TRIP! Ah, the joys of flipping through radio stations you don’t often hear to see which one you like best.

I’d had only a small breakfast; by the time lunch rolled around I was famished. It was about one o’clock or so when I made the detour to The Red Frog in Colfax. I had a burger and Coke. Stuck around for about two and a half hours chattering away with a couple folks, and then left.

Now, there was a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, crossing Donner Pass Road, I wanted to check out. I didn’t plan on going too far on it, but I wanted to be able to say I’ve been on it. Know what I mean? That was the plan, at least. I drove an hour or so and got off at the exit, stopping only briefly at a gas station to use the restroom.

Across the street from Donner Ski Ranch was an old railroad tunnel that had been dug out by hand and dynamite by Chinese workers way back when. If you’ve seen season 5 of Hell on Wheels, you’ll get an idea of how that happened. (Good show, by the way.) To get to it, you have to take your car onto a short dirt road which leads you to a large dirt parking area. It wasn’t a flat lot, either. If I’d been listening to a CD it probably would have started skipping like it did on the dirt road to Bodie. But that’s another story for another day.

Populating the lot were little sharp looking rocks that appeared as though they could puncture my tire. I’m proud to say I maneuvered around them with ease; my tires came out of the ordeal intact.

Once I’d parked, I slipped out of my flip flops in favor of a pair of hiking shoes lying on the floor next to me. I had a pair of socks rolled up and nestled in one of the shoes, so I pulled those on first. Then came the shoes.

I kicked myself for not bringing my iPhone wallet- it would have been a lot easier to stick that in my back pocket instead of slinging my purse around my shoulders. Next time, Tahoe.

I trekked to the tunnel and stood at the entrance for a moment. Long and high, it felt cooler in here than in the great outdoors. I only went about 1/3 of the way in. The light from each end of the tunnel illuminated the ceiling and sides fairly well and I could see where the chunks of rock had been blown out. You could actually walk a fair distance along the path through the tunnel, which would eventually lead you back out into the daylight and then into another tunnel; but I was a little pressed for time so I opted not to. Again…next time.

After I returned to my car, I opened all the windows to allow in a fresh breeze. My door was open, too, and I rested my foot on the door handle while I browsed Facebook on my phone. I wanted to cool my car sufficiently before going to my next destination. Sad to say, my air conditioning wasn’t working very well- it did on the passenger side, but not the driver side.

Once I felt cool enough, I started my car and blasted what AC would be given; combined with the cooler interior- thank you, fresh air- it felt altogether pleasant. I played what felt like bumper cars on my way back to the asphalt. It was in the course of this four-wheeling that I discovered a country-station I listened to until my return trip home. I mean, hey- I was driving so slowly and carefully, I had the time to fiddle with the dial. That’s ok, right?

Getting back onto the smooth, paved road was pretty darn nice, let me tell you.

Next up? My very, exceedingly short hike on the Pacific Crest Trail!

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